How to Fillet a Fish

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  • Post category:Fishing Tips / How To
  • Post last modified:June 27, 2022

Starting to Cut the Fish

It is very important to know! Cooking fillets of freshly caught fish is the most important stage of fishing. A filleting knife is the perfect helper. Experienced chefs say that fish meat quickly gutted and separated from the bones is much tastier. Also fish fillets take up less storage space.

How To Gut And Fillet A Fish

Let’s be honest: With a mouthful of bones, the fish caught is only half as pleasant, isn’t it? Unsurprisingly, most anglers want to see only the best sides of the fish they catch on their plate, namely the sides of the fillets!

However, first, they must be carefully separated from the rest, preferably so that the fillet is not completely damaged, or later half of the valuable meat will have to be given to the cat as waste. But don’t worry, it’s easy to divide the fish into fillets. If you know how to set the knife, where the fillets are, and what to look for, you can cut any fish fillets yourself. It’s important to have a sharp kitchen knife that can cut right into the bone.

How To Fillet A Fish Youtube

How To Fillet A Fish Step By Step

In this article, I have collected for you the most popular types of fish from which you can make fillets. Let’s take a look at the general principle first.

Step 1

Your fish should always be fresh. Therefore, after you have caught the fish, place it in a cool, fresh place. Then it must be washed thoroughly. Next, clean the fish from the scales, if any, and also remove all unnecessary parts such as the tail, fins, bones, etc. Before cutting the fish, it should first be washed and dried. For fish fillets, it is best to use a flexible fish fillet knife that can be cut well into the bones when cutting fish.

Tool for Cleaning Fish Scales

Step 2

When filleting fish, the first thing to do is to remove the head. When filleting fish, cut it with a sharp knife behind the V-shaped gills: on one side, place the knife directly behind the gills and at an angle to the gills. Cut off the middle bone. Turn the fish over and cut in the same way, but cut through the middle bone so that the head is relaxed.

Step 3

To cut the fish in half when cutting fish, use a long fish knife (knife length at least 40 cm). To help you have as little waste as possible when cutting fish, place a knife in the head when cutting fish, and then cut along the large center bone. Always hold the sharp blade of the knife slightly towards the center bone.

Step 4

Cut in half along the center bone and cut to the end of the tail in one step. When filleting fish, move the knife back and forth with light pressure. Remove the fillets, turn the fish and cut the second fillet in the same way.

Step 5

Now carefully remove the fins, tail, and fat around the edges.

Knife for Cutting Fish

Step 6

The skin of the abdominal flap is located below the central bone. Also, cut it off with a knife.

Step 7

Now, when filleting fish, place the two halves next to each other on a work surface and remove the individual bones using small pointed tweezers. In between, slide your fingers over the fish fibers to feel the individual bones as you fillet the fish.

How to Clean and Fillet a Fish

Many of us prefer to peel and butcher fish with a regular kitchen knife. But many cleaning methods may require other tools such as a sharp fillet knife, fish peeler, fork, scissors, tablespoon, grater, rubber gloves, cutting board. As for the latter, it is best to purchase a board with a fish head clip. This will make it easier for you as the fish will be in place during the process.

Cleaning of the river and sea fish is different. Mostly due to the size of the scales. The saltwater one is easier and faster to clean, as it is covered with small scales, which quickly disappear upon physical impact. However, there are some rules to know to make your job easier.

Fish Scale Removal

Some types of fish, before removing scales from them, need to be cleaned of a layer of mucus. There are several ways to do this:

  • Immerse the carcass in very hot water for 15–20 seconds. The mucus will come off during this time, and you can start cleaning.
  • This method is also pretty simple. Rub the product with salt before cleaning. The carcass stops sliding in the hands. When fishing, you can use sand instead of salt. But this method is not very convenient, because then it is difficult to wash the grains of sand from the meat well.

In order to remove scales from the fish, the first step is to fill the sink with water. We lower the carcass into the water. This will avoid unnecessary cleaning: the scales will not scatter around the kitchen, but will settle in the liquid. Next, we cut off the fins so as not to hurt ourselves when cleaning. We firmly take the fish by the head with one hand. We take a knife in the other hand. We begin to clean from the tail towards the head, prying the scales with a fish scaler. At the end of cleaning, rinse the carcass under running water.

How to Fillet a Shark

And so, put the shark on a cutting board and take a sharp knife. It is important. If your knife is not sharp enough, you will fail. Sharkskin resembles leather. You should do a cut right behind the gill cover. Right behind the grill make an incision and this is a general way you can use to clean most fish actually.

So, then run the knife along the top of the backbone. Just make an incision along the top of the backbone and work your way all the way down. Right down to the tail. You should cut away along and around the ribs there and down all the way down to the tail. You should cut all the way down to the belly. And then remove the skin. You have to run the knife, make an incision there, and then run the knife between the fillet and the skin. All is ready!

