last updated on : 05.02.2012
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HOW TO: spacer FILLET A TROUT - CUT THROUGH RIB METHOD
Copyright:  Mike Sillett

Contents:

1. Intro
2. Materials
3. Kitchen Equipment
4. Procedure

photo of trout fillets.

1. Intro

It seems that filleting a trout is one of those things that is not considered as an option by many fisherman.

I remember times back in the 1970's, whenever I first started trout fishing, whenever I brought up the subject of filleting trout, my friends would sort of look at me funny-like and have a look on their faces as if they were in the presence of a nimrod. Their response was that it was not done. That the trout was too small to mess with like that. Sure it's done with walleye, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, pike, perch, etc., but not with trout.

I countered by saying that for many years I had been quickly filleting bluegills or other sunfish as caught and immediately put their filets on ice. Also, that the bluegills and other sunfish were almost always smaller than trout and if I could do it with them trout would be even easier. However, they were still skeptical.

I decided to do it anyway, in spite of what they thought. I figured that since I had done a lot of filleting of the other species and can totally fillet a fish in a couple of minutes that trout would be a snap. I was right.
Since that day of trout filleting I have never looked back.
During those times I filleted my trout catch the guys from camp would always watch me. Finally, one by one they would try it. Eventually they all became converts. Since that time many years ago every trout that was a keeper was a trout that was destined to be filleted.

Of course I am not the average trout fisherman such as those that throw their trout in a live well or holding net, rope stringer or clip stringer, many of those trout to die slowly from suffocating in the shallow, warm water.
If the trout is one that I plan on keeping I immediately eviserate it, remove the gills, thumb out the blood vein, wash it off and put it in a ziplock bag. It then goes under an icepack in my insulated coldsac. That trout stays 'fresh'.
With the trout already gutted and cleaned they are ready for filleting when I get home.

My technique therefore differs from the more standard filleting technique in that I do not use the 'carve around the rib cage method' at the beginning ( which is a method developed too avoid the necessity of gutting the fish before filleting ) as is done with the bass, perch, crappie or walleye filleting techniques.

The smaller / thinner bones of the normal sized trout ( 10 to 13 inches ) which are caught during trout season is more conducive to the technique of cutting directly through the rib cage bones - since the entrails are already gone anyway - going toward the tail all the while keeping the knife blade hugging the back bone.


2. Materials

A limit of trout of approximately 10 inches or longer ( lately, now that I am older, my limit of 'keepers' is two ). Yours may differ.


3. Kitchen Equipment

A long fillet board or a bigger wood cutting board,
A fillet knife,
A knife sharpener or 'steel',
a good pair of scissors,
Paper towels


4. Procedure

I am right handed so the procedure shown is as if you were standing there, right behind me, while I am doing the filleting.

Make the first cut right behind the gill plate keeping the cut behind / under the fin that is there.
You do not want to cut off the head so you will need to be able to feel that the knife blade, after making the slight cut, has reached no farther than the side of the vertebrae.

photo showing first knife cut made behind brook trout's gill plate.
The first cut is right behind the gill plate and under the pectoral fin.

After that first cut has been made it's time to turn the knifeblade so that you will be heading towards the tailfin.
As to make the turn with the knifeblade and start the cut you will arrive at the first rib bone real fast. This is where you will cut your way through each rib as you continue toward the tailfin making sure that the angle of the knifeblade is such that you remain in contact with the vertebrae as you cut.
You will 'feel' that you made it through the ribcage in short order. It goes reasonably easy on trout.
Continue cutting toward the tail, keeping contact with the vertebrae, until you almost are at the point where you would be cutting off the fillet if you continued.

photo of knife cut having gone through the brook trout's rib cages.
Continue the cut through the rib cage toward the Pelvic fin.

My procedure is to stop cutting before the fillet is cut off that side of the fish and flip over the fillet while the skin is still attached. It makes it easier to fillet off the skin this way - my opinion - based on thousands of fillets.

However, some people cut off the side and contend with the de-skinning later. You will eventually decide on which method is more preferable for you.

photo of the fillet having been flipped off for de-skinning.
Once past the anal fin proceed carefully toward the caudal fin ( tail ). Leave the skin attached.

Start a thin cut where you left the fillet attached and once again turn the knifeblade and slide / cut along the skin toward the left ( the direction that was the rear in the prior paragraph ). You want to slide the knifeblade more than cut the knifeblade. This is very easy once you have done a few but initially you will have a heavy hand more than likely and cut off the skin because instead of a slide/cut you will be doing a cut/slide.

photo showing the first de-skinning cut made to remove the brook trout fillet.
Start the cut for skin removal right where you flipped over the removed side.

If you did it correctly you will end up with a fillet with rib bones attached minus the skin like shown. The skin will still be attached to the fish. Just flip it back close to where it was to get it out of the way for the next step.

photo showing one side of the brook trout's filet removed.
All this fillet needs now is the rib cage being removed.

The fillet that has been neatly removed is now in need of rib cage removal.
You can both see and feel where the bones start in the area where they were previously attached to the vertebrae ( right where the knifeblade is in photo ). That is where you will start your cut.

It is important that the fillet knife be sharp so that you can use the tip of the knife to deftly carve your way across the underside of the rib bones keeping as much meat on the fillet as possible while removing as much meat as possible from the bones.

photo showing the first cut in the trout's rib cage being from the filet.
The first cut for the rib cage removal.
Start right where the rib bones were previously attached to the vertebrae that you already cut through.

On the typical smaller trout you will not be able to save a lot of meat from the ribcage area because, frankly, there is just not much there.
You are better off just starting the cut along the rib cage, delve into the meaty part a little ways, and then just cutting off the rest. You will still have a nice fillet no matter what.

photo showing rib cage removed from trout filet.
The rib cage has been removed. One side is now done.

Now it's time to get the other fillet from the other side of the trout.

Just follow the same procedure as above - however for this side the steps will be from left to right instead of right to left.
The photo below shows the cut was made behind the gill plate, the fillet was cut through the rib cage and the fillet flipped over - with skin still attached as the other fillet had been - and is now ready to be de-skinned.

photo showing the other side of the trout having the filet flipped over for skin removal.
Remove the skin from this second side now that it has been flipped.

The de-skinning process is being done for this second side.

photo showing first cut in the skin removal process in filleting brook trout.
Once again, the first cut in the skin removal process.

The second side of the trout has had it's fillet removed and the fillet has been de-skinned.
All that needs done now is to remove the rib cage.

If you look closely at the photo below ( or zoom in ), which shows the second fillet having been removed, you will notice that during the step of cutting through the rib cage some of the lower ribs were left behind on the fish skeleton rather than having become a part of the fillet that was removed.
Although technically an error this will happen on occasion to the best of us filleters and it can be considered a 'bonus'. That means there is less rib cage to remove from the fillet.

photo showing the trout filets removed.
Both sides of the fish have been removed.
Time to remove the rib bones from the second side.

Here is the finished product - two nice fillets ready for making a fish sandwich.

photo of both sides of the brook trout's filet.
These are done. Ready to batter-up with beer batter and have a fish sandwich.


FILLET A TROUT - CUT THROUGH RIB METHOD

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