Butchering and Filleting ‘Two Fillet’ Fish

Learn the steps to proper processing and filleting after you’ve caught ‘the big one.’ Get tips from an expert fish butcherer.

| June 2019

Anderson, who volunteered his butchering skills in service of Fish, works with fish of all varieties at The Fish Guys in Minneapolis.

Fish: Filleting 

Congratulations, you now have a fish that’s ready to butcher! This brings me to my friend Anderson, who volunteered his butchering skills in service of this book. Anderson works with fish of all varieties at a fish company called The Fish Guys located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The sheer volume of fish he sees and works with makes him a great resource for all things that live in the water. When we came up short catching fish for this book, Anderson and The Fish Guys were right there with something to fill in the spot.

There are two types of fish filleting for the fish used in this book. First is for your standard-issue walleye, bluegill, perch, etc., and secondly are northerns and muskies. There are minor differences in all the fish but the basics are the same. With northerns and muskies you have to look out for Y-bones, which are fine bones that stand up through the midsection of the fish; the rest can be butchered without this in mind. For purposes of this book I refer to the cleaning of northern and muskie as a “five filet” fish. The more traditional method, we’ll call the “two fillet” method.

I’ve seen a few overarching techniques for filleting fish, but my favorite comes from Anderson, who can move through a pile of fish damn quickly. Starting with a gutted fish he simply cuts in front of the gills and then straight across the backbone of the fish keeping the rib bones in place on the fillet. He then flips the fillet, removes the ribs, and fillets the fish cleanly.

Filleting 'Two Fillet' Fish

The steps following assume you are working with gutted fish. If you plan to keep the skin on for cooking, scale the fish before taking fillets off the body.

Step 1: Place your sharp knife just in back of the gills of the fish.



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