How to Fillet A Fish

Learning how to fillet a fish is easier that you think. In this section, we will give you basic information and simple steps on how to clean and fillet a fish properly.

You’ve had a great day of fishing. You’ve even landed a few for a filling meal. First and foremost, it is vital to keep your catch properly stored and chilled until you’re ready to prepare the fish for cooking. While you may prefer to cook your smaller species whole, larger fish, such as largemouth bass, northern pike, salmon, and walleye, are usually filleted. Learning how to fillet a fish means getting the meat of the fish without the bones. Instructions on how to fillet a fish step by step are listed below, but there are a few steps that need to come first

HOW TO CLEAN A FISH: BASICS

As noted above, some fish varieties are small enough to eat whole. While there are several methods available for cooking whole fish, a few preparation steps are still required before putting the fish on heat.

  1. Scaling: Scaling is the act of removing scales from the skin of the fish. There are specifically designed scalers to manage the task which are available where fishing equipment is sold. Or, if no scaler is available, the back of a knife can be used. Use caution. Children should never be left unsupervised when handling sharp objects. To scale the fish, place your scaler near the tail and rub it along the skin toward the head. Repeat as needed until all scales have been removed then rinse the fish off to ensure that the skin is free of scales. For added safety, wear metal-mesh "fish-cleaning" gloves to protect your hands from sharp scales.
  2. Gutting: Learning how to gut a fish is actually relatively easy. Simply place the tip of the knife into the fish’s anus next to the tail and cut forward toward the head. The knife will naturally stop at the fish’s head. Spread the abdominal cavity open and remove the innards with your hands. Rinse the cavity clean. If you don’t intend to cook the fish with its head, now is when you can remove it by slicing through the fish just in front of the pectoral fins.

Now that the fish is clean, you’re ready to cook the smaller pieces. To learn how to fillet fish the easy way, follow the filleting fish instructions below.

HOW TO FILLET A FISH: STEPS

A filleted fish has its skin and bones removed before cooking. Scaling isn't necessary. Fillet knives have a long, thin, blade that's very sharp and specifically designed for filleting fish. Follow the instructions below to learn how to fillet a fish set by step.

  1. An adult should always supervise young anglers as they learn to fillet. A fillet knife is dangerous and must be handled safely. If you have any slime on your hands or the knife handle, wash it off to prevent slipping. Always keep your hands behind the blade.
  2. To fillet a fish, lay it on its side on a flat surface. Unlike the cut described for preparing whole fish, filleting fish requires you to cut the fish behind its gills and pectoral fin, but only to the rib cage. Neither scaling nor removing the head is necessary.
  3. If not removing the head, turn the blade toward the tail and cut along the top of the ribs using the fish's backbone to guide you. Turn the fish over and repeat steps 2 and 3.
  4. Next, insert the knife blade close to the rib bones and slice the entire rib section of each fillet away. Then, with the skin side down, insert the knife blade about a 1/2-inch from the tail. Gripping this tail part firmly, put the blade between the skin and the meat at an angle. Using a little pressure and a sawing motion, cut against - not through - the skin. The fillet will be removed from the skin.
  5. Wash each fillet in cold water. Pat dry with a clean cloth or paper towel. The fillets are ready to cook or freeze.