After a successful day on the water, it’s time to clean, package and make dinner plans for the fish that have been chilling nicely all day. Always begin with a very sharp knife because it makes cleaning the fish quick and easy.
When filleting your fish, make the first cut just behind the gills and pec fin until you hit the spine, then while keeping your knife flat, start cutting along the dorsal side of the fish, working the knife carefully back and forth along the bones until you get to the rib cage. Avoid cutting into the ribcage so the contents of the fish’s stomach do not contaminate the fillet.
Once the fillet is removed, lay it skin side down, and separate the skin from the meat by keeping your knife at a 45-degree angle as close to the skin as possible without cutting through it, working the knife back and forth until the fillet is free. The last step in cleaning the fillet is to remove any bloodline or pin bones. Look for the dark red bloodline running the length of the fillet, and remove it by cutting down each side of it.
It’s also a good practice to keep fresh water off the meat—fresh water will make it mushy. You can place the cut fillets into a bucket of fresh slurry water, which not only keeps the fillets cold, but it also keeps them clean until you are ready to start packaging or preparing your fish for eating.
We spend a lot of time and money to go fishing, and eating what you catch is one of the rewards. It just makes sense to do what you can in order to enjoy your fish at its fullest potential.
There’s nothing better than fresh, thinly sliced tuna at your favorite sushi bar, but what does it take to have that kind of quality on your dinner table at home? Bleeding out your fish—exhausting the blood from the muscle, eliminating any flowing blood—and icing it right away is the key to achieving beautiful, mild-tasting sashimi-grade meat. There are a couple of ways you can choose to bleed out your catch: Use a knife to make a 1- to 2-inch incision directly behind each pec fin, through the lateral line, where the main arteries are located. Or insert the knife inside the fish’s gill plate, and sever the gills and the heart, which is located at the base of the throat. Both methods work very well, and the end result will be fish that is visually pleasing and flavorful.
PRO TIP: After cutting the arteries, a smaller tuna placed in a bucket of salt water for a few minutes will prevent the blood from clotting, ensuring it’s bled out completely. For larger fish, insert a saltwater hose in the tuna’s mouth or in the cut made behind the pec fin to help flush the blood from the body.