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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

August 3, 2011 at 3:50 PM

Easy to learn fillet method for those salmon you catch this summer

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Instead of sharing a recipe this week, I thought I’d pass along this nice way to fillet a salmon that I learned six years ago in a Salmon, Trout and Steelheader Magazien article by Dr. Francis Estalilla.

Not only is it very quick and easy method to learn, but you minimize waste of valuable meat.

First make a cut along the lateral line, and make sure the fillet knife goes all the way down into the spine.

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Next make three, four or five vertical cross-cuts (this depends on the size of the fish you are filleting) from the tail up to the collar. The cuts depend on how big the salmon is, and Estalilla says a salmon under 15 pounds can be divided into three sections, 20 to 35 pounds can be divided into four sections and the big boys/girisl over 40 pounds can be sectioned into five. I’m not sure about the latter since I have yet to cut one that big.

At the collar make a slight diaganol cut. You can remove the belly strip at this time.

Then remove the fillets one section at a time, starting with the two sections near the tail. Insert the blade deep in the long horizontal groove against the spine bone and make a sweeping cut toward the anal fin.

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Then make another sweeping cut to the piece where the adipose fin is or was (if it is a hatchery-marked fish).

Then work your way using a similar method at the pieces you have sectioned off all the way up to the collar. Once you are done with that remove the collar piece.

While these aren’t whole fillets they make nice pieces that are easy to cook on the grill versus an entire one side of a fillet.

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Once you are done with one half of the salmon simply flip it over and follow the same directions.

There is no perfect method to filleting and like anything it does take practice, but once you learn how to do it this way you just may like the end results.

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Now the salmon is ready for the grill or baking or frying pan. This method can also be used on steelhead. Lastly, remember to save the carcass and use it for crab bait, which has been excellent this summer in Hood Canal and Puget Sound.

(Photos of the nice hatchery king were taken by Mark Yuasa)

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