Caring for Caught Tuna

OMEGA

I've posted enough I should edit this section
Dec 17, 2007
940
610
WA
Name
MCS
Boat
40 Cabo FB
I am planning on taking the Boat from Everett to Westport to fish this coming weekend and would like to ask what the best way is to care for your caught Tuna. I have the blood bucket-slush cooler-ice box process taken care of. Now you are back to the dock and it is time to cut some steaks and figure out how to make today's catch tasty come December.

What are some tips that work?

Thanks
 

T-Ripper

I've posted enough I should edit this section
Oct 18, 2007
882
134
Seattle, WA
Name
Tobin Rippo
Boat
Team Defiance / Pelagic Specialist
Cut the loins (there are 4) off and vaccum seal for later use. The fish I prepare that way stays (like fresh) for up to 12 months and the packaging looks like I went to Costco - Mrs. Ripper likes that part. Defrost when desired and cut steaks for the BBQ or baking.

ENSURE the fish are chilled prior to loining as this will ensure no mush and wasted protein.
 

LEEDOG

TEAM AGRO
Sep 25, 2006
302
0
SPRING VALLEY
Name
JASON
Boat
SEARS 14FT/ 55' Pacifica PRIMETIME 6-pack charter
I have heard that some guys "spike" the tuna as soon as they hit the deck. This envolves running a piece of hard wire or mono through the fishes brain stem in order to stop the fishes release of some kind of acid that will lower the quality of the meat.I will do a search now to find you more info.
 

LEEDOG

TEAM AGRO
Sep 25, 2006
302
0
SPRING VALLEY
Name
JASON
Boat
SEARS 14FT/ 55' Pacifica PRIMETIME 6-pack charter
Here you go:
Tuna should NOT be iced before they go into rigor UNLESS they have been spiked and spinal reamed.
to understand this we need to go into some basic tuna physiology.

Gunna be a longish post, so bear with me ,the detail is important.
There are 2 types of fish.
Cold blooded fish & 'warm' blooded fish
Tuna are 'warm' blooded fish........... not so warm as you & me but none the less.
Tuna have the ability to generate a body temperature higher than the water they are in............ this is achieved by a heat exchange in the bloodflow between the blood flowing back to the heart from the body and the blood flowing from the heart thru the gills & into the body...........this is that mass of blood vessels in the lateral line ( the dark red "meat" ).
Now to the nervous system:
There are voluntary muscle movements & autogenous muscle movements
The voluntary ones are go fast/slow swim right or left etc
The autogenous ones are heartbeat & shiver etc
Yep SHIVER...........same as you & me ........when experiencing cold.........shiver to generate heat & warm up.
Now to nerves & muscles & rigor:( Simple version )
muscles work from the action of stored energy compounds held in the muscle cells & released by the nerves attached to them ( either voluntary signal or autogenous ).
In the living fish ( and you & me ) these compounds are regenerated from the blood
The muscles when working create lactic acid which is taken away by blood flow & disposed of by body organs.
We will not go into the scientific details of what compounds or how they are regenerated or the chemistry of muscle contractions & relaxation ( another 1000 words to do that )
I'm sure you understand the term " brain dead"
brain is dead but body functions are still alive.
When the fish is brain dead the energy compounds in the muscle cells are still available and controlled by the nerves. The nerves are still working for quite a while after the brain is dead.
The muscles can & do work autogenously to shiver even when the brain is dead ( if the tuna is exposed to cold ).
The muscles will work until the stored energy compounds are used up.
fish (& every other animal with muscles) go into rigor when the muscles have depleted the compound required to relax the muscles.
In death the energy compounds leak away and the last muscle action is contraction of every muscle cell in the body & the fish goes hard ( its in rigor ).
Fish stays in rigor until biological enzyme actions start to break down the muscle tissue itself.( ie the fish flesh is starting to deteriorate - not rotten........just starting the process ).

