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Fishing priests and peaceful dispatch of fish

Killing fish using a fishing priest, by far the best method of dispatch

Author:     Date Published: 26th of May 2014 at 07:59am
How to kill a fish Dispatch in fishing terms is the method used to end the life of a fish by ones own hand. The term is often used when describing a way to quickly and peacefully end a fishes life. The most recommended method for ending the life of smaller fish is using a tool known as a fishing priest, which is basically a wooden or metal rod with a heavy blunt end. A heavy strike to the top of the head just behind the eyes will dispatch most smaller fish species very quickly and painlessly. The proper term for this method of dispatch is percussive stunning.

There are sometimes misconceptions among some people regarding this method of ending a fishes life, some believe this method is not as favourable as placing them in an ice bath, quickly bleeding out the fish while alive or even leaving the fish out of water. This however is not true, research done by the RSPCA has found that dispatch of fish by percussive stunning is by far the most effective and painless way to end a fishes life. For information on the RSPCA findings and recommendations please take a quick look at their website: http://kb.rspca.org.au/What-is-the-most-humane-way-to-kill-a-fish-intended-for-eating_451.html

The term "priest" comes from the concept of administering the "last rites" to the fish which is about to pass away.

For smaller fish, regular fishing priests are sufficient, when fish get to around 40cm or more, then a larger blunt instrument would be required.

Bleeding out a fish should be done very shortly after the fish has been dispatched, this involves cutting the fish one side to the other around the gills, then along the bottom of the fish until the anal fin, the internal organs of the fish can then be discarded by hand and the fish rinsed with clean water before being placed in a cool storage area to prevent spoiling.

In the case of European carp and other noxious species not intended for consumption, they should always at the very least be dispatched before being discarded. Before placing the fish in a bin, making multiple heavy head strikes just behind the eyes at the top of the fishes head will ensure it has very likely passed away and is unable to recover, meaning a peaceful death without any struggle.

Using a priest is not difficult at all, provided you secure the fish upright and place the blow to the head directly on top at the correct location, there should be no complications. Some fish do require multiple hits to ensure they are not still conscious, I personally tend to strike around 5 times or more to be certain, even when there is no signs the first hit was ineffective.

The method I use to assist in holding the fish upright when fishing alone is to land them in a small hand held shrimp net, or transfer the fish to the shrimp net after landing. Shrimp nets are similar in size to landing nets, however the netting of shrimp net is thin and stretches to a very large size, this is good because you can easily place the net down on the ground and hold the fish in place with the metal frame.

Placing the fish at the bottom of the shrimp net, then letting the fish touch the ground, you can then invert the frame so the fish is trapped, then place the frame on the ground in-front of the overlapped section of the net. I then push the metal frame against the fish so the net tightens and sits them upwards in the net, this can easily be done with 1 hand. Then with the other free hand, strike heavily 5 times or so with the fishing priest directly at the top of the head just behind the eyes. To date this has personally never resulted in anything but an immediate death to the fish.

Leaving any fish out of water to die means a very slow and painful death, even with unpopular fish such as carp, it is not the fishes fault it was introduced, so it should be at least respected in death.

Learning percussive stunning is by far the most respected approach to fishing when catch and release is not intended, you can feel better about practicing this knowing you are doing the right thing on behalf of the fish, adding to your enjoyment of fishing as a recreation.
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