By: Brian Demo
If you had said the words Ike Jime to me earlier this year, I would have probably looked at you and thought we were talking about a new restaurant in town. I've never heard of it mentioned in the groups that I followed or on my journey through surf fishing. It wasn't until a recent podcast episode (you can find that here) I did on Finding Demo Surf Fishing with Allison Stattner of Reel Love FL. In just one episode, I was bursting with questions and wondered what this was all about. Thus, the journey began for me by following the Ike Jime Method.
Fast forward to August, and I have learned so much more & practiced the Ike Jime method to the point that I genuinely feel comfortable performing it on all my catches. A significant push for Ike Jime, though, has come from the American Fishing Tackle Company (AFTCO), with products and information that is sure to help this method be achievable for all levels of anglers.
So what is Ike Jime? Here's a great exert from ––Ike Jime Federation:
"In its most elemental form, ike jime (活け締め) is a traditional Japanese slaughter technique that requires the handler to instantaneously kill a fish using a manual brain spike thrust into the fish's brain cavity. Because death caused by passive suffocation results in a cascade of negative biochemical, biophysical, and hormonal consequences for a fish, Ike Jime rescues the product quality through a sequence of skilled handling techniques and specialized tools. This is the practice of a considered kill"*. –Ike Jime Federation
When I first heard this, my brain went right to: This is a more humane way to kill my catches quickly and efficiently. I didn't realize that this was step one in a process that would bring a better quality fish to my table in flavor and chemical (natural) free meat. Not only that, but this process also allows you to keep the fish longer before spoilage! When you usually get only two to three days in the fridge, you can get five to seven. I've also learned that this process aids in dry aging your catch, like a fine steak. Unfortunately, I do not know firsthand about this, but I believed it when Allison told me. AFTCO took this a step further and wrote an entire piece about the actual culinary benefits of the process. You can read that article here: The Culinary Benefits of Ike Jime.
The other portion of this process that I did not realize was that in the commercial side of the industry, a fish that has been properly Ike Jimed would fetch a significantly higher price per pound versus one that has not. Some certified sommeliers can tell if one has sight and scent profiles of catches. When I searched online, I watched several tuna boats doing the process with each catch! If the professional industry is doing this, why aren't we?
The Ike Jime Federation & AFTCO wrote a step-by-step in their article you can find here: Ike Jime How To, The Complete Guide. I followed it, but I did it a little differently. Their way is the right way; mine is just different and part of my process.
The process seems daunting at first, and I can assure you, it is not nearly as bad as you might think. The most challenging part I've found while performing Ike Jime is ensuring I hit the brain. Each species has its brain in a slightly different location; once you find it, you'll never forget or miss again. When you hit the brain, you'll know immediately by the fish's muscle reaction. I've seen the mouth go slack, the fins spike up, and I have even seen an eye movement. Couple that all together, and you have a solid instant dispatching of your catch.
The next step is to cut the gills and let the fish bleed out. The fish's heart will pump for several minutes after the brain spike. By cutting the gills, you're allowing the body to push out almost all of the remaining blood. I recommend putting the fish in a bucket of water from the fishing area. The temperature of the water will also aid in the flow out of the blood. After about ten to fifteen minutes, all the blood should be out of the fish, and you can move to the next step: Rapid Cooling.
You should do a 1:1 ice slurry to bring the fish temperature down to help in the preservation. Do not put the fish on top of the ice, as that will only cool one part. I usually skip this step because I move to the severing of the nerve system after I've completed the bleed-out process. If you have the time and availability, it is not a bad idea to go how they said to do it.
When completing the process with the wire, there are several different ways to do it. I go the easy way because I haven't mastered the way through the head. I will cut the tail to the spine and then pull it to the side to expose the canal I want to see. I have checked with FWC on this process, and they agreed that this is NOT changing the fish and is keeping it "intact ."After I pop the tail, the spine has a small channel at the top. This is where you'll run your wire down. It would be best if you had a solid grasp on the fish when you do this. While severing the nerves, the fish will flop. I have had it where one or two did not, but I know I severed the nervous system.
This process is the final step in telling the body not to decompose. After doing this, Rigor Mortis will be heavy, if not wholly delayed. I fished for eight hours one day, and after doing this, my fish was still slack when I got home to clean them up. It does work!
As far as taste goes, I do not have a delicate pallet, unfortunately, but I could taste a slight difference in my pompano after a couple of days. It didn't seem to turn and kept its slightly sweet characteristic. Bluefish didn't seem to have that bold fish flavor as much as before (which was odd to me), and the meat was lighter in color. I'll let you know once I catch more fish and perform this process if I see anything different.
Before, you could only get your kit from the Ike Jime Federation, but now, you can also get this kit from AFTCO! While at ICAST, I was fortunate to meet the AFTCO team and see the new kits they are coming out with for the process. Before, you had the spike & wire and had to store it your way (I did a cable tie and attached it to my surf cart or handled it in my kayak). Now, AFTCO put it in a nice pouch that holds the items in their respective position and comes with a few more nice touches. I will eventually get my hands on a kit and post pictures of me using it, but I wasn't able to acquire one at ICAST. Patience, friends, it's coming.
AFTCO Ike Jime Kit in a bag
It is an intelligent process that I'm thrilled I learned from Allison and have performed to this day. I believe this is the most innovative & responsible way to kill your catch & preserve it for your dinner table.
*What is Ike Jime? Ike Jime Federation. (2021, July 24). Retrieved August 6, 2022, from https://ikejimefederation.com/what-is-ike-jime/