As a beginner fisherman or fisherwoman, it is easy to get into the excitement of reeling in an 8 pound wallet, or fighting back and forth with a Northern. What happens after you make the catch? The following instructions will give you a basic look at how to fillet and prepare a fish for cooking. No matter the method you choose for cooking the fish, freshly caught fish are a delicious treat while camping or even in the comfort of your own home. Due to the use of knives and cutting into live animals, I suggest that any user be at least 13 years old. This is also intended for beginners; it is a simple, basic guide, taking about 15 minutes to complete.

Note: Because of my geographic region and time of year, I will be using a Tilapia. The cleaning of other fish may be more difficult or incur specific changes. For example, cleaning a Northern is much more difficult due to the amount and placement of their bones.

Step 1: Gather Materials


* Fillet Knife

* Cutting board (at least the length of the fish; double the length will work best)

* Fish

* Bowl of Cold water

WARNING: The use of a sharp knife is dangerous, but a dull knife is even more dangerous. Make sure your knife is sharp and follow proper knife safety (http://busycooks.about.com/od/howtocook/a/kitchenknife_2.htm); always keep fingers out of the projection of the knife.
<p>I feel that this 'ible should be titled, 'How to <em>Filet</em> a Fish.' I was actually looking for one to <em>clean</em> a fish, or gut one and prepare it for cooking whole.</p><p>I don't filet fish.</p>
no no no this is all wrong<br><br><br>step one catch fish<br><br>step two get hot clean water and add soap<br><br>just kidding nice 'ible
what happened to your thumb? Ow. <br>
Great ible'! You should mention that if the fish is not already dead that it needs to be killed in the most humane and quickest way. For example, hitting the head with a stone or clubbing it with the handle of your knife. Doing either of these should ensure a fast and hopefully near painless death for the fish. Again good instructable!
I have clubbed sharks to keep them from biting me, but how do you club a small fish to kill it humanely? I usually just filet the thing while it is flopping around. I have fileted trout before (white and specks) and threw their bodies back in the water and watched them swim off.
isn't that illigal? <br> <br>I think its considered animal crualty <br>I should look it up
Did you look it up yet? Fish are not animals. They are fish. There is a totally seperate set of rules with fishing and hunting, in every state. I am just stating this. I agree with a humane death. Fish do not die a slow death on ice either, they go into a type of induced hybernation, unless it is a very long period, I.E. winter kill. I live in Iowa and I ice fish evey year and I have on several occasions, had bait fish start dying on me, and then put them in a 5 gallon bucket full of ice and water, and when I bring them out of that and began to put them on my hook, they have bacame live and full of &quot;zest&quot;! I also know that this brings up the oxygen level in the water also, but it also slows down their metabolism. They do deserve a humane death along with everything else. I am a hunter and fisherman. I love hunting and fishing and living off of the land. Sportsmans are generally, productive, efficient, effective, conservative, resptectful and resorceful. Almost all of the money raised to benifit animals in everyway in the U.S. is paid for by hunters. This is fact.
well, the whole reason Iput up that coment was because I thought it was wierd to fillet a fish while its alive
LOL (I lol'ed as I assume you are joking)<br><br>In the unlikely instance that you are actually serious, no, it is not considered animal cruelty and it is not illegal. I believe it is more humane to filet as you catch. Not only is the meat fresher (my benefit), but I think it is more humane than throwing the fish in an ice chest to slowly die on ice.
good point!
Throwing it in ice water is the most humane way (for temperate and warm water fish). Fish are cold-blooded so don't feel pain from the cold like we warm-blooded critters do. They just slow down and go to sleep. Unless they are Alaskan Salmon. In which case, they'll like the ice water and thank you for it. All fish will, however, feel the painful effects of being filleted alive.
No I think he's asking if it's legal to slice it open (filet) and then toss it back in the water....
I guess that is possible too :-)<br>That more than likely is going to depend on where you live and where you fish. Private lakes (and those ran by recreation departments) will have their own rules, but legalities will definitely be brought to a state level, and even to a more local level. <br><br>I predominantly fish in salt water in the Gulf. If I catch 100 trout, filet them, and throw their bodies and innards in the water, they will be washed out and consumed by scavengers (sharks, catfish, crabs, etc). In a lake, turtles and snakes may take care of a good portion of that but I could not imagine what it would be like if everyone did it and the ecosystem was not strong enough to support the cleanup as it is in the Gulf (or Ocean). In that case, I could see local municipalities placing regulations on it....
Me and my dad just hold the cleaning knife buy the blade and whack it several times on the head. Also, I'm not a hippie or anything but I would just like to say that you caught the fish and he is going to serve as a meal. The least you could do is kill him quickly so he doesn't suffer. Thanks for the reply!
