Table of Contents

What is Ikejime?

Ikejime, (Iki-jime) is a Japanese word that’s meaning is often debated, some people say it means “Still Pond” which I personally like as this describes the peaceful action perfectly. Other opinions are that it means “to close the fish”. No matter what the correct translation is, Ikejime is the fastest, safest, and most humane way to kill a freshly caught fish.

The method was developed over a thousand years ago by the Japanese as a way to ensure the best quality fish, and we all know how fussy the Japanese are when it comes to their fresh fish.

The Ikejime method involves spiking the brain with a sharp object, such as The Ikipik. The method is considered more humane than others, as it causes instant brain death and no suffering for the fish.

What are the benefits of using an Ikejime spike on fish?

The main benefit of using an Ikejime brain spike is that it helps to improve the quality of the fish and it helps to extend the shelf life of the fish. But besides that, as a fisherman, we respect the fish and after the hard-fought battle to lure, catch and reel it in is over, we want to show the fish the respect and care it deserves by giving it a quick and painless death.

When it comes to dispatching a fish quickly and humanely, there is no better way than an Ikejime tool such as the Ikipik. This unique compact tool is designed specifically for the task and makes quick work of even the largest fish. The IkiJime technique preserves muscle tissue, which is always beneficial, and the fish gets humanely slaughtered.

Ikijime is Fast and Humane

No other method of killing your caught fish is as fast or humane as using an Ikipik to Ikejime spike your fish. Once the spike enters the brain, the fish will be dead instantly. Other methods of killing a fish such as using a knife to cut the throat, or hittting the fish on the head with a blunt object cause it much more stress and pain.

Ikijime Ensures the Best Quality Fish

When a fish spike is inserted into the brain it kills instantly. This method is preferred over other methods because it causes less stress, so fewer stress hormones are released before death which will lower the quality of the flesh.

A fast, painless death for the fish means fresh great tasting fish for us, it is a win-win for us all.

If you are a fan of eating raw fish either Japanese style like sushi, or Mexican style ceviche (technically cured not raw) you will really notice the difference in flavour when you use the Ikejime method.

Ikejime is Safer than Other Methods

I will never forget the time my friend’s daughter grabbed the filleting knife to stab her freshly caught fish, before we could see what she was doing she slipped and sliced straight through her thumb in a split second, it was truly horrible ruining her fishing trip, not to mention the rest of her holiday.

Using a specially designed Ikejime spike, like The Ikipik means no sharp knife is needed, and the large handle design ensures you have a firm hold of the tool for full, safe control while dispatching your catch.

 

How to Ikijime Spike a Fish

Using the Ikejime method to humanely kill your fish is really quite simple, below we will cover the basic steps in the process and what to do after you have killed your fish in order to keep the flesh as fresh as possible.

Step 1. Safely Secure the Fish

Before you attempt to spike the fish it is important to make sure it is secured really well. This ensures that you can get an accurate spike and a fast powerful insertion of the spike. The method I like best is to use one foot to hold the fish in place, this allows you to have both of your hands free to guide the Ikipik into the fish’s brain.

Step 2. Insert the Spike Into the Brain

The first step is to locate the brain. It’s usually located near the top of the head, in between two bones called parietals. Some people mistakenly think that the brain is located near the spinal cord at the base of the skull. However, this area contains only nerves and blood vessels. To kill the fish quickly and humanely, you’ll need to find its brain.

Ikijime.com has a helpful tool to find the correct Ikejime location for your catch, we will cover this a little later on in the article.

After you have located the brain, use your non-dominant hand, grip the ergonomic handle of the Ikipik and align the spike tip. Then using your dominant hand over the top of the grip, give the Ikipik a powerful push into the fish’s brain. Once the Spike has entered the Brain give it a wriggle around to completely destroy the brain.

If you got the brain first go, you should see an instant change in the fish, they will lose colour and their eyes go dull. At this point, the fish is completely brain dead and can no longer feel a thing.

Step 3. (Optional) Insert a Shinkei-Jime wire into the Spinal cord

Purest will tell you that the next step is to Shinkei-Jime which is to insert a wire down the fish’s spine pulling it back and forth a few times, as this will ensure that all the nerve signals are destroyed.

Personally, I do not use a Shinkei-Jime Wire, I have tested the quality of the fillets with and without using the wire, and in my opinion if you ikejime correctly there is no noticeable difference in the flavour of the fish. Which is why when designing the Ikipik I kept it as simple as possible and left the shikei-jime wire out of the design and instead included a more important tool, that every fisherman needs, a bottle opener!

Having said that if you want the extra step of using a wire to destroy the spinal cord, go ahead. You take a long piece of wire push it through the entry hole, and down the spine, a piece of steel leader wire will do the trick nicely.

