How to iki (kill), bleed & ice down kahawai

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Care for your Kahawai

Learning how to kill or “iki” your fish to treat them humanely is part of fishing and caring for your catch can really enhance the eating quality and minimise waste. 

Kahawai are generally accessible around New Zealand’s coastlines, river mouths and estuaries. They’re a bit underappreciated as an eating fish, but when the flesh is bled and the fish is stored properly they’re blimmin’ nice. Kahawai are a versatile fish with lots of options for eating, they're great smoked, raw and crumbed.


The mighty kahawai and great fighting fish and good eating too.


Just tastes better

What we'll go through here simple steps to iki a kahawai, then bleed it (stop blood from getting into the flesh) and finally a great way to store it on ice to ensure it tastes delicious later.  Believe it or not the method you use to store your fish after you catch it can make a really big difference.


Smoked kahawai, yum!

Smoked kahawai, yum!

What you’ll need

You'll naturally get into a routine after you've been fishing for a bit and take fishing with you the gear you'll need to care for your catch.

  • sharp knife - to iki and bleed the fish
  • chilly bin/bag
  • salt ice. NOT fresh ice…ever! This will make the flesh go off faster.

How to iki (kill), bleed and ice down kahawai

Only use salt ice never fresh ice, it will degrade your fish.

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Step 1: Iki the fish

There are two options for quickly killing the fish:

  •  Take your sharp knife and cut across the gills then break the head back. It’s important to do this in quick succession.
  • Or, make one cut across the gills and through the backbone all at once.

Iki (kill) a kahawai

Cut across gills down to backbone, through main bloodline.

These methods will kill the fish and allow the blood to flow freely from the fish's  body. This blood would otherwise circulate through the fillets and settle along the backbone flesh. When cooked this is the dark meat that has a very strong flavour, and the reason some people don't enjoy the taste of kahawai. 

Iki (kill) a kahawai

Cut across the gills and through the backbone

Step 2: Remove guts and gills

Now reach inside the cut that you made into the gut cavity of the fish (and pull out the insides of the fish (you won’t be needing it). It’s okay to throw it back in the ocean, as other fish will welcome the meal and it saves you throwing it in the rubbish later. Clean the whole cavity out.

Remove the gills as well; you should be able to just pull them off.

Iki (kill) a kahawai

Remove the guts of the fish and pull of the gills

Step 3: Give it a rinse

Rinse the fish inside and out in salt water to get rid of the excess blood and insides. It will stop the blood drying on to the fish and freshen it up a bit.

Don’t drop it!


Rinse the kahawai in sea water

Step 4: Put it on salt ice

Get it on ice as soon as possible. Salt ice is the only way to go as fresh ice will ruin your fish.

While you could just put it in your chilli bin with salt ice, it will turn out even better if you fill the gut cavity with salt ice. This will chill the fish from the inside out – no time to get warm and mushy.

Store fish with salt ice

Pack stomach cavity with salt ice, then store in chilli bin

Taking a little time to care for your catch is pretty simple and really good practice. Part of our Kiwi heritage is gathering kaimoana (seafood) and taking it home for friends and family. You want it to taste great too!

Next videos:

So now it's beautifully stored what's next.  Well the feast of course my friends!  Here's a couple of ways to cook it up:


Strayline fishing with bait, squid