How To Fillet A Bass
Bass can be a great tasting fish but knowing how to clean bass properly can be the difference between a good meal and a great one.
We’ll guide you through an easy way to fillet your fish so the next time you catch one you can have a go at cooking it up.
Why Gutting Your Bass Properly Is Important?
Before you start filleting your bass, you might want to gut it first. Once you’ve caught your fish and stored it on ice, you may only have several hours before biological reactions start to occur, which can include belly bursting if a fish is not gutted.
The bacteria inside the fish’s stomach can also affect the quality of the meat after a while, so it can be best to remove the guts as soon as you can. Removing the guts also means that you can fillet the fish easily without worrying about puncturing any of the organs.
Do All Bass Come Equal?
Most types of bass fish, including smallmouth, largemouth and striped bass can be filleted the same way. The only difference you may notice will tend to be the size of the fish.
If the bass you have is particularly large, such as a large striped bass, you may require a larger knife than the one you might use for smaller sized fish. It might also help to keep the fillet attached and in place after you’ve cut it, so that when you turn it over to fillet the opposite side it can help to balance the fish for easier cutting.
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What You Need To Get Going?
Remember to choose a fillet knife that’s an appropriate length for the size of bass you’ll be filleting. A trash bag is also a good idea as it can help catch any of the waste product and make it easier to clean up afterwards, which is particularly helpful if you’re filleting at home in your kitchen.
How To Fillet A Bass
Step 1: Prepare To Scale
Place your trash bag open on top of your cutting board or surface and put your fish on top of the trash bag with the tail facing you.
Step 2: Scale Your Fish
To do this, hold the tail of the fish and using your knife, gently scrape along the side of the fish. This should remove the scales from the skin. It’s pretty messy, but that’s what your trash bag is for; to collect the scales.
Repeat the process on the other side of the fish.
Step 3: Gut The Bass
With your smooth, descaled bass, it’s time to remove its guts. Insert your knife into the underside of the fish near the tail fin (there should be a small hole there - use this as a starting point). Then, cut along the belly towards the head to just underneath the lower jaw.
Once you’ve made the cut, you can then pull the insides out, removing all of the organs.
Step 4: Rinse It In Water
Now that your bass is gutted, it needs to be rinsed under cold running water. This means cleaning out the inside of the fish and the cavities from where you’ve just removed the inner organs.
The inner organs will hopefully be inside your trash bag, which you can now dispose of before you fillet the fish.
Step 5: First Fillet Cut
With your clean fish, it’s time to fillet. Make your first incision behind the gills and fin and cut down until you reach the center bones but don’t cut through the bones.
Video: Easy Way to Fillet a Striped Bass
Step 6: Create a Fillet
Once your knife has hit the backbone of the bass, turn your knife so that the blade can cut along the backbone towards the tail. You may need to pull up on the fillet to help cut along the side of the rib cage. Don’t cut through the tail yet.
Flip the fillet over and then keeping your fingers on the tail, slide your knife under the meat on the fillet, between the meat and the skin. This will remove the meat from the skin.
If you’ve scaled your bass, you may want to keep the skin on for cooking but it’s up to you. If that’s the case you can cut through when you reach the tail.
Step 7: Repeat On Opposite Side
Once you’ve completed one side you can then flip the fish over and repeat the process on the opposite side.
If you have a large fish you might want to refrain from cutting off the first fillet until you’ve done the other side, as this make it easier to cut it.
All Cleaned Up? Now Time To Cook And Eat
So you’ve got your bass fillets ready to go. One way to cook them is to lightly season with salt and pepper and place into a hot pan with a little oil. If you’ve kept the skin on, place the fillets skin side down. Press the edges down so they don’t curl.
> Check out our sea bass recipe list!
Leave on a medium heat for around 3-4 minutes before turning over and cooking for another 2 minutes, basting the top with the oil in the pan. Once it’s done, you can plate it skin side up and drizzle a little lemon juice over it.
Hopefully you’ve managed to create a tasty meal from your fresh bass. Maybe you have a favorite recipe? Let us know! And remember to share this guide with your fellow bass anglers.