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by Jim Porter

From the deep, dusty, dark archives of the "Lazy Angler's Guide To Easier Fishin" comes the following tidbit to save your fingers, save your time, save your energy, and save on your clean-up efforts. It might even go a way towards saving your marriage if you happen to have a spouse who, for some strange reason, dislikes fish scales and other leavings all over a nice, clean kitchen. For of you who belong to the SOCIETY OF THE FILLET KNIFE, you must bear with those of us who are dedicated to doing the least amount of work possible.

One of the real pleasures of our chosen sport of fishing is the dinner table and the great deal of satisfaction it can bring. One of the real pains is that we must clean the catch before we can prepare it.

Worry yourself no more, ye followers of finny pursuits. Modernization has overtaken our lives in many areas, including the cleaning of fish. This author wishes he could take credit for coming up with this technique, but I am, honestly, among the majority saying, "Now, why didn't I think of that?" As we give thanks for the persons who invented monofilament line, trolling motors, and free-spool reels, let us also include he/she who found how to clean fish with the electric knife. I always knew, in my heart, that particular appliance/kitchen tool had some value (it sure won't work out on the Christmas turkey, as advertised) and, now, my faith has been rewarded. Yours will be, too, so read on!

At this point, we refer you to the accompanying photos and the following notes on each. Come back when you've finished them.

Photo 1 - Carefully, cut down to the backbone just behind the gills. Note that the top of the knife blade is angled to the front of the fish to get the meat at the rear of the head.
Photo 2 - Turn and go along the backbone to a point ˝ inch before the point where the fillet would be cut completely off. Keep the knife at a slight angle downwards and lightly against the backbone as you cut. The first couple of inches will be cutting through the rib bones so take it easy and go slow until you get used to this procedure.
Photo 3 - With the fillet still attached to the fish at the tail, hold the fish and flip the fillet over so that the skin side is down. Carefully start the knife into the flesh and down to the skin/scales. Now, simply slide the knife along the skin/scales and peel the meat off. Keep the knife at that same slight downward angle.
Photo 4 - Note how the fillet is cleaning extracted from the fish carcass with no waste whatever. The key to this is staying lightly against that backbone, as noted in Photo 2.
Photo 5 - With both fillets removed, there is no waste and only the bones and skin/scales are left for the cat.
Photo 6 - The final step is to simply take out the rib bones, if desired. Personally, I like to pick the sweet meat off the fish bones.

Hey, if you only looked at/read them once, do it again!

Pretty quick and easy, wasn't it?! By now, you have probably joined the rest of us in saying, "Why didn't I think of that?"

At this point, a few 'tips' are in order:
  • Work on a solid surface and near the edge of it. This will become apparent as you progress through the first couple of fish.
  • Spread some of newspapers at your feet, just in case. (It easier to 'pick up' than to 'wipe up'-Lazy Angler's Guide, Rule # 14).
  • Keep the hand holding the electric knife dry! Get and handle fish with the other hand, at all times. Holding the slippery fish is easier if you wear a glove on the holding hand, too. ('Wet hand on electric knife can be shocking experience-' Rule # 21).
  • Keep the paperwork that comes with your electric knife. Once a year (depending on the amount of use), order a new set of blades at 5-6 dollars. Contrary to popular belief (and advertising), serrated blades do not re-sharpen well. It's a small price to pay for all the convenience.
  • Cut out the rib bone section, if your fish eaters are allergic to bones. You'll lose a bit of meat, but it makes it better for the 'table-top fishermen', who only came for the free meal.
  • Make sure your husband/wife sees the trouble you are going to be neat and tidy. It can do wonders for your love life. Besides, maybe he/she won't, then, question why you've welded the boat trailer to the truck.
  • A neat trick is to cut the fillet completely off while leaving the skin and scales on it. Placed on a grill skin/scales side down, the fish will cook without burning or drying out. The skin/scales will dry and harden, making a nice little 'bowl' to eat out of. Put some melted butter and lemon-pepper seasoning on the fish when you put it on the grill. Good stuff.
  • Fillets can be kept a long time, if frozen in a block of ice. Put them in a Zip-Loc bag or a clean container (a well-cleaned paper milk carton works great), add water to cover completely and put in the freezer. DO NOT freeze water in any container that will break or shatter when the water expands (glass, the wife's good Tupperware)
Finally, only keep that part of the catch which you legitimately intend to eat. Release the rest for our kids.


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