New app puts fish head lovers in touch with fishers

Tasty Treats: Donated hapuka heads and frames. Image copyright Tightlines Media Limited

A new app launched by The ITM Fishing Show host Matt Wilson is reducing fish waste by match-making fishers and fish head lovers.

Fans of fish heads can hook up with recreational fishers who would otherwise dump the head and frame of fish and take the fish heads for free.

Auckland fisher Simon Earle said he heard about the app from a friend. He said city-dwellers face a challenge disposing of heads and frames.

“It’s a massive drama when you finish fishing and you need to get rid of the skeletons and the fish heads.

“You don’t want to put them in a rubbish bin in a communal space as It will just stink it out, so generally you put them in the freezer and wait for rubbish day.”

Wilson said if just fillets are taken from the fish, two thirds of the fish is being thrown away.

“Utilisation is conservation. If we use the whole fish it means we take less from the ocean.”

He told RNZ he became fed up of seeing frames dumped on beaches.

“You can imagine the disgust of a family that don’t have the means for a boat, they’ve got their surf caster and the spend the day trying to catch one or two snapper or kahawai for a feed.”

“They fail in doing that yet while they’re at the beach they’re seeing often up to hundreds of kilos of beautiful eating fish they would love, just dumped there to rot or to have the seagulls pick at.”

The Free Fish Heads app matches fishers and fish head lovers based on location.

Fishers post an offer on the app and registered fish head lovers get an alert.

Once an offer is accepted phone numbers are shared and the fish head lover can arrange to pick up the heads and frames.

There are thousands of registered users of the website launched in 2012, however, Wilson hopes the app will make the service easier to use.


Earle, who fishes twice a month during summer, said being able to get rid of the fish heads while helping someone else out at the same time was a great idea.

There is no fee for the service as it is illegal for recreationally caught fish to be sold, but fish head lovers are encouraged to donate to Legasea if they wish to show their gratitude.

Fish heads have long been used in soups and stocks by many cultures and more recently fish cheeks have gained popularity as a delicacy as nose-to-tail eating has been embraced by chefs.

The bones in the frame can flavour a stock or be battered and deep fried.

The app is available for Android and Apple phones.