How To Ikejime A Fish — A Step By Step Guide

Ikejime For Beginners: You’ll Unlock The Best Tasting Fish

If you want the best tasting and highest-quality fish then you need to learn how to ikejime.

We’ll cover the ikejime tools and techniques you can learn today that will dramatically improve how the fish tastes on your plate. 

Listen to more spearfishing tips on the Cast & Spear Podcast

What is Ikejime?

Xtrada IKEJIME KIT Authentic Ike Jime Tools: Ikijime Fish Spike With Wire Stainless Steel (Imported From Japan) Magenta Iki Jime Handle Long Ikejime Kit
  • ✅ AUTHENTIC IKEJIME KIT: Designed in Fukuoka Japan by...
  • ✅ WHAT’S IN THE KIT: The kit has been designed and...

Ikejime or Ike Jime, is pronounced as “ay-kee jime or ee-ke jime” or shinkei jime, is a Japanese method of preparing the fish by paralyzing and draining them of blood to avoid rotting. The correct technique should preserve or enhance the flavor and texture of the fish when aged. 

Ike Jime Tools

  • Ikejime Spike – You’ll want a sharp and robust spike to euthenize the fish when puncturing the brain.
  • Shinkei-Jime Wire – To sever the nerves from firing after the fish has been dispatched, you’ll run a metal wire down the spinal cord from either the head or tail.
  • Knife or Pliers – This will be used for cutting the gills to bleed out the fish.
  • Bucket – This is a great option for filling with water to soak the fish as it bleeds out.
  • Salted Ice Water – Create an ice slurry with a 1:1 ratio of saltwater (fresh is less desirable) and ice.

How to Ike Jime Fish

How to ikejime a fish in under 30 seconds

Time needed: 3 minutes.

Learning how to ikejime and shinkeijime a fish will produce the best-tasting fish. The first few times will be challenging, but you’ll soon get the hang of it!

  1. Spike the Brain

    The first step in the process takes a bit of practice, but after you try it a few times you’ll get the hang of it.

    You’ll want to locate the brain either from the front or side of the fish. We look for the lateral line to get a sense where the spinal cord is and the eyes. Depending on the fish the brain will be slightly higher than the eyes.

    Take your ikejime spike and push it through the skull. If you hit the braid the fish will spasm and the jaw will drop.

  2. Bleed the Fish

    The heart of the fish will still pump for a time even after you spike the brain.

    Now that the fish is dead, you’ll want to expel as much blood as possible, which houses harmful bacteria and will tarnish the flavor of the flesh.

    The easiest way to bleed a fish is to cut the gills on both sides with a knife or scissors. Then place the fish in ocean water (preferably water that’s been in a bucket getting warm on deck for a bit). Give it ample time to bleed out.

    Just don’t wait all day allowing the fish to get warm which will tarnish the meat. Shoot for 5-15 minutes before using the shinkei-jime wire in the next step.

  3. Sever the Spinal Cord With a Shinkejime Wire

    You want to prevent the fish from sending more stress signals to its body by destroying its nervous system. This is done by putting a sharp shinkei-jime wire into the spinal cord and running it from the brain to the tail or vice versa.

    You’ll notice the wire is in the right spot when the fish starts twitching as if it came back to life. This is normal and there’s no need to worry since the fish has already been dispatched.
    The nerves are being severed sending the last signal through the fish making it twitch.

    It’s helpful to move the wire up and down a bit to make sure everything has been severed.

    Just be careful not to damage the wire by pushing it too hard down the fish. It should go down with minimal force.

  4. Cool the Fish Down Quickly

    The days of leaving a fish on the deck in a burlap sack or in a cooler with a tiny amount of ice are dead.

    For quality fish, you need to get the temperature of the meat down as fast as possible. This means putting the fish in an ice slurry that’s below 41 degrees F. Saltwater and ice is preferred over freshwater since the salt helps keep the water cooler and reduces further damaging the cells of the flesh.

    Place the fish in the tank the way they would be swimming in real life. For space, it’s helpful to put the fish from head to tail like a zipper.

    Congrats, you’ve completed the ikejime process. Now when you get to the deck you’ll be able to gut, fillet, or store your fish for transport.

Can You Use a Bat or Priest to Wack a Fish?

This is a viable option, but it has a few disadvantages. It could take a few wacks to knock out the fish, which could be hurtful to the fish, damage the meat, or even damage yourself or the boat.

How to Ikejime Fish
Jon sharing how to ikejime a California Sheephead

Ikejime Tuna Tips

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High-end restaurants all over the world buy fish from sellers who spend the time using this technique to ensure the highest quality of meat possible to serve their clients. A properly ikejime’d tuna increases its price per pound.

Tuna run hot, especially when they’ve been fighting away from the boat. It’s critical to brain spike and start bleeding the fish preferably before it even hits the deck of the boat so it doesn’t bruise the flesh.

Depending on the size of the tuna you’ll need a larger and more robust ikejime spike and shimkejime wire. You’ll also need lots of ice and a big storage area to bring the temperature down as fast as possible.

Ike Jime for Freshwater Fish

Using the ikejime method on freshwater fish isn’t talked about much since a lot of the focus has been on commercial fishermen. The times are changing and you can start experimenting with the process for a wide number of fish including trout, walleye, bass, crappie, bluegill, and more.

Ikejime Trout

Xtrada IKEJIME Pocket Ike Jime: Small Iki Jime Fish Spike With Carabiner and Stainless Steel Wire (Panfish, Trout, Mackerel), Blue
  • AUTHENTIC IKEJIME KIT: Designed in Fukuoka Japan by Lumica...
  • HIGHEST QUALITY MEAT PRESERVATION: Ikejime is a technique...
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When most people think of ikejime, they think of tuna or other saltwater fish. However, you can do it with all types of trout including rainbow trout, browns, chars, and whatever else is legal in your local waterways. 

The process is similar but the tools can be adjusted depending on the size of the fish. Since most trout are usually smaller in size, there’s a small freshwater ikejime kit that is convenient for backpacking around small streams and ponds.

If you’re catching monsters, the standard ikejime kits will work well too.

Ikejime Walleye

Walleyes are popular to catch in the midwest and not many folks know about ikejime out there. If you want to impress your friends and show off a new technique, give it a try!

Insider Advice

Any fish we catch is a fish that deserves our respect and care, especially at its final hour.

Ikejime preserves its taste and vastly improves its quality. If you’re going to spend the money to catch a fish, you might as well spend a bit more and learn a new technique that will pay dividends on your plate.

What we can do in the kitchen with seafood has been greatly overlooked when compared with beef and other terrestrial meats. Let’s change that! The flavors that will be unlocked with a little education will go a long way.

One other helpful tip: have a few different size ikejime kits at the ready. You never know what size fish you’ll need to process!

Jon Stenstrom
Founder & Angler
Jon Stenstrom is a fishing and spearfishing enthusiast. He's been fishing since he was 5 years old in the backcountry of Yosemite for trout and in the surf near his home in SoCal. Over the past 4 years, he's been spearfishing up and down the coast of California. He started Cast and Spear to help inspire others to get outside and chase their dream fish. Notable catches include spearing a 65-pound white sea bass, large grouper, and yellowtail down in Baja. When he's not in the water, he's usually fishing from his Gregor Baja aluminum boat or inflatable Takacat catamaran.
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