How to Bleed a Fish Humanely: Complete Guide on Fish Bleeding

If you decide to harvest a freshly caught fish you landed then bleeding it out before it spoils is a very important part of the experience, otherwise, the meat starts to spoil and won’t be good for eating just allowing a few extra minutes and following this procedure will keep the fish from suffering and improve the taste greatly. How do you bleed out a fish? 

  • After killing fish by humanely clubbing the head/spiking the brain
  • Sever the main artery inside the gills
  • Make a cut at the fish’s tail
  • Let muscles & heart pump out the blood
  • Hang upside down in a bucket of water to drain blood
  • Use current from the stream to wash out blood
  • Massage fish to squeeze out blood

All freshwater and saltwater fish that are freshly caught within minutes will start to deteriorate. They will ruin rapidly especially if it is roughly handled at the Gill Plate and stressed from a fight reeling it in.

How to Bleed a Fish Humanely

Dispatching a fish as fast as possible is always a good thing to remember. The longer you fight the fish and drag it into your boat or shoreline the more stress the fish experiences. if you decide to harvest the fish or catch and release it you want to be as humane and ethical as possible.

This will improve the odds of the fish making it through the experience of being hooked and landed and if you are harvesting it will decrease the stress and suffering that the fish may have and improve the overall taste of the fish.

The way to bleed the fish humanely is to render it unconscious by quickly whacking it over the head or using the Japanese Ike Jeme method which both methods will keep the fish from suffering and prepare it properly. These ethical methods will bleed the fish out completely without any unnecessary trauma.

Understanding How to Bleed Fish Humanely

Learning to bleed a fish humanely is an important skill that is essential not only for the quality of the fish meat but also for respecting the life of the creature we have taken from the water. When we talk about humane practices in fishing, the method we use to bleed fish is at the forefront, and every angler must adopt a way to bleed their catch that minimizes suffering. By embracing a step-by-step approach, we ensure that the process is swift and compassionate, allowing the fish to pass away peacefully before consumption.

One compelling voice in the conversation about the bleeding of fish is Joe Cermele. His technique, which involves cutting the gill arches and letting the fish bleed out in a bucket of water, has gained attention for being both effective and respectful. By immediately cutting the right area, anglers can avoid improper methods that might inadvertently cause unnecessary stress or pain. This forms part of an all-encompassing practice that prioritizes the welfare of the fish until its last moments.

It’s essential to understand the anatomy of the fish to humanely bleed it. Knowing where to make incisions for bleeding without causing undue suffering is a foundational pillar of this practice. The idea isn’t simply to bleed fish for the sake of it, but to do so in a manner that aligns with core humane principles. When discussing how to bleed, it must always be couched in a context that does not lose sight of the fish’s well-being.

In addition to Joe Cermele’s technique, there are other methods to bleed a fish humanely. Some may use a sharp knife to puncture the fish’s heart directly, considered one of the quickest ways to proceed. This ensures a fast bleed-out, which, combined with the right calming environment, is crucial for humane bleeding. Each angler must find a humane way to bleed that suits them, bearing in mind that the prime objective is reducing the fish’s distress.

At the end of the day, whether it’s through Joe Cermele’s method or another, it’s incumbent upon us to humanely bleed fish with the utmost respect for the creature we are about to consume. From the moment you catch it to when you bleed fish, it’s a seamless practice that deserves thoughtfulness and regard for the fish’s life. So, when we talk about the humane way to bleed, it’s not just a practice, but a philosophy that permeates the entire fishing experience, encapsulating a deep reverence for nature and the ecosystems we interact with.

