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Filleting Your Catch

Fish require proper handling from the time they are hooked until served. Fish flesh begins to deteriorate the moment the fish dies and proper steps must be taken to preserve the delicate flavor.

The two best ways of keeping fish fresh are: (1) to keep them alive, or (2) to chill them. Since keeping fish alive is not always possible, a practical solution is an ice chest. Keep the drain open on the chest or place the fish in a plastic bag, because dead fish left in water soon lose their flavor.

Cleaning fish is quite easy with the proper tools and a little instruction. The fresher the fish, the easier it is to clean. Do not freeze the fish whole or put the job off until the skin is dry and brittle.

Filleting is method used by most anglers to prepare their catch. A sharp knife with a flexible blade is practically all you will need. The six-inch blade is the most popular. The quickest and simplest way to fillet fish is illustrated below.

Diagram 1 Diagram 2 Diagram 3
Cut behind the pectoral fin straight down to the backbone. Angle the cut towards the top of the head. Run the knife along one side of the backbone. The knife should scrape the rib bones without cutting them. Push the knife through the flesh near the vent just behind the rib bones. Cut the fillet free at the tail.
Diagram 4 Diagram 5 Diagram 6
Cut the flesh carefully away from the rib cage. To save flesh, the blade should graze the bones. Remove the first boneless fillet by cutting through the skin of the stomach area. Turn the fish over. Remove the second fillet using the same filleting technique.
Diagram 7 Diagram 8
    Some flesh remains on fish bones and head after filleting. Don't waste it. Make a fish stock by simmmering the skeleton and the head. They add rich flavor to the stock.
    The flaked, cooked fish can be used for fish chowder, quiche, salad, cakes, loaf, patties or sandwich spread.
    Use the remaining fish stock as a foundation for chowder, sauces or soups. Refrigerate or freeze the stock. Fish stock frozen in 1- or 2-cup quantities is the easiest to thaw.
    Ths slabs of cheek meat, located just below the eyes on large gamefish, are tasty. Remove with a knife tip and panfry in butter.
Rinse fillets quickly with cold water or wipe with paper towels. Save head and skeleton for stock. Skin fillets, if desired. Hold the tail with your fingertips and cut between flesh and skin with a sawing motion.

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