Sometimes fishermen just want to take some trout home for the table. When I keep a trout, I make sure to kill it as quickly and humanely as possible. There is no advantage to letting it suffer.
This guide explains the quickest and most humane ways to kill a trout.
Ways to kill a trout
Blow to the head
A short, sharp blow to a trout’s head is a good way to stun and kill it.
This can be done with either a small club typically called a fish priest, or even a nearby rock. I use this method whenever I do not have a knife available.
It is normal for the trout to flap around for a while after getting whacked. This is probably nerves. Give it a second whack if in doubt.
Knife between the eyes
One of the quickest ways to kill a trout is to simply stab them about half an inch above the eyes, and angle the blade slightly towards the gills before applying pressure. The most common tool for this is a knife or a spike tool.
to prevent the trout from wiggling, it is a good idea to hold them steady with your spare hand.
The aim is to pierce the trout’s brain killing it instantly. It takes a bit of pressure. I always give the knife a short wiggle to make sure the job is done.
Afterward, I then remove the gills and then gut the fish. This ensures the best eating. Put the trout on ice as soon as practical.
How to kill a trout without a knife or any tools.
On a couple of occasions, I have brought no tools with me to kill trout. If I am on the shore, then I could easily use a branch or rock. But out on the water, options are more limited.
But there is still one rather brutal way to easily kill a trout. That is to put your fingers into its gills and rip them out.
This is a technique of last resort and it does not kill them instantly.
If you then want to gut the fish, there is a couple of options. It is actually possible to gut a fish with a pair of fishing scissors, although it does blunt the blades. Simply start cutting at its bottom then work your way towards the head of the trout.
Without scissors, you will need to put your finger done the trout’s mouth and attempt to pull out the internal organs that way. It is a bit messy and usually takes multiple attempts and only works on smaller size fish.
Do I need to bleed trout?
The main reason people bleed fish is that they believe it improves the quality of the flesh. There is a chance that the blood will taint the flavor, and potentially even encourage bacteria growth.
The correct way to bleed a fish is to cut the fish’s jaguar vein while it is still alive. A sharp knife makes this a lot easier.
Then bend the head back slightly. The beating heart then squirts blood out of the animal. If done correctly, the blood will be pushed out. This must be done while the fish is still alive.
Bleeding removes the blood, which can taint the flesh making it appear darker and taste stronger. There is also some belief that bleeding extends the storage life of the fish, that is because blood starts to decay faster than the surrounding flesh.
Another way to prolong the shelf life of a trout is to quickly and cleanly remove the gut contents, and also the gills. Then store it in a cool, damp location.
I personally do not bleed trout, in my experience they do not have the same volume of blood as more powerful fighting fish. Quite a few anglers do bleed steelhead, salmon, and even sea trout.
Some fishermen, rip the gills out instead. While there is some blood lost, It is not as effective at bleeding the fish as cutting the jaguar.
Keeping a trout alive.
Some anglers keep their trout alive while they fish. There are several ways to do that. The kindest way is probably in a live bait tank or storage cage.
Others keep trout on a stringer, they either thread a piece of cord through the jaw, or the gills and then leave the trout hanging in the water.
I have never used this method, I prefer to kill my trout as quickly and cleanly as possible than store it somewhere cool. There is no need to prolongs the trout’s death.