Step-by-Step Guide to Bleed Fish with Joe Cermele’s Technique

Joe Cermele’s technique kicks off the moment you bring your catch from the water; the fish, still pulsing with life, demands your immediate and considered action. You make the deliberate choice to bleed the fish, ensuring the best quality for your table and honoring the life of your aquatic quarry. Initiating the process begins with a calm yet firm grasp on the fish, acknowledging it as more than a mere trophy, but a participant in nature’s grand tapestry.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to bleeding fish using Joe Cermele’s technique:

  • Catch the fish using appropriate fishing techniques, minimizing stress.
  • Subdue the fish gently, handling it with care.
  • Optionally stun the fish to reduce stress.
  • Position the fish on its side on a stable surface.
  • Make a deep, swift cut behind the gills with a sharp knife.
  • Use pliers to grip the gill rakers and pull them forward.
  • Allow the fish to bleed out completely over a container of water.
  • Massage the fish along its body towards the incision to aid bleeding.
  • Ensure the fish has bled out entirely by observing the color of the blood.
  • Handle the fish with care, following ethical fishing practices.

At the heart of this technique is the humane breach of the fish’s gills, the very seat of its vitality. Gently part the gill cover, and with precision, sever the gill rakers, allowing the blood— the essence of exertion from the fight—to flow freely. Bleeding the fish quickly is pivotal, for procrastination is the antithesis of humane. As the blood spills into the brine, consider it a return to the water whence it came, an elemental ritual of hunting and gathering since time immemorial.

To bleed a fish humanely means to combat the unnecessary, and the excessive; it is seeking a balance between sport and compassion. As the blood aqua-erodes from the gills, remember that the humanity of the act isn’t merely in the deed—it’s encapsulated in the intention, the swift yet tender execution, and the artful mastery of a method practiced by anglers who walk the water’s way with reverence.

Opinions vary on the proper way to bleed a fish, but truthfully, I think the method depends on the size of the fish and the circumstances. Regardless, all bleeding methods tie back to the gills, as blood surges through them constantly. A fish’s gills are the equivalent of our aorta—the main high-pressure vein in our system. Sever it and we’ll drain out pretty fast. The key in my opinion, however, comes down to draining vs. spilling that blood.

Gill Popping

With smaller species, it’s not uncommon to see anglers simply reach into the gills with their fingers and rip them out—a technique referred to as “popping” the gills. The process leaves the broken ends of the gills exposed, and blood will continue flowing out of those ends.

Cutting the Gills

The preference of most anglers is to

  1. Sever just one or two gills on one side of the fish with sharp shears or a knife.
  2. Immediately after cutting, put the fish back in the water, could live well on a boat, a bucket, in a net, or on a stringer.

Though the method can be perceived as cruel, you want the fish to still have plenty of life when it’s returned to the water, allowing it to continue to breathe for as long as possible. The fish will pump out all the blood in its system via the severed gills, resulting in truly blood-free meat. Sometimes severing all the gills or popping the gills tends to kill the fish very quickly, often not leaving enough time for the heart to pump out all the blood.

The Importance of Bleeding Fish During Fishing Trips

Bleeding fish during fishing trips is crucial for preserving the quality of the catch. This process removes excess blood, which can negatively affect the taste and texture of the meat. Additionally, bleeding fish immediately after capture reduces stress on the fish and aligns with ethical fishing practices.

When on fishing trips, the act of bleeding fish isn’t merely a mundane task; it’s an act that carries significant weight in the pursuit of humane and ethical angling. The importance of taking the time to bleed fish correctly stands at the juncture of respect for the creature and the enhancement of the culinary experience.

What many might not know, is that the blood retained in the flesh can adversely affect the flavor profile, imparting an unwelcome strong, fishy taste. Removing this blood not only elevates the quality of the meat but also aligns with humane fishing practices, ensuring the fish do not suffer unnecessarily.

Humane methods to bleed fish require deliberate actions—actions that honor the life taken by minimizing stress and discomfort. It’s essential to acknowledge that to bleed fish humanely is not just an option but a responsibility. The ice-cold reality is that bleeding and icing the catch promptly ensures a swift endpoint while preserving the fish at peak freshness. Blood left to stagnate within the gills or the body cavity begins a rapid process of degradation, compromising not just taste but also texture.

During fishing trips, the quality of the water where you’ve reeled in your catch can have a hand in your decision to bleed. In water bodies with lower quality, there’s a chance the fish’s blood may contain contaminants. By executing the bleed-out process right there on the water, you’re discarding the potential for those contaminants to taint the meat. It’s a seafarer’s tradition—a nod to both health and flavor.