Step 4. Bleed the fish

Now that your catch is completely dead you need to quickly bleed it. The Japanese call this step Chinuki, bleeding the fish is crucial in order to maximize the flavour and prevent tainting of the delicate flesh from blood.

With a sharp knife slice through the gills down towards the throat on both sides, you will see dark red blood spill from the cut. Some people like to dunk the fish vertically in a bucket of water to wash the blood out, or you can simply let it bleed out onto the deck, giving it a squirt with your deck wash hose. The disadvantage to this is that it puts a whole lot of blood into the water and may attract sharks, making it harder to get your next catch into the boat. If your boat has a kill tank, just place them into the kill tank with some fresh saltwater.

Step 5. Rapidly Chill The Fish

The faster that you can chill the flesh, and the colder you get it the better quality the meat will be, it will have a firmer texture, better flavour and will stay fresher for longer. The best way to quickly chill your fresh-caught catch is to get the fish into a salt slurry ice bath. The salt makes the ice colder which is why it is best to use a slurry rather than just ice, but if you don’t have salt, then plain ice will be fine too.

If you want to know all the science stuff behind why salt makes ice colder then you can read all about it here, but just trust me it does.

What are the best Ikijimi Tools?

There are a few different Ikejime tools on the market, and it can be hard to decide which is the best option for you. Obviously, I am biased and believe that The Ikipik is the best Ikijime tool for everyday fishermen and even professionals.

I designed The Ikipik to be so simple to use, virtually indestructible yet ergonomic so it is comfortable and easy to grip even when your hands are half frozen and slippery. It is bright yellow making it is easy to find it in the heat of the moment, and it is made of marine-grade stainless steel so it will last a lifetime provided your mates don’t pinch it! And did I mention you can open your beer with it?

Although it is a small compact piece of equipment, it has a strong spike that can penetrate even the largest of catches such as Sailfish, Marlin and Blue Fin Tuna.

It does not have a Shinkei-Jime wire, but that is because I believe for the average fisherman, we want to keep it simple and get on with fishing. As I mentioned before, as well as being a mad fisherman I was a chef for many years, owning my own restaurant, so I have tried fish dispatched with and without using Shinkei-Jime. I challenge anyone to pick the difference in the end product.

How to Find a Fishes Brain to Ikijime Spike it Quickly

When it comes to the Ikejime of a fish, time is of the essence. The faster you dispatch the fish, the less stress it experiences and the higher the quality of your catch. Getting the spike directly into the brain on your first attempt is key to a clean kill.

I have seen lots of people demonstrating how to use an Ikijime spike, going in the front of the skull of every fish. And this is okay, but some species such as my much loved Pink Snapper have thick skull bumps that make it difficult to get a clean spike if you try going in the front of their skulls.

Each species has different optimal spots to spike them for a clean kill. You can see a list of many species’ locations on the official ikejime website. This is a great resource, and they also have an app for fast identification. What is really awesome about this app is you can see a picture of the fish, and then see an x-ray image of the fish so you get a view of where all the bones are.

You can download it here, Ikijime App for Apple and Ikijime App Play Store

Tips For Using Ikejime on Large Game Fish

Ikejime is popular among sport fishing enthusiasts, because the meat of these trophy catches is so valuable. When you land one of these beasts of the ocean you want to make sure it is fully respected and appreciated. Ikejime can be used on any type of fish, but it’s especially useful when tackling large game like tuna or swordfish. The larger and more robust spike of the Ikipik are essential when dealing with these big catches.

Our friends at Tanzania fishing sent us this video, go check out his Instagram for some amazing fishing videos and pictures @tanzaniafishing 

Tips For IkiJimi On Small and Freshwater Fish Species

The Ikejime process is the same for freshwater fish like trout or Bass as it is for large game fish, it is even easier and faster as the spike completely fills the brain cavity as soon as it enters, and they often have softer bones making it very easy to insert the spike. Just be careful not to use too much pressure or you may go all the way through. 

Using Ikijimi Spike on Squid

When it comes to using the Ikejime spike on squid, it could not be simpler, you use the same technique of holding the squid still then one quick easy push of the spike into the squid’s brain, see the video below for a demonstration of how easy it is. This guy was hanging around for a while before we managed to get him into the boat. Please excuse the quality of the video all we had was a phone to film it, but check out the instant colour change as soon as the spike enters the squid’s brain it shows how the squid did not suffer at all. It tasted great that night too. 

Safety Tips When Using an Ikijime To Kill a Fish

Ikijime is in my opinion the safest way to kill your fish, if you take care and use common sense you are very unlikely to injure yourself.

The one thing to watch out for is that you don’t get a little carried away, slip and stab yourself in the foot, but that is unlikely if you are paying attention to what you’re doing.

Even if you do slip, the spike is sharp but it’s not like stabbing yourself with a knife, you will hurt your pride more than anything. And if you take your time and do it correctly there will be none of your unwanted blood on the deck.

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