Handling Sardines

Sardine - Sardinops Sagax


Region of Origin

Mainly schools offshore, although inshore schools can sometimes occur, the fleet fishes within 30-50km off Port Lincoln.

Growing Conditions

Fast growing (4-6months)

Harvesting Method

Most sardine fishing activities are at night, making use of sonar to locate sardine schools. Once located nets are deployed and pursed around the schools of sardines. Live fish are pumped onto the vessels and immediately ice-slurried.


A great sustainable choice – fast growing, prolific breeding, plankton eating.


Feed on plankton


Fishing for Australian sardines is conducted over 12 months of the year in the Eyre Peninsula, with prime fishing months being November through July.


Winter – 8-12cm
Summer – 12-14cm

Methods to market

Whole – fresh or frozen
IQF – individually quick frozen
Packaged sardine fillets
Headed and gutted Australian sardines fresh or frozen

Handling and storage

Sardines should be handled with extreme care, their high fat content and fine bone structure make them quite fragile. Fresh sardines should be cleaned and stored on dry kitchen towel, on a rack atop ice, sitting in an air proof container. Frozen sardines should be thawed quickly (at room temperature) and used immediately.

Fresh v Frozen

For the premium experience use fresh, although contemporary processing delivers excellent, consistent quality in frozen product.


The flesh should be a brilliant, deep red with a translucent sheen

Bone structure

The fine bones structure allows the fish to be cooked on the bone or if filleted the back bone and rib cage can be easily removed

Flesh Fat Content

Winter – 8-10%
Summer – 10-12%


The aroma of good quality, fresh and freshly defrosted sardines should be clean with a cool metallic note and an iodine zing. The flavour should be rich and deep with a meaty, sesame nuttiness and long, lasting back palate with a drying salty finish.


The texture of a raw/marinated sardine should be soft and moist, when cooked they will display a firmness and crunch.

Yield from Whole Fish


Culinary applications

The sardine is highly versatile. It’s high oil content and robust flavour make it ideal for marinated/raw preparations along with pan frying, grilling, frying and even BBQ (be careful not to overcook).

Master class




1. Select sardines that are
clear eyed, firm to the
touch and with no signs
of belly breakage


2. Remove head by cutting
from the shoulder to the
belly behind the gill plate
of the sardine



3. Cut belly from head to
tail, removing gut

4. sardine

4. Trim pectoral fins using
sharp knife or scissors



5. Store cleaned whole
trunks at 0-3°C – place on
kitchen towel, on a rack
placed above ice – in an
airtight container



6. sardine

6. To fillet, run a sharp
knife from shoulder to
tail inside the rib cage
on one side – leaving the
backbone and rib cage of
opposite side


7. Sardine

7. Remove backbone and
remaining rib cage by
running a sharp knife
from tail to shoulder,
under the backbone
and rib cage