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  • Bringing those fish fillets home

Bringing those fish fillets home

Saturday, March 21, 2020

At the end of the fishing day for those keeping fish, cleaning your catches is the usually perceived as a negative experience.

Yes, we all know it can be a chore, but it is well worth it once the fish fry or fish feast occurs.

This time of the year, the fish are full and fat during the pre-spawn or spawning time of the year. Many folks are keeping limits of sand bass, catfish, hybrids/stripers and crappie. The fillets are thick and healthy and the fish are generally easier to catch during their spawning efforts.

Having to dean numerous fish over the years, I have learned, as with any profession, you must have the right tools for the job. It is also good to practice. Practice makes perfect.

Good knives, a good ergonomic cleaning station, freezer bags and water are the basics. Many places that I fish do not have cleaning stations any longer.

I have everything I need in the back of my truck. I’d rather clean them at or near the lake than to bring them home to clean for obvious reasons.

Ergonomics are important when cleaning numbers of fish. You should be able to stand straight up and not overstress your back or legs by excessive bending. The job will finish easier and quicker if you are comfortable during the process.

I keep different sized blades and knives depending on the size of the fish I am filleting. A good fillet knife with metal gears is preferred. Seven-inch blades for the smaller fish and 9-inch blades for the larger fish.

I start filleting with the electric and trim out the rib cage with the manual fillet knife. You can also fillet out the rib cage with the electric.

It just seems easier to me to stack up the fillets first and then trim the rib cages out all at once or periodically to keep your table open. The standard fillet knife is also more precise when trimming out the meat.

American Angler manufacturers an electric knife with a metal transmission (pro model) that is definitely worth the extra few dollars. They will last a long time and they can cut through those larger rib-cage bones on those larger fish.

I also generally use a standard Normark or Dexter-Russell 9-inch serrated manual knife when the electric won’t work on the really big fish.

Once I have finished filleting the fish, I put the fillets in fresh water in a bucket to rinse. I rinse the fillets and put them in freezer bags.

I generally always dean fish at the lake and re-rinse them when I get home. If you are to put the fish in the freezer, a little care is needed to avoid freezer burn.

Vacuum packing is the best and probably the most costly upfront, but the fish will last longer this way. I generally freeze my fish in water to help prevent freezer bum. In water they will last several months in the freezer.

When cleaning fish with sharp knives, it is extremely important to be careful. A fillet glove to prevent filleting your hand is a good idea.

Always keep a first aid kit nearby. Maybe you won’t cut yourself with the knife, but the fish’s fins and gill plates may do the job for you. It may be a good idea to keep your tetanus vaccine updated as well.


Water temperatures are in the middle 60s. Flooding rains are muddying up the lake. Look for fish in clearer water.

Small striped bass and sand bass were good on the lower ends on slabs. Largemouth bass are good to 6 pounds in the backs of slows on soft plastics.

Crappie are also good in the back of sloughs on small jigs and minnows. Catfish will be biting in the muddy water.

Squaw Creek black bass are excellent in numbers with an occasional bigger fish to 9 pounds. Tilapia catches are being reported as well on worms.

Whitney striper limits are common on the main lake near McCown to the Island on live bait. Possum Kingdom sand bass and crappie are good from Costello Island. The muddy river flows may push the fish to midlake.



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