OK ..........now the answer to what should be done with the tuna on the deck:
1.
every fish to be kept should be humanely dispatched immediately on capture as death starts the process of getting into rigor, and it stops the fish from thrashing about and bruising the flesh ( and maybe you ).
Brain spike or clubbed.
2.
The tuna should then be bled. Minimum action is to sever the gills. The best practice is to stab the fish immediately behind the pectoral fin on the lateral line on both sides & slash the lateral line at the tail on the lateral line on both sides.
Why ???
The tuna has been fighting you hard & has a high level of lactic acid in its blood from the muscle effort.
If left there it will eat thru the blood vessels and into the flesh.........this results in sour flesh exposed to the lactic acid.
Severing the gills is better than nothing , but the blood in the heat exchanger vessels is still trapped there ......... so severing the lateral line front & back & both sides drains these organs.
This should be done as soon as the fish is on the deck & killed, but the heart is still beating, to pump it out.
Gutting: ( added in edit )
Gutting should not take place until the fish has fully bled out.
You want the heart to pump as much of the blood out as possible , as it will continue to function autogenously after brain death until it no longer has any energy compounds in its muscle mass to keep functioning.( the heart will be the first muscle mass to go into rigor).
Only the gut & gills should be removed , leaving the membrane between the gut & the rest of the body intact as this is a natural barrier to gut enzymes and bacteria entering the flesh of the fish.
BTW
That really dark red stuff under the fishes spine in the gut cavity is the fishes kidney
No need to remove it in the gutting process and strip the gut cavity membrane away to get at it. Leave it there & deal with it in the filleting process down the line
This applies to ALL fish not just tuna.
When whole fish or cutlets are being cooked, the time to remove the kidney by scraping & brushing is in the prep immediately before cutting the cutlets or cooking whole.
Now to chilling practice:
2 choices;
best practice is to use a wad punch ( stainless tube ) instead of using just a spike and then running a flexible rod down the spinal cord as far as you can to destroy the nerve links between adjacent muscle groups in either side of the fish to prevent shivering
then straight into RSW or ice ( preferably as a slurry with water ).
The spinal cord runs from the brain cavity down along the top of the spine ( not in it ).
it runs in the bifurcated legs of the top spines of the backbone & whilst tricky to learn is easy once you have done it a couple of times. The big trick is to cut into the front of the brain cavity with the wad punch leaving the back of the cavity as a nice little funnel into the spinal cord track, to run the reamer into.
If you can't , don't, or don't have time to do this DO NOT PUT THE TUNA STRAIGHT INTO RSW or ICE.
the tuna will shiver and generate heat & cook in its core.
The RSW / ICE cannot cool the insides of the fish fast enough & has no effect on counteracting the heat generated as the cold will not reach that area & depth of the fish for a couple of hours.
Yes HOURS.
IF you dont destroy the spinal cord , tuna should be left in a cool place with a wet rag over it or in a killbox with seawater ( not RSW ) running over it until the fish starts to go into rigor ( ie the fish is telling you the muscles have run out of energy compounds )
Then Chill.
If you take shortcuts to the above you are giving yourself a substandard product.
Hope that helps understand the what & why of tuna flesh care.
Your choice as to what you do & there are a lot of myths out there.........especially the one about chilling tuna ASAP.
I know what good tuna flesh looks & tastes like.

Chilling most fish ASAP is correct ( the cold blooded ones )............chilling tuna ASAP without the correct preparation is WRONG.
BTW
in decending order the fish with the highest ability to elevate their body temp , is :-
Blue Fin Tuna
BET
Yellow Fin Tuna
 

alumadon

Well-Known "Member"
Dec 22, 2004
73
0
70
Port Townsend Wa.
Name
OLD DUDE
Boat
modified Radoncraft 21'
I agree with LEEDOG on everything ,,but what he says applies a little less to albacore then the other types of tuna. I thump to stun ,cut gills and tail , head down in kill barrel for min. 5-6 minutes , head and gut then into biggest cooler with ice seawater slurry minimum 30 minutes ,, then to icepack in another cooler. If its calm enough I loin fish on the way in and bag the loins. No dark meat ,, trim it off !! Keep in ice . At home , wrap in saran wrap in meal size portions and slip it in a vac bag , vac and seal. Good for a year. We have never done the spinal ream but have seen it reccomended. For the best cleanin video go to Utube and search tuna cleaning . There is one thats done in a Japanese fish market that is really good. Laying a bunch of whole tuna on the concrete dock thats been in the sun all day makes a good picture but I would rather have body parts in bags on ice for eating. This topics been discussed before and there will be alot of comments and opinions . The only wy we can replicate the moves on that video is write down the cuts they make and do it at about 1/10 there speed. Loining on the boat means alot more room for fish. I know nothing.
 

alumadon

Well-Known "Member"
Dec 22, 2004
73
0
70
Port Townsend Wa.
Name
OLD DUDE
Boat
modified Radoncraft 21'
U Tube search for ,Fillet a tuna for sashimi ,, also save those trimmings for shrimp and crab bait , the best. I still know nuthing.
 