But it’s not just about enhancing what lands on your plate; it’s also deeply rooted in conservation. A well-bled fish won’t release as much blood into the water upon release should you opt for catch and release. This can be beneficial in reducing the chances of attracting predators to the area, which could disrupt the local ecosystem’s balance.

Using techniques like Joe Cermele’s humane bleed-out, anglers can rest assured that they’re employing an approach that has garnered respect amongst seasoned fishermen. It’s a skill often overshadowed by the thrill of the catch but is utmost in ensuring the respectful passage from water to table. From the piercing cold of the water to the blood on your hands and the ice in the cooler, the process is both profound and practical.

You Don’t Need to Bleed Most Freshwater Fish

Indeed, many freshwater fish don’t need to be bled after catching them. Bleeding is a common practice in some types of fishing, especially with certain saltwater fish like tuna, to improve the taste and quality of the meat. However, freshwater fish generally don’t accumulate as much lactic acid in their muscles as saltwater fish, so bleeding them isn’t necessary for flavor enhancement.

That said, there are exceptions. Some freshwater fish, particularly larger species or those found in certain environments, may benefit from bleeding to improve flavor and texture. Additionally, bleeding fish immediately after catching them can help preserve the quality of the meat, especially in warmer climates where spoilage is a concern.

Overall, while bleeding freshwater fish isn’t typically required, it can be beneficial in specific circumstances or for particular species. As with any fishing practice, it’s essential to consider factors such as fish species, size, environment, and personal preferences.

 Humane Fishing Practices

Navigating the waters of moral angling, Joe’s insights shine a beacon on humane fishing practices that respect aquatic life while still catering to the avid fisher’s quest for the catch. The way to bleed a fish humanely isn’t just about the act itself but about fostering an ethos that prioritizes the dignity of the creatures below the surface. Embracing the bleed fish methodology, as outlined by Joe, involves a sequence of deft maneuvers ensuring minimal suffering.

Fishing, when performed with a conscience, transcends mere sport, becoming a dialogue with nature. Joe’s practice of promptly placing the catch on ice doesn’t just aim to slow down metabolic processes and prevent suffering; it’s a nod to the profound connection between the angler and the watery realm. This icy embrace, while arresting the life force of the fish, also acts to preserve its blood-free fillet, a medium through which the fish communicates its habitat’s purity even as it transitions from being to sustenance.

The taste, an epicure’s delight, owes its integrity to the humane bleed-out process—each drop of blood removed ensuring that the true flavor of the fish is untarnished by the sharp tang of iron. Within Joe’s practice, the nuanced art of bleeding a fish humanely becomes a culinary imperative as much as an ethical one. Noting the significant improvement in taste when the blood is thoroughly evacuated.

Bleeding a fish in this manner casts a wide net that envelops humanity’s obligation to other forms of life, urging a kindred spirit between angler and fish that rings clear as a bell in the crisp morning air. In Joe’s hands, humane practices in fishing are not a lofty ideal but a practical, everyday application allowing us all to cast off the shackles of indifference.

Bleeding Salt Strong: Tips from Joe Cermele

When it comes to mastering the sustainable art of fishing, learning how to bleed a fish humanely is a crucial component. Joe Cermele, an authority in the angling community, has honed his techniques to ensure that the process of bleeding fish is as humane and efficient as possible.

His advice has become a cornerstone for those seeking to improve their practices. By implementing Joe’s tips, anglers can minimize the suffering of fish and ensure the highest quality of meat post-capture. Salt Strong is more than just a label; it’s a promise that one’s fishing gear and techniques are not only effective but also mindful of marine life’s wellbeing.

Here are some tips from Joe Cermele, as advocated by Salt Strong:

  • Make a swift and clean cut behind the fish’s gills to ensure efficient bleeding.
  • Optionally stun the fish to minimize stress before bleeding.
  • Use pliers to grip the gill rakers and aid in bleeding.
  • Handle the fish with care throughout the process to minimize stress and ensure humane treatment.
  • Follow ethical fishing practices to preserve the quality of the catch.

