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Thread: Fillet Techniques

  1. #1
    Member Tomcat's Avatar
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    Unhappy Fillet Techniques

    Recently, I read an editorial claiming that most anglers don't know how to properly fillet a salmon.

    The writer had come to this conclusion after inspecting hundreds of sockeye carcasses scattered along the Russian River.

    He was troubled by the amount of meat remaining on the butchered fish and considered the situation a massive waste of a prized resource.

    In addition, he felt that the abundance of fleshy carcasses served as a greater attractant to bears than if the salmon had been filleted properly with more meat taken.

    Based on the techniques that I've observed while waiting for a turn at the cleaning tables, I'm inclined to agree with this gentleman to a certain extent. It seems like a lot of people struggle with a knife in their hands and often times end up doing a hatchet job on their catch.

    When I fillet a salmon, my preference is to cut through the ribs and remove the entire slab on each side between the pectoral fins and tail. This method is fast and leaves a minimal amount of meat on the carcass. Besides, I find it easier to pull the bones after smoking / cooking.

    In contrast, however, most of my fishing buddies like to carve off boneless fillets. Despite leaving a good amount of flesh on the carcass, they consider it a worthwhile trade-off.

    What are your thoughts and experiences regarding the issue of wasting meat because of poor filleting techniques?

    Is there a proven method for obtaining a boneless salmon fillet while leaving a minimal amount of flesh on the carcass?

  2. #2

    Default Fillet a couple thousand

    Fillet a couple thousand fish a year and you'll be a pro. It's all about feel, can't read it in a book. You can get an idea of how to but it's all about the feel. I always get all the meat humanly possible, including the belly meat.
    Marc Theiler

  3. #3
    Moderator AKmud's Avatar
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    Default Check out this thread from this summer....

    Fillet techniques were discussed in depth earlier this year, check this thread out -

    http://forums.outdoorsdirectory.com/...ghlight=fillet
    AKmud
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    The porcupine is a peacful animal yet God still thought it necessary to give him quills....

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    Member AKBighorn's Avatar
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    Default

    Haste makes waste. There is no reason with some patience and practice that you shouldn't be able to fillet a salmon removing the bones without wasting meat. I have found that the first mistake is using the wrong knife or a dull one. You really don't need anything longer than the fillet is wide and most certainly you need to use a fillet knife. Not one that isn't flexible.

  5. #5

    Default Knife is key

    The knife has everything to do with it. I use different knives for kings, silvers, and reds. The key is to have an extremely sharp knife and to keep it ultra sharp, and make sure it's a very flexible.
    Marc Theiler

  6. #6

    Default sharp knives

    Quote Originally Posted by theilercabin View Post
    The knife has everything to do with it. I use different knives for kings, silvers, and reds. The key is to have an extremely sharp knife and to keep it ultra sharp, and make sure it's a very flexible.
    I agree on using a sharp knife, but that is my biggest problem. I have been filleting for many years, but I STILL can't get my knives razor sharp. I have tried some simple knife sharpeners, but they don't get them as sharp as the manufacturer does.

    What are some tricks for getting knives razor sharp? I would like to hear from some sourdough, old-school guys that are masters at getting their knives sharp enough to bisect a human hair.
    Hike faster. I hear banjo music.

  7. #7
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    Default My wife, yes. My knife, never!

    All kidding aside, I always carry two. One is for my own personal use, and the other is to lend to those who observe my technique and want to borrow my blade.

    As far as a sharpener goes, I have found that Smith's hand-held sharpener is a great field device. The sharpener is the one that wraps your complete hand in its cutlass-like handle. It sharpens the cutting edge via triangular hones imbedded in the appliance. All you do is pull it in a series of single swipes. Hones are replaceable. Cost is minimal.

    By the way, I have lender rods and reels as well...

    http://www.alaskanauthor.com

  8. #8

    Default

    I prefer a razor sharp yet stiff bladed knife. I can get a better feel of where the knife is going with a stiff blade.

  9. #9
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    Smile Sharp knives and more. . .

    Quote Originally Posted by wildog View Post
    What are some tricks for getting knives razor sharp
    First, review the thread referred to by AKmud above, especially the sequence posted by fishNphysician. Note too the guy in the photo is using a Kershaw, which I favor also.

    There are no "tricks" to getting knives razor sharp. The reasons most guys can't sharpen a knife are:
    1) can't maintain a consistent blade-to-shapener angle;
    2) use too soft a sharpener for the blade;
    3) no patience.

