Using a longer knife and keeping the scales on makes for a much easier skinning process with better results.

Caring for your catch – Part 2

May is finally here, woo-hoo! for

With the water current about to take a swing and mornings staying cooler for a touch longer, it’s the ideal time of year to spread your targets out and enjoy a variety of species on the table.

Snapper are in good condition, bottom species are easier to target and spanish mackerel are kicking about in decent numbers, with spotted starting to shift northwards and hopefully taking a some of those bronze whalers with them.

Not forgetting the fish aggregating devices for a bit of fun when you’re out there.

Without getting distracted on the actual fishing, it’s all about filleting tips this month.

Last month I talked about the initial process of brain spiking, bleeding, ice slurry and whether or not to scale and gut your catch, depending on what you had planned.

Now let’s assume we can all fillet – though for those who aren’t too confident, there’s tonnes of YouTube content on each species for visual examples to follow.

In no particular order, here are my top 10 tips to keep in mind next time you visit the filleting station, whether it’s at home or on the boat ramp.

Boat ramps, needs must and a clean beforehand doesn’t go a miss, but make sure you cool the table right down to avoid cooking the flesh, the temperature change will be enough to spoil and turn your fillets to mush.

Trim the rib cage out after leaving it attached to the fillet, and easily recover the scrap for fish cakes and the like.


Sharp knives to reduce the temptation to hack and cause waste or injury.

There’s a great expression in the kitchen and it rings true for this situation too, ‘go slow to go fast’.

Tracing the outline of the backbone along the edges of the dorsal fins and underneath through to the belly will leave a perfect start to filleting after a quick wipe of the knife.

Wet the chopping board – thank me later when you don’t need to scrape the dried mess off before rinsing and washing up.

For larger fish, such as cobia and red emperor that have big wings and plenty of belly meat, it’s best to aim to keep the belly whole so the wings can be taken off and butterflied.

If not, definitely don’t dive straight in and chop the fillets off, only to trim the belly off afterwards.

Keeping the head on smaller fish?

Venus tuskfish are easy to fillet. I prefer a stiffer style of knife with a single bevel edge to run along the backbone.


Fillet one side but leave the fillet on the rib section and flip the fish to do the second fillet.

That way you maintain the natural shape to follow with your knife.

Otherwise, using the chopping board with the head off the side on the bench is easier to straighten the fish out.

Taking the head off?

Sometimes it’s way easier to simply knock the head off and run a knife straight along the spine, carefully trimming the rib cage from the fillet to reduce waste – particularly for novice filleters dealing with smaller fish.

A spoon – yes, a spoon!

The meat closest to the frame is the best tasting and is very easy to scrape off with a spoon.

Personally, I mix a few Asian flavours through it and enjoy sashimi on seaweed crackers.

If you are skinning your fillets, leave the scales on for a better finish – the scales offer protection from nicking the skin.

You can take the outer edges of scales off to make it easier for cutting along the skeleton.

Take an inch of flesh off the tail, leaving the skin on so you’ve got something to pull against when you start skinning, and use a scraping motion with your knife edge pointing on a downward angle.

With a little scrap removed from the shoulder, tail and belly, cut even-sized portions that will cook consistently.


Keeping surfaces clean and frequently wiping your knife will stop the blade getting sticky while you fillet.

A couple of damp Chux cloths folded next to you on the bench will do the trick.

Depending on your preference, there are plenty of knives that can do the job.

I prefer a longer carving-style knife and a shorter Japanese-style knife with a single bevelled edge to deal with tougher bones and structures such as those of snapper and pearl perch.

I’ll swap between the two on the same fish and don’t mind using kitchen meat shears to go through the ribs, which helps maintain my knife edges.

That’s it from me this month.

I hope this will be useful for you to put into practice next time round.

In the meantime, stay tuned for part three next month, summarising all things cooking.

Happy fishing team!

Caring for your catch – Part 1

About Bush 'n Beach Fishing mag

Check Also


Tips for fishing structure

There are many old sayings in fishing that still ring true and one of those …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *