Welcome to the ‘how to and Q&A’ series.
Flathead are one of the tastiest and most accessible fish for us south-east Australian anglers. They are fun to catch, have a high fecundity (meaning they reach sexual maturity quickly and can be prolific breeders given the right conditions) and are delicious to eat. Filleting them is pretty easy, but there are a few tips worth sharing.
Unlike ’round’ fish, like bream and snapper, the best way to fillet a flathead is to turn it on its side and insert a sharp knife at a 45 degree angle toward the head, just behind the hard plates on the fish’s head (i.e. the ‘shoulders’ of the fish). Then cut down to the bone, turn the knife toward the tail so that it’s parallel with the backbone, then work it slowly but deliberately along the backbone, using it as your guide. Turn over and repeat.
Some people like to fillet down to near the tail, then flip the fillet out (like opening a book), then skin. However, I’ve never really used this technique. To skin, grab a tiny piece of flesh from the tail end and insert the knife facing towards the thick end of the fillet. Slowly work it along between the flesh and the skin. A small tip here – a slightly blunter knife will actually work better than a razor sharp one, as a sharp knife has the tendency to cut right through the skin, leaving you with a half skinned fillet.
One other technique, which I don’t recommend, is the ‘pulling’ technique. Start as before, but after you make a decent skinning cut, say along one third of the fillet, grab the flesh in one hand and the skin in the other (sometimes a tea towel or two will be necessary) and simply pull apart. This is a great technique if you want to end up with a boneless fillet, but you will end up losing a heap of flesh.