How To Fillet Your Catch
Cleaning and filleting your fish isn't nearly as hard as people think it is. If you don't keep your fish because you thought it was too hard, you are missing out on some great eating!

There are different methods to do it, but I found this is the easiest and best way for me. You get almost all of the good meat and it is quick. A must, on those days when you catch your limit.

You will need:  

 1. A cutting surface that is close to a water source (to rinse every so often)

2. An electric knife. This is where people get frustrated and think cleaning fish is hard. It is much, much easier with a good electric knife. around $40.00 bucks at Wal-Mart. You will also need a sharp, regular fillet knife.

3. A bowl of cold water. The colder the water the better. Icy cold is best.

4. Freezer bags. (make sure they are freezer bags and not storage bags)

      Start off by cutting the fish straight down, just behind the gill plate. Then angle the blade down and towards the tail. You will feel the backbone. Don't press down too hard and cut through the backbone.

Run the blade along the backbone and cut towards the tail.  Stop cutting just short of the tail. You want this fillet to remain attached to the fish. If you do it right, you miss cutting all organs.

With the fillet still attached to the fish, flip it over so the meat is facing up.

Then cut the meat off of the skin, going from the skinny end towards the rib cage. You want to angle the blade down towards the skin as you go but not too much or the blade will cut into the skin. You want remove as much of the good meat from the skin as possible.

 The blade should be almost flat with the skin or it will cut into it.

This should remove all of the meat from the outer skin. Then flip the fish over and do the other side the same way.

With your regular knife, cut away the rib cage and stomach cavity and throw that away.

This will remove all bones and leave you with nothing but meat.

 

Flip the fillet over and you will see the meat is covered with a red layer. This is the blood line that you hear so much about. This red part of the fillet must be removed or the fish will taste strong and gamey.

This is another part that makes an electric knife so valuable.

The red layer isn't very thick, so be careful not to remove any "good" meat.

Just cut it off and throw it away.  At this point put the fillet in the bowl of icy water. Fillet all of your catch and put the fillets in the water before you go to the next step.

Once the layer of red meat is removed, you will see a line still left in the fillet. This must be removed also.

You can either cut it out using the regular knife, or "zipper" it out.

If you put your fillets in the cold water, it makes this next step much easier. You can grab the red line and just pull it "zipper it" off the meat. You can still do this without chilling the meat, but it tears the fillet more.

Now you should just be left with a nice, boneless, clean fillet ready for the skillet. If there is any bits of red meat left on the fish you can trim it away or go ahead and cook it. A little bit left on will not affect the taste.

Now that you have a "mess of fillets" either cook them at once or freeze some for later.

Put in the freezer bags with enough water to cover the meat. You might add a couple of drops of lemon juice to keep them fresh.

If you use freezer bags and not storage bags, the fillets will last up to 3 months in your freezer.

Be sure to rotate your bags and use the oldest ones first.

I hope this helps, and you too can enjoy the fish you spent so much time and energy catching.  Go to my web page for fish recipes.

I prefer just coating them in Zatarain's© fish fry seasoning mix. and cooking them in 350 oil till they are golden brown.

Enjoy and good eating.

James Allen   texomastripers@live.com  

       

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