Another in the ‘how to and Q&A series’.
Salmon should be promptly killed and bled after capture. This is best achieved by slipping the fingers under the gills, with your thumb on the fish’s head, and snapping back firmly. This will kill the fish instantly and sever the main artery. Leave the fish head down in a bucket or in the sand so that the blood drains out effectively.
Filleting is easy compared with many other fish. Scale the fish with the back of the knife if you want the skin on; otherwise, don’t bother as the scales will be removed once you skin the fish. Then simply turn the fish on its side, insert the knife behind the head and cut at an angle back towards the fish’s head. Then rotate the blade 90 degrees or so towards the tail, then work the blade through the 5 or 6 big rib cage bones before maintaining a clean cut right along the backbone to the tail. Depending on the size of the fish, the bones can be easy for small fish or slightly harder for larger fish.
Once this is done, you have one nice fillet with the skin on. Repeat for the other side.
To skin, lay the fillet skin down and grab a small piece of flesh at the tail end with your fingers. Insert the knife, facing towards the head-end, and, at a slight angle, apply pressure down and towards the head end, carefully cutting the skin away from the flesh.
Soon, you will have a skinless fillet. There are still a few bones left, right in the centre of the fillet. These only extend about 1/2 to 2/3 down the fillet, so you can make a skinny little ‘V’ cut with the knife – from the head end – and remove these easily.
Some people like to trim the red flesh, but I think this is one of the best parts. It’s slightly stronger in flavour than the white flesh, but is full of healthy oils and protein.
This technique works well with tailor, trout, mullet and other smallish torpedo-shaped fish. Different techniques are required for fish like kingfish and tuna…more on this later.
Til then, happy fishing and I hope you enjoy your meal. See some salmon recipes here and here. Another ‘recipe’ if you could call it that, is to bbq salmon. Use some butter and make sure you get that golden colour. Cooked this way, salmon are delicious. In my opinion, they are one of the most underrated of our Australian fish.