This is especially true for catfish (or if you're fishing in the ocean, any type of shark or similar ancient species). They are somehow delicious whilst at the same time being fantastic for waterways in that they dispose of a lot of human waste in the old fashioned way (eating it and breaking it down in their stomachs) before it can become a real problem. The hardiness that lets them be such sucessful bottom feeders, however, has other side effects such as the fact that if you do not kill the fish IT WILL LIVE THROUGH THE ENTIRE PROCESS. <br><br>You can pretty much ignore the rest of this long rambly post about the rights of men and catfish and protozoa, the main message is you wouldn't want to be in a vacuum gasping for air whilst some possibly sentient diamond starfish hacked you up with something that looked like a lightsaber on crack, so try and kill the catfish immediately. Oxygen deprivation won't do it (I know co2 is considered humane because you just kinda go to sleep whether fish or man, but the cat can somewhat breathe raw air so it doesn't work the same), neither will removing its head (for a while anyway). A hammer is the easiest and most sure method, I guess all things considered ice might not be so horrible (you quickly lose all feeling w/ hypothermia, better than being gutted alive), but if you've got the cash and a squeamish stomach or kind soul I'd suggest something serious, like one of those cattle punchers. I'd say a bang stick like for gators (did lower down, ignore it) cept I didn't think of how monumentally stupid it would be to fire one of those INSIDE your boat. .22 shells are cheap, boats aren't, especially if you can't swim or the current's really strong. Just be sure to put it out quick, think like it's a gator or a shark because its the same sort of primitive toughman and its gonna take the same sort of forethought to give it a clean end as is your responsibility as a supposedly sapient hunter/fisherman. <br><br>I've talked to a lot of fishermen who think that they're simply too stupid to feel pain, but frankly I don't buy that. I think feeling and pain, sentience, are pretty much a basic facet of any electrochmemical network, most certainly biological nets, and if it feels pain then it is our responsibility as sapients to apply a little bit of our own 'higher' order consciousness to making sure that the fish's 'lower' order consciousness is not unnecessarily violated. IE, we need to respect its will - most likely the catfish doesn't have any plans for the future, so maybe we're technically in the clear eating it, but we should at least try to be a better and more... I dunno, considerate predator I suppose. We should see to it that our harvesting of the animal will at least lessen the total experience of terror in its life (as opposed to slow starvation as an outsized old cat in too small of a hole or a slow death at the hands of some predator or another when it gets too slow to wriggle away, or most likely just a slow poisoning if its in any water body near civilization), lessen the pain of its death, to make up for the pleasure (meals, mating, the feeling of cool mud on the belly and fry wriggling about in insectile swarms in a hole that is mine, mine, mine, the simple things that the catfish lives for) that we are removing from what would have been its lifespan without our intervention. Between that and the room we are making in the waterway for other cats and all the smaller fish the big boss would have been eating we can at least say we are doing our best at being our best, without just starving ourselves or living some tasteless life and dying of slow malnutrition as a vegan. <br><br>I dunno, some people think fish don't have any rights as such, but we make such a big deal out of sentience when most likely every single freaking organism right down to the protozoa has some primitive form of what might be called sentience, the act of feeling is most likely a basic trait of electric networks, hell maybe of information in general. The only difference between us and the fish is our feelings, to the best of our knowledge, have more orders of complexity - and there's plenty of things on this planet that we can't even say that for sure, things that look like they'd probably be using us for livestock if they had developed good tool manipulators (hands) before intelligence like us, or if they'd evolved in an environment more suitable to early technological developments (for instance, the ocean isn't the best place to discover the benefits of fire and try to harness them, a very basic early step). Either way we shouldn't just assume on any accounts, at least any more than our own limitations make unavoidable. <br><br>And for the catfish, you want to be ready. Honestly, I don't know a real quick and sure method; I usually use the ballpeen hammer. Honestly one of those boom sticks they use for gators would probably be more suitable - the ball peen sometimes takes multiple hits though not if you get it just right (you really need to look at a diagram of a catfish's nervous system and think like a big game hunter, they're that tough). Certainly simply slicing their head off will do nothing but make their death agonizing - they breath air and I've seen a-holish people keep them alive out of water for