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Finishing a fish off with a knife

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Brian Hamilton

Subsea Sniper
Jun 15, 2003
Hi there,

right now I am hunting Coly and catch them up to 4 or 5 pounds in size. My gun is firing with enough power for the spear to go right through the fish and I only ever shoot when I am guaranteed a good shot along the spine near to the head.

However, these fish seem to have a lot of fight in them and no matter how perfect the shot they will still thrash about on the string. I end up using my knife and poke into the gills and push it through the body far enough to cut the spine.

This still doesnt work all that good and the fish ends up looking a mess with innards spilling everywhere and the head nearly falling off. In addition the fish often comes close to falling from the string when I am swimming ashore.

What can I do to stop the fish in its tracks or is it inevitable that it will thrash about for a few minutes until its body totally shuts down?

Is a knife the best way to deliver the coup de grace?

Thanks, Brian


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Use a ice pick on the brain or rip the gills out with your hand. If done right after two jabs they should start to quiver and settle down.
ice pick right in between the eyes should do the trick. they wil quiver and start to gasp for a few seconds, maybe even for a few minutes depending on how big your fish is and then die like all fish should ;)
i always cut there throat then break there necks i dont like the idea of trying to stab a fish while its kicking around, when i say throut i mean the triangular bit(when the fishys upside down)(almost staight down from the spear hole in your pic ) cut straight down till you hit his spine then snap it back
you don't even need to use knife for those ones, just stab the fish stringer to the brain (back on the eyes from the top) BEFORE you take it off from the spear;)
I too spear a lot of pollock White and black(Coley) I use the method desribed above but it depends on which way you want to access the brain, I am right handed and hold the fish in my left hand with a lip grip (wear gloves)firstly with your knife cut the gill on one side where it joins to the triangular throat.
this will serve to bleed the fish and improve the flavour you can string the fish at this point on your float(I assume you are using one) the fish will bleed out in a few minutes.
to kill the fish without cutting the gill if you have no knife.
I grip the fish in my left hand and use the stringer toggle push it through the top of the skull from underneath usually where the gills join to the upper side of the skull you will know when the brain has been crushed when the fish twitches and all the fins stand up.
I forgot to add that the brains location is usually the point of an equilateral triangle between the eyes, pointing back towards the tail looking from above the fish
alpine spearos

Icepick? Sounds solid but you don't REALLY take an icepick with you, do you? What's next, crampons and skiing boots?

I'll go for a knife then:)
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Being in switzerland probably has you thinking about the mountaineering icepick, but in spearfishing terminology Ice pick is a generic name for a pointed tool that is used to destroy the brain of a fish.Iki spike is another name for them.
hope this helps clarify......

Some guys use a regular ice pick you get to break block ice with, not the alpine kind though. They have a wood handle, usually, with a steel pointed poker thing. They're real cheap and work fine. Just the poker thing is woodpecker proof. ;o)
I definatly dont like the idea of bleeding the fish. Infact if at all possible I try to keep the fish from losing any blood. Knife or stinger between the eyes is the method we all use out here.
Maybe in Hawaii fish taste better when full of blood, or perhaps you guys have problems with tax collectors, however here in Europe sharks are not a problem I have never seen a shark while diving here, also most fish like pollock definately taste better and keep better when bled.
I wouldnt know about the taste when bled or not but I do know the sharks can be a problem so we try to get as little blood in the water as possible. The reason we brain our fish in the first place is so they dont send of vibrations and trash about which ofcourse attracts the sharks.

You guys are working way too hard. I never knew braining a fish could be so difficult. I use Murat's techinque if I forget my knife or am just too lazy to pull it out. I usually just grab the fish by the throat, find the fleshy spot on the head a little above and behind the eye and sink the shank home. If I miss the brain then I just wiggle the knife around till the fish starts twitching, and hold the knife there till the twitching stops and the fish goes limp. This usually lasts not more than a couple of seconds and never a couple of minutes. This technique works on everything from 2 pound reef fish to massive GTs. As far as bleeding the fish out I don't know. The Ahi (tuna) guys bleed and cool their fish down ASAP to help preserve the quality of the meat. The only thing I make sure of is I pull/wash out all of the blood that coagulates and gets stuck in the vertebra in the gut cavity. I notice that this helps take some of the bitter taste out when cooking. Sharks sense the low pressure vibrations of an injured fish which is sent in all directions more easily than the scent of blood that will only travel with the current. Put your fish down fast or better still get it out of the water if sharks are a problem.

i found that braining groupers here are the hardest. I can not hold them tight enough to apply enough force to penetrate the skull from above.Reaching the exact point through the gills can be hard coz of hard and big gills. Hovewer it nees bit time to get used to at the end....

By the way this weekend i swim with sharks for first time:cool: but could not see them:waterwork Dive buddy said "they are hanging around us" suprisingly i did not even get annoyed:D great improvement for me i was frighten them too much befor joining the forum and get some "real" informations about them ;) I remmembered the times when i did not want to take shower after famous JAWS moviesrofl BUT this does mot mean i don't scare from GWS:mute
Hold fish thumb & index finger in bottom of gills or bigger fish in eye sockets,release fish from spear.retaining fish in hand hold spear six-ten inches from point insert point into gills towards brain or spine push home hereby dispatching said fish. No other instruments required No hassle
hope this helps Old Dave
Noooooooo!! Do NOT remove the fish from the spear before despatching!!! I've lost a couple of fish that suddenly come sto life in your hands. Try holding onto a 10kg yellowtail!! I was left holding some gill rakers, whilst the dusky sharks enjoyed a free meal!!!

Rather thread the spear all the way through, then use the spear to despatch your quarry. THEN remove spear. Takes a bit longer, but is much safer!!

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