How to Fillet a Crappie

For cutting this fish, I recommend using a small, flexible, sharp knife Rapala Fish Fillet Knives Classic. Place the crappie on the cutting surface. Position the fish horizontally with its tail on the same side as your dominant hand. This will allow you to run more smoothly. Hold the crappie by the head as you prepare to make the first cut. Make a vertical cut just behind the gills. Insert the tip of the knife between the back of a gill plate and the pectoral fin.

Cut the gills at a slight angle to the head. Continue cutting until you reach the spine, but be careful not to cut it. Run the blade along the spine to the tail. Holding tightly to your head, begin to gradually drive the knife along the entire length of the crappie. Instead of trying to cut through the skin, simply press down on the blade and let the meat break free.

Stop when you get to the back of the fish next to the tail. If you are cutting close enough to the spine, you should feel the outline of each rib as you push the knife through it. Separate the meat from the skin. Bend the fillets back so that they fit snugly against the cutting surface. Then, starting at the tail, slide the knife blade between the skin and the meat and make a clean cut from one end to the other.

The fillet should come off in one smooth piece. At the head end of the fillet, you will find that the ribcage is still attached. Use the curved tip of a knife to circle the edges of your ribcage, being careful not to waste meat. The boneless fillet should be V-shaped. Repeat on the opposite side. Turn the fish over and follow the same procedure, starting with a vertical notch behind the gills. When you’re done, you are left with two fillets that you can cook or set aside for later.

How to Prepare Salmon for Sushi

To prepare salmon for sushi is a snap. I’m sure you can handle it. To make sushi, your salmon must be very fresh. Salmon should be in the form of a skinless fillet. So, first, remove the fatty substance that is sometimes found on the sides. Then check the other side as well. Cut the salmon in lengths to have the width of a nori sheet. You can use a half nori sheet or possibly even a sliver of cucumber you have cut with your sushi cutter to give you the exact length. Then clean the dark side of the salmon to make it easier first cut the slice in half and then remove a thin layer. Finally cut slivers approximately 1.5 by 1.5 centimeters to be used in your sushi roll.

How to Fillet a Tuna Fish

Cutting instructions:

  • Carefully cut the belly along the edge.
  • Take out the insides.
  • Thoroughly rinse the carcass under running water.
  • Cut off the head and fins.
  • With a knife along the back, we make such a cut so that a fillet layer is formed from the skin to bones. Next, there will be bones and pulp under them.

The whole fish is divided into three main parts:

  • Upper lumbar. The leanest, it is customary to cook dishes from it without additional heat treatment – tartar, sushi, slicing.
  • Middle, lateral.
  • Lower. The meat cut from the front of the belly is the most delicious and the most expensive. It has a bright color and pronounced streaks of fat. And gourmets all over the world are ready to give any amount for their delicate taste.

Tuna has nothing superfluous. The head, fins, and bones with pulp are used to make broths and fish soup. The best slices are for sushi, sashimi, and other dishes. They are called loin. Up to 3 loins are obtained from one tuna, which are then divided into small steaks.

How to Fillet a Bass

Make sure to use a sharp knife as this is very important. A dull knife makes you have more pressure. You got a better chance to slip and cut yourself. So when you start off with the bass, you first pick up the pectoral fin and make a nice shallow cut just behind it. You don’t want to go all the way through the fish.

You end up puncturing the stomach and making a bit more of a mess in the less tasty fillet. So once you are just beneath the skin, you will then go down just behind these pelvic fins. It is about to the middle of the belly from there you are going to cut down and meet the vents of that fish. You should save yourself a lot of time.

Long Knives for Fish Fillets

You are kind of pinching the belly up there a little bit to give yourself some working room and then just in front of this anal fin you should place your blade and kind of continue up along the edge from here. You can then kind of just feel along with the point of your knife. You don’t want to push against a bunch of pressure that means you are hitting bone.

We put the fish on its side and cut the abdomen: we start with a small hole. We move to the head. We make a long incision, but it is better not to cut it to the very head, so the fish will retain its shape. We take out all the insides with our hands. Take a teaspoon and scrape off the remaining blackness.

How to Fillet a Flounder Fish

For fillet preparation, it is best to take large fish. Tools should be sharp and have a thin and long blade. Despite the structural features of the flounder, filleting fish is just as easy and quick. If you follow the simple rules for cutting, then you can cope with this task in a few minutes.

Step-by-step instruction:

  • The fish should be placed with the dark side facing up. Using a sharp knife, cut the fish along the ridge, cutting to the very bones.
  • Then you need to make a cut in the part of the tail so that it is perpendicular to the first cut.
  • Using a sharp knife, carefully separate the fillets from the bones. This should be done slowly so that as little meat as possible remains on the bones.
  • You also need to separate the second part.
  • Then turn the fish over and repeat the same steps.

How to Fillet a Drum Fish

So, to fillet a drum fish, you should use 8 inches Dexter fillet coated knife. This fish has really thick big nasty scales. Firstly, you should do the tip of your knife by the head. Start with this aside, then make a little incision there and go ahead and outline your fish from the head down to the tail which is going along the backbone.

