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How to Fillet A Fish

how to fillet a fish
With a sharp knife and a steady hand, you can fillet a fish beautifully by following this how-to guide from Blain’s Farm & Fleet.

Making fish steaks is delicious, but there’s just something about a thin, tender fillet. But maybe you’re wondering how to fillet a fish.

Filleting fish can be difficult if you haven’t done it before, but it gets much easier with experience. Even if you have no idea how to fillet a fish, we can help get you started. Here are some basic steps you can take to fillet most freshwater fish.

How to Fillet a Fish

The keys to filleting a fish are to take your time and use a very sharp knife. Also, the larger the fish you’re filleting, the larger the knife you’ll need. You can fillet a small fish with a larger knife, but it’s hard to fillet a large fish with a small knife. While there are electric knives that require a slightly different technique, we’re only showing you how to fillet a fish with a manual knife.

What you’ll need:

Step 1: Tap your knife on the fish’s head and slowly move down toward the tail until you find where the skull ends and the meat starts. 

The skull area will be harder and will make a tapping sound when you hit it with the knife. Once you get to the flesh, the sound will get much quieter.

Step 2: Make a cut at the seam between the head and the flesh. 

Cut until you get resistance from the spine.

Step 3: Use the tip of your knife to cut along the spin of the fish. 

Pull the flesh back as needed. When you reach the end of the dorsal (back) fin, extend your cut all the way through the fish from spine to belly and follow through with you cut. Your cut should end as your knife comes out just before the tail fin.

Step 4: Grab the flap of flesh you separated from the spine and use the curve of your knife to cut it free from the rib cage. 

Working from head to tail, let the weight of the knife do most of the cutting. If you don’t press too hard, the knife will cut around the bones rather than through them. Continue cutting as close to the ribs as possible until you remove the entire fillet in one piece.

Step 5 (Optional): Lay the fillet skin side down on the cutting board and cut the meat from the skin. 

With the tail end of your fillet pointed toward you, grab the tip with your free hand and cut down through the meat, but not the skin. Now turn the edge of your knife toward the head end of the fillet and make a gentle sawing motion with the knife angled slightly down toward the cutting board. Work your way carefully and slowly from the tail end to the head end until you’ve removed the skin.

Step 6: Repeat steps 1 through 5 on the other side of the fish.

When you’ve filleted both sides, you can throw the skin, head, and cleaned carcass of the fish into the pail for easy cleanup.

Now that you know how to fillet a fish, you can enjoy the fruits of your day on the water. For more great fishing and ice fishing tips and how-to guides, check out our blog.

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