    1) All knives come from the factory with an angle at the sharp edge. Dulling consists of the rounding over that angle. When you go to resharpen, you are attempting to recreate a sharp angle. However, when one starts to grind the blade on some sort of sharpener, they may or may not present the blade at the same angle it was ground with from the factory. If the blade is presented to the sharpener at less than the factory angle, sharpening will occur at the heel of the angle, leaving the edge untouched until the heel is ground away. This is the most common reason for becoming discouraged, thinking that nothing's happening. Pick your angle, maintain it rigidly throughout the sharpening sweep, be patient, and your knife will get sharp. Don't let others sharpen your once-sharpened knife — their angle of attack will probably be different than yours. The reason the Lansky sharpeners work is precisely because they maintain a consistent angle of attack.

    2) Virtually all knives today are stainless steel, which is much too hard to be sharpened by carborundum, India, or even Arkansas stones. Use a diamond sharpener followed by ceramic for razor sharpness. Alternatively, use a white or black Arkansas stone for final honing. Rouged strops also work well.

    3) Don't give up. Common sense will tell you that a consistent angle against something hard enough to cut the steel of your knife will produce a sharp blade though you may have to create an entirely new angle of sharpness to do it. Practice. . .


  10. #10

    Default green river knife company

    Quote Originally Posted by wildog View Post
    I agree on using a sharp knife, but that is my biggest problem. I have been filleting for many years, but I STILL can't get my knives razor sharp. I have tried some simple knife sharpeners, but they don't get them as sharp as the manufacturer does.

    What are some tricks for getting knives razor sharp? I would like to hear from some sourdough, old-school guys that are masters at getting their knives sharp enough to bisect a human hair.
    wildog,

    You probably have a knife which is too hard of a steel. I prefer softer steels, and flexes, such as green river knives, in the long variety (like 9-1/2 or so inches). I think they are made in wisconsin or something. They are cheap, simple filet knives (like under 20 bucks), not stainlesss or anything, with wood handles. Easy to get a razor sharp edge with the standard Lamco's- don't need diamond hones or grinding wheels or anything. This is all that I see the commercial and party-boat hands seem to use.

  11. #11
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    Thumbs up Carbon-steel knives. . .

    Quote Originally Posted by stevesch View Post
    wildog, You probably have a knife which is too hard of a steel. I prefer softer steels, and flexes, such as green river knives, in the long variety (like 9-1/2 or so inches). I think they are made in wisconsin or something. They are cheap, simple filet knives (like under 20 bucks), not stainlesss or anything, with wood handles. Easy to get a razor sharp edge with the standard Lamco's- don't need diamond hones or grinding wheels or anything. This is all that I see the commercial and party-boat hands seem to use.
    Good point. . . there's nothing wrong with the old-style carbon-steel knives. Stainless will stay sharp a little longer, but they are, as noted above, much harder to sharpen. A diamond followed by a ceramic will sharpen a carbon-steel knife in a flash.

  12. #12

    Default

    At the end of the season have your knife sharpened profesionally.

    I also like to keep the ribs on my fillet. That way I can deal with it at home and cook up the bellies while I am trimming them up and bagging them. Once I am cleaning the fish on the wter, I am looking to get off the water. So I just go the fast and easy way.

    I have seen some bad fillet jobs on the water. If you are having a hard time, watch someone who knows what they are doing. Also ask them for advice.

    Practice, Practice, Practice!

  13. #13
    Member Ellamar's Avatar
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    Default

    I switched to an electric fillet knife and I'll never go back to doing it the old fashioned way...period. Much faster and obtained beautiful results.

  14. #14
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    Default Yes!

    Quote Originally Posted by Ellamar View Post
    I switched to an electric fillet knife and I'll never go back to doing it the old fashioned way...period. Much faster and obtained beautiful results.
    I too use an electric knife to take off the fillets—as noted above, beautiful results. None of the saw marks a regular knife makes. I use a Kershaw for the rest.


  15. #15
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    Default After you remove the fillets.....

    An Asian lady was at my Anchor Point house a few years back when we brought in some Salmon. She was appalled when we started to haul off the remains. She took some of the heads, and, threw in some other ingredients, the resulting meal was remarkable good. Next time your filleting salmon give something like this a try.

    3 lg. fish heads
    6 qts. water
    3 cans Campbell's vegetable soup
    1 1/2 lbs. bacon
    1 1/2 lbs. onions, chopped fine
    2 c. white flour
    1 c. black rum or sherry
    4 tbsp. Worcestershire
    1/4 c. Gravy Master
    Bay leaves
    Salt, pepper to taste

    Put fish heads in large pot with bay leaves and water. Bring to boil and then slow simmer for 4 hours. Cool completely before straining stock and removing bones. Add fish to stock, simmer until fish floats to surface - extract about half the fish. Fry bacon until crisp. Cool before crumbling - set aside. Fry onions in bacon fat. Set aside.
    Put flour in frying pan - stir to light brown. Remove from heat and cool. Puree soup - add to stock. Mix flour and water - slowly add to stock until mixture is medium thickness. Add onions and bacon, Gravy Master and Worcestershire and rum. Season to taste. Simmer for several minutes before serving.

    Enjoy

    Gary

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