Fishing enthusiasts who aspire to bleed fish humanely will find a profound respect for the delicate balance of saltwater ecosystems through Joe Cermele’s insights. Understanding the right way to bleed a fish involves grasping over the specific spots to target, which ensures a swift bleed-out while preserving the fish’s dignity in its final moments.

The step-by-step guide to bleed fish with Joe’s technique is an accessible pathway for novices and seasoned fishers alike to adopt more humane fishing practices. This hands-on approach championed by Joe empowers fishermen to merge their love for the sport with an ethical stance respecting aquatic lives.

Whether it’s saltwater or freshwater fishing, the bleed process remains a critical aspect, and understanding the nuances is key to success in this endeavor. Joe’s advice helps anglers of all experiences to carry out humane practices that they can be proud of – practices that honor the fish and the fishing community at large. By bleeding fish humanely following Joe Cermele’s methods, the fishing experience is elevated to a conscientious ritual, sealing the bond between the angler, their gear, and the deep blue.

Joe’s Essential Tools for Efficient Fish Bleeding

When it comes to humanely processing your catch, you should “know the ropes” of fish bleeding. Joe’s arsenal is packed with the essential tools that make fish bleeding a respectful art rather than a thoughtless afterthought. These instruments aren’t just gear; they’re a testament to a philosophy, where humane fish bleeding and efficient fillet yield walk hand in hand. The ethos is simple: respect the fish, maximize the quality, and minimize the waste. Let’s dive into the way to bleed fish that aligns with ethical angling.

The cornerstone of Joe’s kit is a sharp, reliable knife specifically designed for fish bleeding. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill blade; it’s a knife that effortlessly slices through the gills – the hotspot for efficient fish bleeding.

Joe insists that a clean cut is key to minimizing the fish’s suffering. While Joe shows us how to bleed a fish humanely, it’s clear that humane practices are rooted in deftness and precision, and a quality knife is paramount. This is especially true when targeting robust species such as bluefish and bass, where the difference between a job well done and a botched attempt can be found in the sharpness of your blade.

Next, Joe brings forth an indispensable component for humane fish bleeding – a dedicated bucket. This seemingly simple vessel plays a pivotal role. By filling it with ice water, it becomes the ideal place to transfer your catch post-cut. The icy bath not only preserves the fish but also helps to expel the blood more efficiently from the circulatory system, ensuring a clean, quality fillet. Ice is a must – it slows the metabolism and makes a world of difference for the fish’s end. Respect the life you’ve taken by offering a swift transition from the sea.

Now let’s talk about a method that’s not often discussed but is integral to fish bleeding. The Salt Strong community, with Joe Cermele as a leading voice, advocates for a technique that swiftly pierces the fish’s gills. With swift and deliberate action, this ensures minimal stress for the fish. Bleeding the fish directly in the water where it’s caught is often the most humane way to go about it. And Joe is keen to shine a light on such practices, guiding both novices and seasoned anglers in these humane techniques. Joe’s insights on humane fishing practices underpin every slice, every action.

Whether you’re out on the water hoping to bag a hefty bluefish or bass, remember, using Joe’s essential tools for fish bleeding not only pays homage to your catch but also enhances your skills as an angler.

Perfecting the Art of Fish Bleed with Cermele’s Advice

Embarking on the journey of perfecting the art of how to bleed a fish, anglers aspire to master the technique to balance the humane aspect with the culinary excellence of fish fillet. Joe Cermele’s advice emerges as the linchpin, guiding fishing enthusiasts in the careful choreography of the bleed process. It’s a way to bleed that enhances the taste of the meat, while also honoring the life of the fish. Let’s dive into the craft of how to bleed fish humanely under the aegis of Cermele’s seasoned insights.

Make no mistake, bleeding fish is not a mere afterthought; it’s an essential undertaking that commences at the shore and culminates at the cleaning table. Humane practices are ingrained deeply in the ethos of modern angling, and to bleed a fish humanely is to acknowledge the sacrifice of the fish and mitigate pain during the killing process. With Cermele’s advice, the act of bleeding fish transforms into a ritual—a gesture of respect as you nurture the meat that feeds.

