Dressed to thrill – How to butcher a large pelagic
  |  First Published: August 2013

Here’s the best way to dress down a large pelagic fish into meal-sized chunks you can then freeze or slice into fillets, steaks, medallions or sashimi for immediate fine dining.

For any fish, it’s essential to first kill it humanely.

For mackerel, tailor, kingfish and tuna it’s best to stun the fish with a sharp blow or two to the top of the head and then cut the blood vessels in the fish’s throat latch and gills. Then let it bleed over the side of the boat or into a bucket. If your boat has a deck hose, you may well need it for the clean up!

Some anglers also make cuts in the tail wrist to speed up the bleeding process.

Stunning is better than killing instantly ike jimi-style, because the heart continues to pump out blood until the unconscious fish expires.

Bleeding helps to drain the flesh of the blood enzymes that speed up the decomposition process or accumulate in the red meat of the ‘bloodline’ along the middle of the fish’s flank.

Tailor, especially, need thorough bleeding and fast ice-down or they quickly turn into dog food.

For best meat flavour and texture, it’s also vitally important to get the fish’s body temp dropping straight after you catch it.

A slurry of ice and seawater is the perfect way to do this but if your esky isn’t big enough for your catch, it’s worth getting hold of one of those insulated fish bags. It won’t take up much space until you need it and, unless it’s a super-hot day, add a couple of bags of ice and a bucket of water and it will do the job OK.

Don’t bend your catch if it doesn’t quite fit in the icebox; the hardened meat will tear itself apart when you straighten the carcass for filleting. Cut the fish into sections that do fit in the box; it’s illegal to fillet fish at sea in most states.

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