Saltwater Fishing: How to Fillet Fish (with Pictures)
After returning from your successful fishing trip, you face the dilemma of how to clean your fish. With so many options from whole, to butterflied, to filleted it can be hard to choose. However, I believe filleting to be the best option as you get well above the majority of meat, no bones, and no skin. It can be quite difficult to teach yourself to do and trial and error on your hard earned fish is not an option. Here, I will explain to you how to quickly and easily fillet any fish. Although I use trout for this explanation, this method can be applied to any fish.
Place your fish on a cutting board, facing toward the left. Then align your knife just behind the pectoral (side) fin as seen in picture #1.
Proceed to cut into the fish all the way down to the backbone but making sure not to cut through it.
Then rotate the fish so it is oriented like the one in picture #3. Then at the top of your cut made in step #2 insert the very tip of the knife and begin to slowly slice toward the tail. With this cut, make sure to be right along the spine and only go in to the fish about 1/2".
After completing step three, your fish should look like picture #4.
Then, while lifting the flap of meat made in step three as pictured in picture #4, begin long slices parallel to the backbone, keeping the knife at around a 30 degree angle. Continue doing this until you reach the backbone.
After reaching the backbone, you will encounter the ribcage, which is the trickiest part of the entire job. Some fish have more prominent ribs than others but you will continue the same method of slicing, but angle your knife more toward 0 degrees or even angling up until you start to pass over the ribs. This is documented in picture #6.
After the pass through the ribcage, continue the slicing past the backbone but farther toward the tail the fish until all the meat is cleaned from the fish, as illustrated in picture #7.
After you slice off all the meat, try not to cut through the skin connecting to the tail as shown in picture #8.
Then reorient the fish back to its original position with the meat folded back toward the tail. Then, as far back as possible, cut in at an angle of 45 degrees through the meat but not through the skin while changing the angle down to around 0 or 5 degrees.
Begin "sawing" back and forth along the skin being careful not to go though it. You can occasionally stop cutting and fold the meat back to examine how close you are as shown in pictures #9 and #10.
After finishing removing the skin, you are done filleting and for trout, deboning. Some fish, like snapper, grouper, sheepshead, etc. have a line of thin bones running along where bloodline/backbone area. These can easily be removed by feeling out where the bones are by cutting on either side of them and removing the small strip of meat containing the bones.
Finally, repeat the entire process on the other side of the fish and you're done!
Now, with after your filleting is completed you can focus on cooking your prize catch! For ideas on how to cook your fish, visit my hubs on how to cook fish. And if your trip wasn't so successful, check out my Saltwater Fishing Guides on Speckled Trout and Sheepshead.
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