We fillet a lot of fish at Alaska West. We allow our guests to take home up to 50 pounds of fish that they catch during their week with us. We vacuum pack and freeze all of the fish before it’s boxed up and sent with the angler on the flight home.
The method we choose here are Alaska West is what is known as a speed fillet. Speed fillets remove the majority of the meat, while looking clean with minimal bones. Let’s follow Filletmaster Dan Brevelle through the speed fillet process, so that fish you catch at home can look as pretty on the grill as the ones you brought home from Alaska West!
Remove the belly.
Hold the fish vertical by placing your hand behind the fish’s head and pinching the bottom of the operculums (gill covers, for the less anatomically-inclined among us). Poke your fillet knife into the belly, just below your thumb, with the blade pointing down and with one smooth motion cut along the belly towards the anal fin. Turn your blade around and trim the top section of the belly, removing it from the fish. This exposes the internal cavity of the fish and allows for a quick cleaning. Scoop out the guts.
Remove the right fillet.
Lay the fish on its left side, belly pointing away from you. Hold the head of the fish in your non knife hand, while you cut into the meat towards the spine of the fish just below the operculum opening. Before you reach the spine, rotate your knife blade towards the tail of the fish and make one smooth cut towards the tail of the fish, following the spine.
Remove the left fillet.
Flip the fish over and make a similar cut from this side. It is easiest to hold open the fish with the non knife hand while you cut along the spine.
Remove the rib cage.
Place a sharped stake of some sort (Dan prefers another fillet knife) in the dorsal most forward part of the fillet (above the rig cage, closest to where the head would be) to hold it in place. When removing the rig cages it is easiest to do with the head of the fish pointing away from you, and the tail pointed towards you. Cut perpendicular to the rib bones, and allow them to guide your knife as you cut towards the belly of the fish.
We cut tail holes to aid in the cleaning and packing process, but they’re not necessary if you’re working with a fish or two at home. You can see a tail hole in the picture way up on top of this post.