OMEGA

I've posted enough I should edit this section
Dec 17, 2007
940
610
WA
Name
MCS
Boat
40 Cabo FB
Thanks guys. I was prepared for the bleeding aspect with the spike technique and head down in a tub. Next into my 162 qt igloo slush. Lastly into the boats 200 gallon fish box with packed ice. There will also be a 90 qt igloo for addtl ice I suppose.

What height bleed bucket or tub works best? I medium size cooler? Shrimp line basket? I imagine it only needs to hold 3-4 tuna at one time correct?

The youtube vids should be helpful as well.

I don't want to do too much planning on caring for catch until I actually get the boat around the corner and out to fish. Trying not to get the cart in front of the horse but need to be ready.

Thanks
 

Keta

Ignorant Sheep Farmer
Nov 13, 2005
3,100
4
67
Still in Oregon
Name
Lee
Boat
3' Too Short
Gut and gill them right after bleading them and they chill faster.
 

Tower Todd

Number #2
May 2, 2006
6,056
632
Touring the Pacific Ocean at 12 knots
Name
Todd S.
Boat
274' Long Range
First off: Have a plan for what you would like out of your fish. Do you want to freeze loins, can some or all of it, or eat it fresh? Knowing this helps alot when proccessing the fish. If you plan to crank up the canning operation then no need to vacum seal it. If you fish on Sunday and have to work Monday, when are you going to cut fish? I would Ice the hell out of them and cut them on Monday evening. If you have friends fishing with you, the amount of fish you take home is greatly reduced especially if they are one or two trip per season freinds. If you plan to process fish at the dock upon returning from sea, do you have a cleaning station where 2 or 3 guys can work? Cutting fish on the top of a cooler sucks if you have very many of them to do.

If you plan to do a couple of trips back to back you really need to consider where to put fish or how to process the first day's fish before heading out for day two.

The catching part can be the easy part. The work comes in processing them after a long day or trip. Never take more than you can use.

TT
 

OMEGA

I've posted enough I should edit this section
Dec 17, 2007
940
610
WA
Name
MCS
Boat
40 Cabo FB
Good Points guys. What does Westport have in the way of a cleaning station? I have a magma filet table but I really don't think that will work if you get into good numbers. I am leaving Sunday for fish cleaning and boat cleaning. I plan on doing loins the first trip and splitting between fresh and vac seal depending on catch and crew.

Is having your own cutting station a big plus in Westport? If so what would the ideal size be, to comfortably work. We have some starboard in inventory and may fabricate something ahead of time of need be.

Thanks
 

zzz

I've posted enough I should edit this section
May 20, 2008
514
74
Issaquah, WA
Name
Kurt
Boat
23' Grady White "ZingFisher"
Westport has no fish cleaning facilities whatsoever. There is a water spigot at every slip but you are on your own for providing the cutting surface. Last year I constructed a sturdy table consisting of a 3' x 4' piece of plywood on top of legs made of 2x4s. I used odds and ends pieces purchased at Home Depot for about $12 and just left the table on the dock for the season. I plan to do the same thing this year.
 

OMEGA

I've posted enough I should edit this section
Dec 17, 2007
940
610
WA
Name
MCS
Boat
40 Cabo FB
No Worries. I will just use the Magma this trip and make a larger table to go on the transom for next time if need be.

Everything is coming together nicely.

Did the distance from Everett to Westport on the chart and it looks like a solid 215-220 miles.

TT let me know about this Friday/Sat so I can work on a backup plan if need be.
 

Keta

Ignorant Sheep Farmer
Nov 13, 2005
3,100
4
67
Still in Oregon
Name
Lee
Boat
3' Too Short
Albacore cut better after being on ice overnight.
 

OMEGA

I've posted enough I should edit this section
Dec 17, 2007
940
610
WA
Name
MCS
Boat
40 Cabo FB
Thanks for the tip Keta.
 

alumadon

Well-Known "Member"
Dec 22, 2004
73
0
70
Port Townsend Wa.
Name
OLD DUDE
Boat
modified Radoncraft 21'
I have been using the plastic fold up Costco taples for years for fish cleaning and cutting the hold up and clean easy. Whats important is bleeding , remove head and guts , helps for quicker cooling and you can pack the cavity keep em packed in ice and there good for 3 days. The commercials have done it for many years.. They are a little better if you can do em sooner. A google search for processing on board gives alot of good info. Good luck