How to Fillet a Fish

How to Fillet a Fish.

How to Clean and Fillet a Fish in 5 Easy Steps

Nothing is better than bringing home a fresh whole fish to prepare for your next meal. It doesn’t matter whether you picked it up at the local market, or if you managed to catch it yourself, you have to clean and fillet it properly. So, if you’re new to the art of filleting your own fish, you should know that it does take a certain amount of finesse and practice before it becomes an effortless event. In the meantime, however, here’s how to clean and fillet a fish properly:

  1. Get Rid of the Fins

When learning how to clean fish, your first step is to get rid of all the fins. The easiest way is to use a pair of scissors and remove all the fins, including those on both sides, near the head, those that lie on the top, and those that are on the bottom of the fish. It’s best to perform this on a cutting board.

  1. Cut Open and Clean Out the Stomach

Using a filleting knife, you will want to take the tip of it and gently pierce the fish at the stomach, slicing open the fish beginning from the tail and running all the way to the head. This should be done in a continuous motion if possible, and once complete, you will need to clean the fish by removing all the contents of the stomach and rinsing it in fresh, cold water (tip: remember to always use running water). If you are having trouble deciding where to begin cutting, you can usually find your starting point close near the little hole that is found close to the tail.

  1. Remove the Head

Then next step in filleting a fish is to remove the head. Rather than just chopping it off wherever you see fit, a better way is to run the knife all the way around the “neck” – which is effectively just behind the gills.

  1. Begin to Remove Fillet

Turn the tail towards you and take your knife and apply pressure near the spine, gently slicing from top to tail in a repetitive motion until the fillet begins to separate from the spine. You may pull at the meat to get a better view at what you are doing, but do not saw at the meat of the fish.

  1. Finish Off Your Masterpiece

Once your fillet has separated from the spine and you find the rib bones, carefully slide the knife over the bones, letting the shape of the fish be your guide. Again, you should be slicing, not sawing, and at this point the fillet should be completely separated from the fish. Now you are free to flip the fish over and fillet the other side.

There really isn’t anything fresher and better tasting than a newly filleted fish – but learning how to clean and fillet a fish doesn’t become second nature without a little practice. So grab a fresh whole fish, a good sharp filleting knife, and give it a try. It will get easier and easier each time you do it.


Put cha hands on it!