Fish Big Mouth – By Dan Kaggelis
Whilst catch and release sports fishing brings plenty of excitement, taking home a feed of fish from the ocean or creek is something we are all entitled to. I’m sure you will agree that sitting down to a feed of fish and chips is pretty satisfying, especially when you have caught it yourself out of your own boat.
When it comes to keeping a feed of fish, one of the most important things to remember is respecting the resource and ensuring that if we take a feed then our catch is properly dispatched and preserved to ensure the best return. There is nothing that gets my blood boiling more than seeing fish left off the ice or even worse, not dispatched and bled properly which is both inhumane and also leaves the fillet in poor condition which can lead to even the best fish folding up like a thong when cooked and tasting terrible. I will never forget one trip I took with a guy chasing Spanish mackerel off Abbott Point Jetty in his boat. I was keen to keep at least one fish for a feed and when I found out there was no ice in the esky, I was dumb founded. His reasoning was that he believed they were ordinary on the plate as the last few he had kept had gone soft and cooked up even worse. I shot up the road grabbed some ice and, on the way up to the jetty I made up a saltwater slurry between rigging a few troll baits. The baits didn’t take long in the water and we soon had a couple of 12kg Spanish mackerel bleeding away and then quickly dunked into the saltwater slurry. On the way back I convinced him to give them one more try, and l will never forget the phone call that night from him saying just how good the fish not only tasted, but filleted up, compared to his past- experience.
I guess I was lucky growing up to have these practices instilled in me and having the opportunity to watch and experience both commercial and charter anglers care for their catch.Whether it was garfish being netted for bait or coral trout for the plate, when it came down to money equals quality for these guys you certainly didn’t see any bending straight of dead fish or them banging around the floor of the boat where the flesh was easily bruised.
How people go about landing, despatching and preserving their catch is varied, but there are a few things which will go a long way to making this job easier. The first is a heavy-duty esky which will not only hold ice for long periods of time but also keep your slurry at the right temperature (below zero with saltwater) to keep your fillets super cold and firm. Your esky needs to be thick and strong walled with plenty of insulation. I can’t go past the EvaKool IceKool range of eskies for this. EvaKool have been building eskies in Australia for over 20 years and know what fishermen want in terms of a quality esky which won’t fall apart after a couple of years of hard treatment on the salt and briny. Let’s face it, eskies cop an absolute hiding at times and aren’t cheap, so if you are going to invest the money then my advice is to go right the first time. I’ve had my EvaKools for over a decade and even after plenty of big trips and mishandled care they are still in awesome condition and most importantly keeping the fish super cold.
Whilst your esky choice is vital, having a tool kit to despatch and bleed your fish is just as important. Your first piece of this kit should be your fish spike. One of the best ways to keep your fillets firm is to spike your fish and kill them cleanly and quickly. This is best achieved using a sharp spike to the brain which will see your fish quickly tense up and relax which reduces lactic acid build up and the contraction of muscle fibres which significantly enhances the eating quality of the flesh. Another important tool in your kit is a quality set of cutters. Whilst most people will use a knife to bleed fish, cutters are a much better and more importantly safer option. In my experience its hard to go past the Black Panther 185mm cutters. These things are super sharp and stay sharp and have little trouble cutting through the bone, gristle and gills of the toughest and biggest fish. I first noticed them on commercial and charter fishing boats and after getting my own set I can see why all the skippers raved about them. Finally, a dehooking tool of some description is also a must. You can buy special curved steel tools which will twist hooks out of a fish’s mouth however a sturdy set of long nose pliers is just as good in most cases.
Whilst all these things will help with your catch, there is something new and innovative on the marketwhich is quickly becoming a favourite in terms of landing, despatching and preserving my catch. Called the Fish Big Mouth, this awesome invention created right here in Queensland attaches to your esky and takes all the fuss and mess out of landing, despatching and preserving your fish. The Fish Big Mouth is a revolution in terms of this process for several reasons. Firstly, the extended mouth above the esky allows for the perfect slot to secure your fish once you have got it over the sides. Once its in the mouth and the pin is through the gills, the hooked fish is safely secured and most importantly without ever having to touch the fish. Second, once secured you can quickly and easily dehook the fish, once again without having to handle the fish. Third, having the fish secured head facing upwards makes it easy to get your spike into the brain and scissors into its gills to bleed them. Then its just a simple matter of pulling the red pin from the gills securing the fish where it falls straight into your ice slurry below.
I can’t stress just how easy this ripper invention makes handling your catch, especially considering the safety and messy side of things. We have all been on trips where someone either accidently cuts themselves, spikes themselves or even worse takes a hook or treble into the body requiring medical attention. If you are lucky it won’t be too bad and a quick patch job from the first aid kit will suffice. But more often than not when the cut is severe, or the fish spike or hook goes in deep, it can quickly spell the end of the fishing trip and is quickly replaced by an expensive trip to hospital. The Fish Big Mouth takes all this risk away as you never have to handle the fish once its secured. There are no fish flapping all over the floor of the boat where hooks can quickly find their way into arms and legs, there is no need to get your hands in the gill plates to remove hooks and finally no need to handle the fish whilst attempting to brain spike them or cut their gills. This invention make sit so simple even the most novice anglers can safely handle fish and most importantly process them properly with minimal risk. I honestly believe this is why many beginning anglers don’t process their fish properly as they are unwilling to handle fish in the first place.
If the safety reason isn’t enough for you, then let me tell you about how this minimises the mess. No one likes cleaning off blood and guts off the carpet of the boat caused by a fish dumped on the floor after capture. Fish flap around, spraying mess everywhere, turning a quick clean up into a full-blown boat detail at the end of the trip. The Fish Big Mouth eliminates the mess entirely as fish are placed straight into it at capture where it is secured, bled and despatched in one place keeping your boat squeaky clean and not smelling like dead fish.
The final reason you should consider a Fish Big Mouth is the speed you can get your fish on ice. The Fish Big Mouth makes this process fast, quick, and safe, and will ensure your catch is in the best condition for filleting and consumption.
The Fish Big Mouth is awesome for all sizes and shapes of fish from your big reds and nannys right through to your estuary species. I particularly love it for flathead as no matter how hard I try these flat fish always manage to spike me when processing them into the ice slurry. The Fish Big Mouth is perfect for both inshore and offshore recreational anglers but also a very good idea for charter skippers who are looking at ways to reduce risk on clients who may be inexperienced in handling fish safely. The biggest comment I get when people see this in use in my boat is that the esky wont stay cold due to the slot in the lid, however I can honestly say that it hasn’t had any effect on esky temperature or ice melting compared to before I put it in.
If this ripper invention appeals to you check out the webpage at www.fishbigmouth.com.au or have a gander at the videos on Fish and Boat tube where I have demonstrated the installation and use of this awesome invention.