near or over half an hour (judging by how far they walked back from the pond with them in a bucket). And, like I said, they survive the whole cleaning process if you don't have the decency to humanely kill them - basically they will die some time a while after you remove all their organs. I don't think anything is stupid enough not to feel that, and even if they aren't you can almost guarantee that gasping out of water to them is something like being on fire to us, because when they come up out of the water they'll naturally go into a frenzy and flop back in. When you see behavior like that in other animals and humans it is almost always pain that evolution has used to accomplish the task. <br><br>So just be kind, think of yourself as the fish - maybe its a tough life, maybe you'd prefer to lose a couple months or years off your life to avoid a death by parasites or being fetched up out of the water and mauled by some coyote or raccoon when you're slow and old, but sit there and think a moment about what its gotta be like for the fish when you pull it up out of the water... too many people I see doing this, skinning the fish alive because they don't want to think that what they're eating has any feelings. Its sad that we're so full of ourselves today that we lie about things like these even in our own minds, and yet we talk trash on the ancients for their butchery of other humans - most of them at least had the decency to give their prey a clean quick death (cept the sacrificers and even then they tended to cut a major artery which will be a death where unconsciousness precedes the loss of the immediate dopamine reaction and the onset of pain, confusing but not torturous) and to thank it for its meat. We laugh and say how superior we are and how evil they were, when they mostly seemed to have infinitely more respect for life, and much less conceit about the supremacy of the human race. And, it seems, they were mostly right - now we're starting to realize that we know no more than a couple words and exclamations in the speech of any given species, and yet most of them who have associated extensively with human exibit the ability to respond to dozens or even hundreds of our own cues, not adapted to their species' in any way. Studies are starting to show all kinds of interesting things, like for instance that many species of birds (crows especially) communicate verbally with enough complexity to describe dangerous persons to other birds who have never seen them, or dangerous locations such as farms where the farmers have been shooting at birds stealing their grain. <br><br>Startin' to look more and more like at the very most we've just got a little more than most of the advanced animals, and most likely we were just luckier; swinging in the trees happened to evolve us some damn nice manipulators before we ever got smart enough to use them, and then when we did get up to toolmaking intelligence we already had everything we needed. Meanwhile the crows have their beaks and the dolphins have their noses and their ultrasonic pulses which are evolving with evolution's tortuous slowness into manipulators that might one day surpass our own hands. Many more animals seem to have all or some of our intelligence, we're just the lucky bastards that won the evolutionary lottery (or that god cleared the way for if you're religious). <br><br>So if for no other reason, carry a hammer or if you've got the cash one of those pneumatic cow punchers (i don't, but I can only imagine it would have to do it immediately, which is the goal for any considerate hunter or fisherman) or something, or just fish for something that's not as hardy no matter how good they are - bream are pretty tasty as well, and they are a lot easier to dispatch. If for no other reason than the off chance that one of the religions is for realsies - myself I think its quite disturbing how easily you can solve for most any of the afterlife scenarios of all of them with the same simple assumption, that you die and you as a force of awareness disperse out layer by layer through all of awareness, every discrete life starting with those you most affected. If you were a bad person chances are you're crazy as a bugger by the time you have swelled up to fill all of awareness, and you find that awareness itself is evil, you're the prototypical devil, and you think that you're happy with that maybe, or maybe you're not quite so evil and you don't, but either way the rest of eternity is a pointless hell for you. If you're good you maintain your sanity and even grow through the experience and swell until you are a demigod, a god in ancient times, a planet, a solar system on and on until you're every bit of awareness ever existing as a single point, all reflections simplified down to their original origin, everyone you've loved or cared for in one mind along with everyone you possibly could have, and you're all feeling a bit cramped so you stretch your mind and there's a big...<br><br>BANG<br><br>hehe. Probably its nothing significant, just every religion started off with some early proto buddhism or something, just some bored physicists with no instruments and no data but their minds and some tasty mushrooms seeing what they could come up with about the nature of existence. <br>