Just like you would do with any other fish all the way down with the tail. And now basically always have one hand on the knife, one hand used to help you separate the fillet from the bone. You should make sure that you get all of the meat. Now once you basically get to the other side and you kind of have this tail section off. Then go from the head and down around this tech fin. You should go right over the ribcage. Do the same with the other side.

How to Fillet a Porgy Fish

To fillet a porgy fish, you should use 7 inches Rapala Folding Fish Pro Fillet Knife. A porgy fish is super flaky and has good meat. You should make longitudinal deep cuts along with the head on both sides. In the resulting incision, insert the knife towards the tail. Move the knife from the head to the tail fin in such a way as to separate the meat from the bones. Carefully remove the rib bones from the pulp to avoid damaging the fillets. And only at the end, cut off the skin.

How to Fillet a Whole Fish

To fillet a whole fish isn’t too hard to do. You just need to know the techniques. Before cooking the fish, get rid of from scales. So, take the blade of a knife and go against the fish scraping up any of those scales. So, to start filleting the fish, you need a sharp knife. As for me, I always use a boning knife because it’s a thin knife that’s flexible. Take your knife and you are gonna go right behind that pectoral fin.

You are gonna slice into the fish behind the head and you are gonna feel resistance. You are gonna feel bones in the fish. Then you should start the knife tight at the tip of the backbone right behind the head gently glide the knife cutting through the skin along the top backbone. Once you get a few inches down, you can pick up the fillet of the fish and rotate it up.

You should see what you are doing. You have to glide the knife gently along the backbone and you want to make sure that you stay along the backbone because you don’t want to take away too much of the flesh of the fish. So, stay close to that backbone gliding the knife pulling back the fillet as you do it. You will see that you come past the backbone and now it’s kind of stomach of the fish. Here keep gliding the knife. So now you have a beautiful fillet. So, repeat the process with the other side.

How to Fillet a Sheepshead Fish

I recommend you use a six-inch curved boning knife. It’s one of the best knives for smaller fish. The first thing you have to do is to start at the head of the fish. You should do with your knife into the scales and get from the head down to the belly. So, go right to the gill plate around the belly. Go from the head along the fish’s spine all the way to the tail.

Then just outline the fillet. Now you got that out of the way. You go from the head with your knife on the spine the entire time really press down on that spine and just go down towards the tail using as many strokes as you need. You have to do that up to the head.

The whole purpose of this prop is just to get to the backbone. So, you got to the backbone right there. You are gonna need to break through the pin bones along the central part of the fish. It’s important not to try to go through ribcage and pin bones but over. So once you are over the ribcage tip of your knife is down on the other side of the fillet. Just continue making your cuts. And you will get a beautiful fillet. Then flip your fish over and do the same thing.

How to Fillet a Blue Fish

It’s better to use a six-inch flexible fillet knife. So, as for me I always feel around the soft part of the head. And I just see where it ends. There you have to make a small incision, then go that around the pec fin down to the ventral fit. Start by going from the head to the tail the very outside edge of the bluefish. Once you do the initial outline you have to take your knife.

You have to make sure it’s on the fish’s spine. You have to go from the tail all the way back up towards the head. Just continue to do this until you get to the fish’s backbone. Once you get to the backbone, you have to use some sharp cut to break through pin bones. Once you do that now the other side of the backbone is exposed. Now you can take your knife, go on the other side of the backbone point the tape of your knife slightly down and just finish out your fillet.


Good fishing always leads to a good catch. Now it remains to cook the fish deliciously. But before you start cooking, you need a fillet a fish. Do not forget that the catch must be properly stored and also cooled before cutting. To fillet a fish means getting boneless fish meat. I hope my instructions will help you do it right!

Tags: #how to fillet a fish / #how to fillet a fish step by step / #how to gut and fillet a fish / #how to cook a fish fillet

Sergio Smirnoff
Sergio Smirnoff
Professional fisherman with 40+ years of experience.
Fishing and the ocean is a passion of my life. I am passionate about all kinds of sea fishing: fishing from the shore (spinning, float, baitcasting), from a boat, and spearfishing day and night.

I live in Tenerife (Canary Islands) for the last 10+ years and share my daily fishing experiences on my website. Many years of personal experience as a fisherman and the vast experience of my friends allow me to write professionally on any fishing topics (from choosing a flashlight and equipment to deep-sea fishing).

All of my advice is based on practical real-world experience and will be useful to both novice anglers and professionals. Read more about the author.

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About the author: Each article is verified by the fishing expert Sergio Smirnoff. The articles are written by professional and amateur fishermen with 20+ years of fishing experience.

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Juroraseo Hall
Juroraseo Hall
7 months ago

A Finnish knife and scraper to remove the scales is a great choice. I know these products well. Decent choice, I approve. I didn’t fully understand how to make the shaped notch in front of the fish head. Then I started trying it, stuck my fingers under the gills, turned the fish over, and it all worked out. It turns out aesthetically and is easier to remove all the insides and remove the gills. Your article is unusual and caught my attention. I recommend it.

Product Name
fish fillet