I need some help from you experienced fishermen.  A buddy of mine took me fishing the other day.  I've never really been into it very much (just gone a few times), but I had a great time and want to get into it more.  But here's the deal: whenever I have gone fishing before, we always killed the fish before gutting/cleaning, etc.--however, admittedly, I don't have much experience.

 

Well, the other day, we caught some bass and some crappie---and when we got them home and it was time to clean them, he took each fish whole and immediately fileted them with an electric fileting knife WITHOUT killing them first.  Maybe I'm being too squeamish, but this just seemed gruesome and unnecessarily inhumane.  Admittedly, some of them were probably already dead before we got them all home, and I don't even know if a fish is capable of feeling pain.  But give me some feedback on this---is this the way everybody does it?  Am I just being too sensitive?  Or do I have a point about the apparent cruelty of this?

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Yeah, fish can feel pain as acutely as you or I can so that's why I don't agree with "sport" angling. If you intend to kill and eat the fish then that's fine - whack it over the head with something heavy and it should be pretty much finished there and then.

They can definitely feel pain, they are vertebrates with an extensive nervous system. Like Patrick said probably the simplest way is to simply bash them over the head with something. Alternatively you could quickly chop/cut the head off with a single blow first as opposed to after you gut it. Alot of people will simply let them suffocate by not placing them in water after they are caught, but I personally think that's a little needlessly cruel as well, but it is what my father always did as far as I remember.

 

I think keeping things like this in mind when hunting/fishing is important. We should strive to kill as quickly, cleanly, and humanely as possible always.

Thats why I don't bow hunt.  I can't reasonably drop a Deer in under a minute with an arrow.  I only take shots I think will drop the Deer fast.

 

That is unnecessarily cruel. Grab the fish by its body and slam its head (side on) onto the nearest rock like you're striking a hammer. It will be over so quick it won't know what hit it. Once I was in an aluminium canoe and the aluminium bench was too soft to hit the trout's head off so I decapitated it with my knife. If you do this make sure your knife is big and sharp enough to do it with one strike.

 

In fairness I've watched fishermen fillet cod on the wharf as a kid and I was never sure if the fish was dead first (might have suffocated first I think). But either way, those fishermen would have the job done (gutted, filleted, liver removed, and cod stacked) quicker than I could have beaten a tomcod off a rock.

The longer the fish lives after you catch it, the fresher it will be when it gets to the kitchen.

 

 Have a cooler about 1/3  full of ice in the car. Bring a large bucket (5 gallon is okay) with you to the water. Stop a ways away from where you plan to fish and fill it up about 3/4. Add your catch to the bucket, alive. Unless you're prodigiously lucky, you only need the one bucket. Then, when you've caught your limit or are done for the day, haul the bucket back to the car, and pour fish and water into the cooler.

 

You'll come home with the freshest fish in the neighborhood. The ice water tends to slow them down (and, also, probably numb them). Occasionally, they don't make the trip. That's ok. If they do, wack on the head with a mallet, small bat, any blunt instrument.

 

If the fish is are too big for the bucket (what a wonderful problem to have), or if you're on a small boat or canoe, or just don't want to lug a bucket, put them on a stringer, and leave them swim till you're ready to go home. Then knock them on the head before you head for the car. Be sure to add them to the ice chest quick, in that case.

 

Exception there is catfish. You can just toss them on the bank. Make sure to douse them with water so they stay wet. They'll live for quite a while out of water.

 

As for fileting them alive with an electric knife. . .Unnecessary on a lot of levels. You're not being squeamish.

Haha, yes, no matter what, catfish never die. Ever. I've seen the head of one removed and buried. Our dog dug it up the next day and the head was still moving...
You should try the Korean dish San Nak Ji.
Is that the one where it is live octopus? Saw a video of that once when I first heard about it and think it is incredibly barbaric. Octopuses are incredibly intelligent with a highly developed nervous system. They are up there as one of the most intelligent animals on the planet, I just can't imagine doing that. Cruel, inhumane, barbaric.

I just can't imagine the thought process that goes into "yeah, let's take considerable additional care to make sure that our food doesn't die". Ikizukuri is along the same line and you just go "why the hell does it have to still be able to swim? " 

My in-laws made me eat it. Can't say I was a fan. I held out until the legs were pretty much done squirming.

Wow i was actually disgusted by this. I had a quick look and thats awful. Its Illegal to do in Australia for good reason. Its a Terrible practice.

I do a quick head removal to kill them as quickly as possible.

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