When I was a kid, no one filleted their fish. Dad had us kids use a teaspoon and we’d scrape the fish to remove the scales.

Then you stuck a knife in their A-hole and made a cut up to the head and then cut the head off. Then you’d pull out the guts. 

On larger fish like bass you’d make a cut on each side of the dorsal fin and then pull the fin out and you can do this on crappie and smaller fish too.

Due to the fish being whole you had to have nearly an inch of grease in the skillet. Fast forward. After college I moved off for a job and while home on vacation, I hired a guide on Lake Texoma to go striper fishing. 

We had a good day and when we got back to the dock the guide whipped out an electric fillet knife and filleted our catch.

I’d never seen anyone fillet fish before. I’d heard rumors of filleting fish or maybe read about it in an article but had never seen it. Plus, dad said you wasted too much meat when filleting, so I’d written it off as a communist plot.

But wow, filleting was nice. With a fillet it took up less room in the skillet and made for easy cooking.

This totally rocked my world. So I jumped in with both feet and for the last 40 yrs. I’ve filleted all of my fish.

The other day while my daughter Kolby and I were filleting a mess of fish with my Mister Twister fillet knife and I had a flashback and told her how we used to clean fish before we learned how to fillet them.

She said really? I said yea, I’ll show you how we did it. I told her the good deal is you did get to save the meat over the rib cage and you waste zero meat.

 She asked me to show her how we did it so I ran in the house and grabbed a spoon and showed her. It was now lunch time and I was going to fry up some fish so I told her we’d fry up this one too.  

We sat down to eat and I showed her how you pull the meat off the top of one side and then you can lift up and remove the whole skeletal structure.

Wow! I’d forgotten how much more meat you can retrieve doing it this way. This will work on a lot of your smaller fish, such as trout, perch, crappie bluegill etc. Gee, have I gone full circle and landed back where I started when I was 4-yrs. old?

I don’t know. For years I’ve even filleted trout but while up backpacking I guess I always pull out the gills, clean out the guts and fry them up whole, head and all. And eat it as described above, eating one side and then pull the head and removing the skeletal structure. So maybe that’s my answer. Sometimes I’ll fry them whole and sometimes I’ll fillet my fish.

Tom Claycomb is a hunting enthusiast that writes a bi-monthly column for The Humboldt Sun.