top of page

An Introduction and guide to Filleting and Fish Preparation

Updated: Nov 3, 2022

two freash trout on a plate
fresh trout

It is necessary to store your catch in the correct way. Keeping your fish fresh is vital for both your safety and pleasure. Catches that are stored correctly will last longer and taste better. If you incorrectly store a fish it may become inedible. Inedible fish if consumed can cause life-threatening sicknesses

Humane Methods To Immobilize A Fish

There are two main methods to kill a fish. Killing a fish needs to be done quickly for two main reasons. The first reason is that it will stop the fish from suffering for longer than necessary. The other reason is that if a fish is killed slowly it can stiffen up quicker and with some species, this can ruin the taste.

The first method is to bludgeon a fish. Using a priest (heavily weighted rod) strike the fishes skull behind its eyes. If done correctly this will kill the fish immediately. The second method is called spiking. Using a sharp ice spike or pointed rod quickly piercing its skull will also kill the fish.

Keep Nets

A keep net is a cylindrical net strung on wire hoops and sealed at one end, suspended in water by an angler to keep alive the fish that have been caught. The reason for using a keep net is to keep the fish fresh before consuming them. The only other reason for using a keep net is in some competitions. Although, many anglers will not use a keep net if they intend on putting the fish back.

How To Use Storage Boxes

Ensure your storage box has been filled with ice to at least 50% capacity. Before placing your fish into a storage box, wipe the fish surface clean with a cloth or paper towel. Make sure to keep the fish moist, but not wet, by wrapping it in clear plastic wrap. (Cling FIlling, found within any goods stores) put the fish in a sealable storage bag, and place it on the ice. It is recommended to scoop some ice on top of the fish so it has been completely covered.

What Storage Box Is Best For You?

There is a large variety of storage boxes on the market. They come in many sizes. Before purchasing one you should take into consideration what type of fish you want to catch. If the fish is a larger species such as a tuna you will require a larger storage box. If the species is small such as a mackerel you will require a smaller storage box.


After killing the fish many anglers will bleed it immediately. Bleeding fish will help prevent ruining the meat. Before refrigerating a fish, wash it in cold water and dry it with a clean cloth or paper towels. Then wrap the clean fish in waxed paper, plastic wrap or aluminium foil, and store it on ice or in the refrigerator. You can usually store a fish in the refrigerator for up to two days.

Filleting Blades

A filleting blade is the type of knife required to fillet and clean a fish. It comes in different sizes but it is usually 12 inches in length. A filleting blade is a very flexible knife. It can be used for filleting the fish, removing bones and removing the skin. These blades come in a saltwater version and can be sheathed.

Boning Blades

Boning blades are knives that are specifically designed for removing fish bones. They are similar to filleting blades, although, they cannot skin fish as effectively. They are generally shorter in length and sometimes contain a serrated blade for cutting through tougher material.

Filleting Step By Step Process

1. This method will work with most round fish. Cut off the head at a 45-degree angle. Ensure not to cut through the bloodline of a fish that has not been bleed. Cut slightly under the fins near the head on each side of the fish, and then under the fin on the underside. This may take some practice to get used to.

2. Remove the head and use the tip of your blade to take out any guts.

3. Make a slight incision along the skin on the back of the fish, to one side of the dorsal fin.

4. Place the point of the knife in and run from the head to the tail. You should feel bones when doing this.

5. Midway along with the fish, place the knife down and through to the underside of the fish, and then run the knife along the whole fillet, to the tail.

6. Remove the fillet by slicing the knife under the fillet from the midpoint of the fish, towards its head, then remove it from the body.

7. Repeat on the other side.

8. Trim all of the skin around the fillets to tidy them up.

9. Pinbone the fillet, using tweezers or a small boning knife to pull out the sturdy bones from the centre of the fillet, or you can cut along either side of them and pull the whole strip of all the bones out.

Being able to fillet a fish can be a very difficult process. Try not to become frustrated as it takes a lot of practice to master this skill.

Finishing Notes

Overall, keeping your fish fresh is relatively simple. Learning the basic fundamentals of how to clean fish can be much more challenging. Timing is crucial when killing a fish. Being able to kill and bleed a fish quickly is necessary to prevent the fish from unnecessary harm and improve the overall quality of the meat. Selecting the correct knife can help to clean a fish more efficiently and lower the mount of bones left within the fish. Ensuring you have the correct size of the storage box is necessary as well as learning the basic information on how to store your fish.

by Daniel ONeill

Top 25 UK Fishing Blogs and Websites

56 views2 comments
bottom of page