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How to fillet a fish

File fragment

How to fillet a fish

Follow these simple steps to successfully fillet your fish:


You will need:
  1. A fish scaler (optional)
  2. A sharp filleting knife
  3. A filleting glove (optional but recommended)
  4. Plenty of newspaper

Note: A filleting glove provides protection against accidental cuts and makes it easier to grip the fish. Modern filleting gloves are lightweight and comfortable to use.

1. Clean the outside of the fish

The first step is to clean the outside of the fish in running water. This removes the protective slime from the skin of the fish and makes it much easier to handle. If you want to remove the scales from the fish, now is the time to do it either with a blunt knife edge or using a fish scaler.

Note: If I'm filleting my fish then I usually don't clean them (i.e. I don't remove the innards, gills, etc.).

2. Make a cut down one side behind the gills

Start the fillet by cutting down on one side behind the gills

Start the fillet by laying the fish on it's side and cutting down behind the gills.

The idea is to cut far enough to free the flesh without cutting right through the rib cage.

3. Cut down to the spine along one side of the back

Cut along one side of the trout's spine

Make a cut along one side of spine, cutting down to the bone.

Continue the cut until opposite the vent opening in the belly of the fish.

4. Push the knife through and continue the cut

Continue the cut until the knife emerges at the tail

Push the knife right through the fish and continue the cut until the knife comes free by the tail.

4. Cut the fillet free from the rib cage

Cut the fish fillet free from the rib cage

Cut the fillet free from the rib cage using several slicing movements.

Finally, wash the fillet in water.

5. The finished fillet. Repeat for the other side.

A nice fat fish fillet

There. A nice fat fillet ready for cooking or freezing for later. Now repeat for the other side.

Top Tips

Whichever method you use, these tips will come in handy:
  • Use plenty of newspaper, it soaks up the blood and once you've cleaned the fish simply wrap it up and throw into the bin.
  • Always cut away from you. if the knife slips then it's less likely to cut you.
  • There's a common saying that 'a sharp knife is a safe knife'. Think about it, the less you have to struggle or force the knife the less likely it is that there'll be an accident.
  • Handling a sharp knife always carries a risk with it. For your safety we recommend using a filleting glove.