How to Fillet a Pan Fish


(White Crappie top left - Black Crappie bottom right)

I donít need to tell you about safety first, but then I would be skipping a step my self.. so remember your safety rules and practices.

  • Never process food while under the influence of alcohol
  • Never cut toward your self
  • Never attempt to clean any animal or vegetable with a dull knife
  • Always have a first aid kit on hand just in case you do make a mistake.
There are many tools used for sharpening knives, a quality wet rock or honing steel is really all you need.

I use the wet rock to sharpen my knife before starting to process my harvest.

I use the honing steel to touch up the blade of my knife during my processing of my harvest, My grandma never used any thing other than her wet rock sharpening several times while processing a mess of fish. I prefer the steel because it is easier to clean afterwards.

In my photos you will see paper under the crappie, it is common practice to use newspaper under the fish while cleaning, I prefer to use a clean smooth flat surface that I can wipe down during the processing task because I use a small work area where I cant spread out my work.

  1. I start by making a vertical cut from the top of the head down to the lower fin following the gill.

    I donít cut through, you can if you want to, but I find I donít need to do the extra work of cutting off the head and pulling the innards out.

  2. Rotate the fish 180 degrees

    Insert your fillet knife just under the skin and follow the backbone along the top fin until you have just passed the rib cage.

  3. Lift the edge of the fish

    Cut the remaining flesh down to the backbone

  4. Lift the edge of the fish fillet

    Insert your fillet knife flat level with the backbone just behind the rib cage. Cut along the bone to the tail.

  5. Trace along the rib cage to finish off the fillet

    Be careful not to cut the ribs, they are easy to cut though

    If you do cut though one be sure to remember to remove it from the fillet before cooking.

  6. This is where having a sharp knife is really important. A dull knife will rip the skin or the fillet.
    Skin the fillet by laying the scale side down on a ďcleanĒ flat surface.
    Hold down the tip of the tail.

    Gently cut down to the scales being careful not to cut though, it is easy to do.
    Once you reach the skin turn your knife flat to the cutting surface and slide across the skin to the other end.

    Donít be to critical of how you do, you will get better the more you get in practice processing fish.

  7. Pan Fish has a spare set of rib bones; they are short from a 1/6th to ľ but easy to remove.

    Look at the flesh from the side you cut away from the rib cage, feel along the visible center line and you will be able to feel the spare set of ribs.

    To remove them cut along the side of the little bones with your fillet knife on both side in my example I cut wider than necessary to show the general area where the bones are located and how to remove them.



Fishing Lakes

Contact Webmaster