This isn't &quot;cleaning&quot; a fish, it's a method of boneless fileting a whole fish. I prefer actually cleaning the fish before I filet it in order to avoid the chance of puncturing the guts and contaminating the meat. I also recommend whole roasting fresh caught fish, as I think you're cutting and throwing away half the fish and flavor using this method.
inDEED.<br><br>Gutting and whole roasting or baking or coal searing is much better... fish meat changes phenomenally when it transistions to &quot;cooked&quot;. VERY easy to pull off the bones when cooked. I HATE wasting all that meat when I filet a fish. been baking the whole thing more and more lately. <br><br>And no, I am nowhere near the spiritual green-freak fellow who posted before me about kindness to the fish. I just see no point in being painful to the fish, plus, it's a waste of tasty meat! Six of one, half-dozen of the other.
Sir,<br>I agree with you regarding the best use of the fish or any animal and not wasting when it can be avoided.<br><br>I would also like to add that I ride dirt bikes (well over 100 mph off road), shoot high powered weapons, and have hunted big game from primitive camps up in the Rocky Mountains. Therefore, I would not want to be taken as a spiritual green-freak. Having said that, I also strongly advocate killing my game as quickly and cleanly as possible. That is out of respect for animals, and out of self respect as well. <br><br>Part of a man's character may be judged by how he treats living creatures over whom he has absolute power.....<br><br>All the best to you!<br>
What is that a Blue Gill? <br>I have a two cut technique I use on Pike. <br>If the knife slips at the tail and cuts the fillet with the skin on I use a fork to hold the skin as I separate the meat from the skin. <br>Joe <br>
Its actually just a tilapia. I did this for a class so I didn't have the time to go out and catch a fish myself. <br><br>Normally I would use this technique with a wallet. Its probably not the fastest or most efficient, but it works well with limited resources when you want to bread and fry your fish while camping.
In Canada Tilapia is a tropical fish we buy at the pet store for our aquarium. I have never seen one that large. It is very similar to a fish here in Canada called a Blue Gill Sun Fish a great fish to take the kids fishing for the first time. <br>Joe
IN the tropics a tilapia can get 14 inches long and be as thick across the ribcage as much as 3 inches.
once I catch a tilapia that weighted almost 3 Kilograms... this fish can get pretty big if the water is warm anough and there is enough food around, and it's pretty tasty
I'd like to catch and 8 lb. wallet too :-) <br>shouldn't be too hard to fillet but cooking could pressent a problem
My family and I usually just bread and fry the fish while we're camping. Its actually very simple!
Cool, this is good for beggining fisherman.
WANTED: A woman to clean and cook fish.Must have own boat and motor.Please send picture of boat and motor. :)
Great 'bile. <br>It is good to see anything that will help folks get into, understand, enjoy, and profit from fishing. <br>I would like to put in a word for dispatching fish humanely as well as barbless hooks and catch and release fishing,<br>A blow to the back of the fish's skull above the gills with a club or rock is usually best for larger (1 lb and larger) fish. With many fish the eyes will stop moving and be 'centered' and the fish will quiver and stop thrashing. Repeat as necessary to ensure a quick death. Smaller fish are best killed with a knife point into the top of the skull between the eyes. <br>Remember you are killing a living thing and it should be done swiftly and well and with respect to the animal and resource. <br>Place the fish (filleted, whole or gutted) in a cooler on top of ice and out of any water, which will degrade the meat. You can also slide the fish into sealable plastic bags to ensure freshness and no contamination in the cooler. Keeps the cooler fresher, too.<br>Barbless hooks do less damage to fish you will release alive and they are much easier to remove from the fish as well as fingers, neck and Rottweiler's ears (ask me how I know that!) They often work better than barbed hooks and are much safer around pets and kids.<br>Keep only fish that you or others will use fresh. It is the best tasting and too many fish get left in the freezer and get freezer burned and end up being discarded later. What a waste!
Judging by the title, I thought the pictures of this instructable vvould be bloody <br> <br> <br>moral to the story, kids....... <br>''dont judge a book by its cover''
I love how this article is put in the email just 2 days after Glenn Beck horribly cleans a fish on his show. It was a good segment though and the point well said but it took awhile for him to get there. It was funny.
Fish don't need to be cleaned, they live in water....
Not very clean water probably. Sand for example is likely to find.
ok, now my keyboard smells of fish,,,
This is very detailed and well written. esp for beginners. good job.
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Yum! This is how I have done it forever. Fastest method, usually.
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Or you could just do what Bear Grylls does. Eat the whole thing, head guts and all and drink the pond water it was found it. I swear that guy will eat anything.
This is a great Instructable. I've never tried doing this, but if I do, i'll definitely come back to your Instructable!
Totally like me! :)

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