Learning to clean and fillet a fish is a survival skill that every prepper needs to know. There could eventually be a situation where you have to catch your dinner straight from the river and if you don’t know how to filet it, you could end up missing out on a lot of valuable meat or even harming yourself in an attempt to properly cut away the meat from the bones.
Pretty much everyone is intimidated and a little nervous the first time they try to fillet a fish, but it’s not too hard once you get the hang of it! When you are first learning the ropes, the main goal is to get some meat off the fish. Don’t stress if your fillets are not perfect. The more you practice, the better you will get at harvesting the most meat from your catch.
Gather Your Supplies
Before you start, you will need a few simple supplies. First, grab a cutting board if possible or at least find a clean level surface where you can work. Next, you will need a very sharp fillet knife. Don’t rely on a regular kitchen knife for this task. A long, thin fillet knife will make the job a lot easier!
Make Your First Cuts
Lay the fish out in front of you and make your first cut right behind the head. You should keep your knife angled towards the front of the fish to get the most meat. Cut all the way down to the bone and when you feel resistance, stop.
Next, make a cut along the back of the fish, with your knife angled down towards the bone. Just a small incision is fine at this point, it doesn’t have to be deep, but just enough to get your knife in for the next step.
Now, you can run the knife deeper through the incision on the back to remove your filet. Keep the blade angled down and you should feel it scraping against the bones. Just follow the bones and cut gently, running your knife down the bones as you peel away the meat. Finally, cut off your fillet.
Flip and Repeat
Now that your first fillet is removed, you should turn your fish over and repeat the whole process again to remove the second fillet from your fish. By now, you should be starting to get the hang of it!
Tips for Beginners
Here are a couple of quick tips to keep in mind. First, go slowly. This isn’t a race. Just work slowly and carefully so that you don’t cut yourself. Also keep in mind that 99% of successfully filleting a fish is all about how it feels. The feel of your knife scraping the bones will guide you if you really pay attention to it. As long as you are feeling that tension from scraping against the bones (gently!), then you are removing the maximum amount of meat.
If your first attempt doesn’t come out perfectly, don’t worry! It took me several weeks of filleting fish before I really got the hang of it. The good news is that once you learn, you never forget and you will soon be able to work quickly to harvest lots of fresh fish fillets for your family to enjoy.