Want to know how to fillet the top five best tasting freshwater fish? Here are the videos to show you the method for each.
Fillet a fish. Seems fairly straight forward, yet filleting fish can be an intimidating process for the uninitiated. It needn’t be so. Most fish are similar in biology. But there are a few important differences that make the process of filleting different fish a little unique for each.
I’ve chosen freshwater fish for this article, as I am unfamiliar with many of the ocean fish and which ones are better eating than others. I’ve also included both manual and electric filleting knife methods here, just for variety’s sake.
These five fish are each excellent eating fish, but good tasting fish depend greatly on the quality of the water that they come from. A northern pike caught from the cold, clear waters of, say, Canada, will taste better than a crappie caught in warm, polluted water. Also, I’m offering no recipes here save one for pickled northern pike at the end, and only then because it’s a bit unusual.
Let’s get started with one of the great all-time tasting fish: walleye. Walleye are well known for their flavorful flesh, and a shore lunch of freshly caught walleyes from a northern lake are something every angler should experience. Here Canadian tournament ace Alex Keszler explains his method for cleaning walleyes and coming away with bone-free fillets.
Next we have salmon, specifically Copper River Salmon, a brilliantly delicious salmon coming out of Alaska. This fellow – Marcel from the Crab Shop – does an outstanding job of explaining his process. He is working on sockeye salmon, but the process is exactly the same for Copper River Salmon, and his instruction is so excellent that I just had to include it. Marcel wastes almost zero meat and his fillets look absolutely gorgeous.
I love how the camera is brought in closely to help illustrate Marcel’s process as he explains precisely what he is doing in each step. And he repeats the process through several fish. This is an excellent video, one of the best I’ve seen.
The fish he starts with have already had their heads and entrails removed, which should be easy enough to do for any salmon fisherman. His attention to detail in removing the fatty strips at the edges makes for a perfect looking fillet.
Bluegill are arguably the best tasting freshwater fish on earth. Nothing beats a plate of crispy fried bluegill. Not walleye, not perch, nothing. That is, of course, my opinion, and you are free to take issue with it. But man, do I love me a plate of fried bluegill!
I usually do fillet them too, no matter how small they are. It’s a bit of a hassle and sometimes the bluegill are so small that the fillets are more like fish nuggets. I always save the big boys until the end when I’m cleaning a mess of fish too. It’s like a reward to clean the bigger bluegills after struggling through all of the little ones.
A bag or bowl full of bluegill fillets is one of the most beautiful of sights. This video is short and sweet, which is as it should be when filleting bluegills.
4. Southern fried catfish
Southern fried catfish. Can you beat it?
This video is a little rough and his electric knife looks like it could be sharper, but his basic method is sound. This fellow removes the two side fillets from the catfish and he also removes the belly piece of meat. I like this video for a couple of reasons, one being that he doesn’t try to skin the cat with a pliers.
Almost every tutorial out there suggest skinning the catfish by pulling the skin off with a pliers. That is an effective and time-worn technique and works very well. But I like how he simply continues with the electric knife and skins the catfish just as you would any other scaley fish. It’s clean and quick, and doesn’t require an extra tool.
I also like the specially cut board they’ve made to accommodate the catfish’s bony pectoral fin. This method is pretty solid – if your knife is sharp. It results in a bit of wasted meat, but not much.
5. Northern pike
Finally, we have the northern pike. Now I know some of you may scoff at me for saying this, but I love northern pike. It is a fish that has gotten a bad rap as far as table fare goes. It is, in my opinion, most undeserving of the criticism it receives and is a fine eating fish.
One of the issues people have with it are the Y-bones. If you don’t know how to remove the Y-bones then you’ll spend as much time picking them from your teeth as you will eating, that is true. But they are an easy thing to address. The Y-bones run in one vertical strip on the fillet and are easy to remove when cleaning the fish…if you know how.
This angler shows how to expertly remove the Y-bones with the help of his sense of touch. This is something that may take a northern or three to learn, but you can do it. The amount of meat that is left on the carcass is about as negligible as I’ve ever seen. This is a technique for cleaning northern pike that you would do well to learn.
Finally, here’s a recipe for one of my favorite ways to eat northern pike – Ramp Pickled Suckers or Northern Pike. It’s a winner, so give it a try.
Like what you see here? You can read more great articles by David Smith at his facebook page, Stumpjack Outdoors.