How to Fillet a Fish
Knowing what to do after you catch a fish is an important part of angling. To be a true angler you have to be able to prepare your catch. Learning to Filet your fish is a must for most anglers.
I catch mostly fresh water fish. The fish I filet most are crappie. I may fillet a Bass from time to time but I usually release the Bass I catch. I do love large blue gill, shell crackers and crappie. My favorite fish to eat is a walleye. We don't have walleye here in Alabama but we do have sauger which is related to the walleye. We catch sauger here in in winter and the stay deep. They are great eating.
There is an urban myth that you loose a lot of the meat by filleting. This is not true. You will lose a little but not much and having no bones in your fish makes up for the small loss.
Keep your fish fresh. If you don't have a live well or a fish basket you can keep your fish on ice. This will keep them fresh till you are ready to clean them. You can filet a fish right out of the live well but my experience has been that they filet better after they have been iced down. The knife seems to flow through the meat easier on an iced down fish.
I Always use a filet knife. Filet knives are thin sleek blades made to cut through fish. Any other knife will be to thick and cumbersome. You will end up butchering the meat. I like a Kershaw filet knife. They are great knives and reasonable priced. You can find a nice Kershaw for around $15.00
There are anglers out there that use an electric knife. I guess I am a little old fashioned but my experience has been that a filet knife gives a much better filet than the electric knife.
Keep your knife sharp. A dull blade is useless when filleting. If your blade is stainless make sure you run it on a steel or ceramic before you use it. People like stainless blades because stainless is rust resistant. The downside to stainless is that stainless does not keep an edge like a carbon blade. So with a stainless blade run it down your steel orceramic before each fish. That will keep it sharp and able to do the job.
It takes a certain amount of touch to fillet a fish but with a little practice you will be filleting as a pro. After all we are not talking about brain surgery here.
To skin or not to skin, I like the skin on most freshwater game fish. Catfish I skin with needle nose pliers. If you decide to keep the skin you will need to scale your fish before filleting. I have found that a metal spoon makes one of the best fish scalers you'll find. You can spend lots of money on fish scalers but none of them store bought scalers will outperform the common kitchen spoon. If you decide to skin your fish I have found that running your blade between the meat and the skin after you have your filet is the easiest and fastest way to remove the skin.
Here are a few pointers when filleting. To really get a good idea on technique take yourself to you tube and watch a few videos on filleting a fish. After you read our suggestions. The suggestions will make a lot more sense after viewing a few videos.
1. Make a deep cut just behind the gills (about halfway through the thickness of the fish).
2. Cut a slit a few inches in length along the top of the fish (the dorsal side). (There is a slightly different technique for y-bone fish like northern pike or muskees.)
3. Using the tip of the knife, separate the flesh from the bones. The fish should open up just like a book.
4. When completely open, finish cutting away the fillet by moving the knife along the spine of the book.
After you are done with your fish you can be good to earth by recycling. The leftover fish parts make great chum, great catfish bait and great fertilizer.