Reel It In


By Julia Sharp

Southerners often begin fishing at a very young age with their father, uncles, or other family members. Many skills learned in fishing can carry on into other areas of life, such as patience, agility, and perseverance. However, there’s also one practical fishing skill that is just as valuable – learning to fillet a fish. We spoke with local fishing guide, Richard Simms, to find out how the pros turn their catch of the day into a tasty meal.

SG: How soon should the fish be filleted after it’s caught?

RS: Obviously, fresh fish is always better for the table and makes a delicious dish. As for cleaning, there’s really no immediate rush as long as the fish is iced down and kept cold after you reel it in. I’ve kept fish on ice for as long as 24 hours before cleaning, which is similar to what grocery stores do when selling fresh fish.

SG: What type of knife should be used?

RS: For most scaly fish, I prefer using an electric knife. Barring an electric knife – or electricity altogether – a very sharp, thin-bladed fisherman’s fillet knife is best.

SG: How do you properly clean and fillet a fish?

RS: 1. Rinse the fish in cold water to remove any sediment from the lake or river.

2. Place the fish on its side on a smooth surface and make a cut beginning below the gills. The cut should be deep enough to reach halfway through the fish and end right above the spine in the center.

3. Run the knife blade from gill to tail, following the spine. The cut should now look L-shaped. Be sure you don’t cut through the skin at the tail.

4.  Now flip the piece over to remove the fillet from the skin.
Work the blade between the scaly skin and meat, then slice through from left to right. The scales will cut away from the fillet, like peeling a banana.

5. Repeat steps for the other side of the fish, creating two separate fillets.

6. Using a small, non-electric knife with a very sharp edge, cut along the ribcage to remove these bones. You now have a completely boneless fillet ready for cooking!

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