How To Kill Fish Humanly (3 Methods)

More and more anglers are keeping their fish for table fare these days. With that comes a great responsibility to kill fish humanly as possible.

It is grossly unethical to leave the fish to suffer in any way. As stewards of the water, it is on us to make sure we do our best for all aquatic creatures.

There are generally three methods in which to kill a fish humanly:

  1. Iki Jime(stab the brain)
  2. Blow to the head
  3. Snapping the neck

Iki Jime method

That Iki Jimmy method of dispatching a fish is fast growing in popularity. This method of humanly killing fish originates from Japan, where chefs, anglers, and fishmongers use it.

The Japanese firmly believe that this method leads to fresher, better-tasting fish, and they’re not alone in this thought. With more and more chefs around the world adopting this method, it’s hard to deny they may be onto something.

To use the Iki Jime method to kill fish, you must first know the location of the fish’s brain, which you can find on the Iki Jime website

After you learned the brain location for your target species, you use an object like a sharp knife or screwdriver to puncture the fish’s brain. 

Although this is enough to ensure the fish is killed humanly, the Japanese like to take a few steps more to ensure the freshness of the catch.

The next step is to cut the gills and tail; this severs the major blood vessels in the gills, and by cutting the tail, you are exposing the central nervous system.

After cutting the tail, a sharp wire is pushed in along the spinal cord.

The last step is allowing the fish to bleed out; this is imperative for freshness.

Blow to the head

How To Kill Fish Humanly

One of the most common methods and quite possibly the oldest method to kill fish is a quick sharp blow to the head.

This is the first method I learned when I started fishing, and I still use this method today. With the right amount of force in the right place, this will cause instantaneous death for the fish.

The fish will go limp in your hands without feeling any pain.

One thing that always fascinated me about this method of killing a fish was the tool that I used. The common name for the tool used in this method is a priest. 

A priest can come in many shapes and sizes, the one I used as a boy consisted of a long durable handle with a solid metal part that would be the part to make contact with the fish.

It is widely believed that the name came from giving the fish its last rights before being dispatched.

If you don’t have a priest, you can usually find plenty of objects in nature to act as one, such as a large rock. Just make sure that the object you choose is adequate for the size of fish you’re looking to dispatch.

It’s important to make the blow in just the right spot, which is just above the fish’s eyes. This way, all of the force will be directed towards the brain.

Snap the neck

If your fish are of a smaller size, like a nice dinner-size trout, you can snap the neck as a fast and effective way of killing the fish. This method wouldn’t work well on large fish like a large bass or fish with smaller mouths, such as a bluegill.

One of the benefits of this method is that it requires no tools.

There are generally two variations to this method. One method is to grab the roof of the fish’s mouth and pull back until you hear or feel the snap indicating that the spinal cord has snapped.

The other method is to place your fingers in the gills, your index finger in one gill, and your middle finger in the other. Now with the base of your palm, push up and back while you pull with your fingers to break the fish’s neck.

This is an effective method on the right size fish; it is quick and painless. However, you need to be certain that the fish is the right size.


All three of the above-mentioned methods will kill a fish quickly and humanly. Some will only work on some types or sizes of fish, while others may require tools.

I find the blow to the head is a good method and works on all sizes and types of fish. Also, it’s not entirely necessary to carry around tools for this method as you can generally find a rock to carry out this method.

However, I have been starting to use the Iki Jimi method more and more and also notice more anglers using this method. Some attest to the fish tasting better.

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