The heart of this art is found in the manipulation of gills, the source from which lifeblood flows. A precise incision, a swift gesture, and the crimson tide begin. It’s an effective technique, honed through time and tide, and shared by Salt Strong’s experts. A crucial part of fish human practices, the bleed is not just about the killing; it’s about elevating the entire experience from catch to kitchen.

Methods for Bleeding a Fish

Method #1 Bonk & Bleed

  • Club the fish over the top of its head between its eyes and render it unconscious
  • Take a big enough bucket to hold a few fish and fill it halfway with water from wherever you are fishing from
  • Then using your filet knife run the blade inside the gill plate to cut the main artery that runs from the fish’s heart
  • Let the fish drain blood into the bucket
  • As it drains slowly turn the fish head first into the bucket or place it in the water if there is a current use the current to wash out the blood
  • Massage the fish from its tail up so you get as much blood out as possible
  • Make a cut on the fish’s tail if you need to drain blood in the current

Use the Ike jime method

  • Insert the spike in the Ike Jeme kit between the fish’s eyes directly into its brain
  • The fish is rendered brain-dead and will not suffer or experience stress
  • The fish will shake and quiver which is muscle memory and is not feeling anything
  • Run the wire that also comes with the kit through the spike handle and down the spine of the fish
  • Then just as in method #1 run a knife inside the gill plate and cut the main artery
  • Use a bucket or the stream and massage the body to remove the fish’s blood
  • Also, make a cut at the tail for another exit so that the blood can be removed if using the current

Can You Bleed a Fish After It’s Dead

It is better to use the fish’s muscles and heart to bleed out the fish as long as the fish is brain-dead or unconscious as we show in this article it won’t feel pain or stress which will not only cause unnecessary suffering the fish but will keep the meat that is harvested clean a better-tasting table fare.

If you bleed the fish before onsite where you catch them right away before you filet them, it will make cleaning up easier. When you bleed a fish, the more blood you remove the more it will help to remove some of the ‘fishy’ taste keeping it much fresher and better tasting.

Once a fish dies, the flesh will start to deteriorate very soon after, and fish flesh deteriorates quickly if the fish isn’t handled correctly. Once they die, Sour, bacteria will start to fill a fish’s stomach, and intestinal juices touch the flesh. Digestive enzymes inside the gut start to travel through the rest of the fish. The result is a gamey foul tasting fish.


But why undertake this ritual of bleed? Cermele’s advice resounds with clarity—the fillet’s taste is paramount. Blood lingering in the veins sullies the clean flavor of the sea, casting shadows on the plate. Fishing artistry lies not just in the hunt but in the harvest, and that’s where the bleed, done humanely, shines. It’s a skill that fishing trips now count as standard, a part of the unwritten angler’s creed.

Joe’s tools for efficient fish bleeding are simple yet effective—a sharp knife and knowledge. But that knowledge is not solely held in the hand that wields the blade; it’s a treasure trove built on the experiences of those who cast lines before us. Bleed fish with the wisdom of he who knows the sea’s ways, and your meat will clean leaving a fillet fit for the finest of feasts.

What is the Quickest Most Ethical Way of Killing a Fish?

Brain Spiking is the fastest, most painless, for preventing a fish from stressing & suffering before its death, by driving a sharp spike or screwdriver into the brain of the fish. The spike should be placed…………………………………………………………………… Read more

JimGalloway Author/Editor 


Outdoor Life- How to Bleed a Fish

SaltStrong- How to Bleed Fish for Popular Saltwater Species


  • In the study, northern pike with damaged gills were exposed to Mountain Dew, Coca-Cola, or carbonated lake water. Scientists examined the amount of blood loss, bleeding intensity, and gill color. They found that it had no positive effect on the fish.
How long do fish survive after being caught?
  • Some fish can survive for a few minutes out of water, some for a few hours, and some for even a few months! This mostly depends on the species of fish, the habitat/environment, and how long you fight the fish.

What happens if you don’t gut a fish?

  • Don’t let intestinal contaminants remain in the fish for too long. Fish guts deteriorate quickly and can spoil the fish if not processed correctly. Gut the fish as soon as practical after catching it and wash the cavity in cold water to remove bacteria.

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