Catch, Clean, and Eat
Many boaters will be wetting a line this summer in the hopes of catching some fishy fare for the dinner table. In the Northeast, this usually means fluke (a.k.a. summer flounder). But if your fish isn’t kept fresh or cleaned correctly, you might be ordering out. Click here for a few tips to ensure your fillets are good to go, except for some lemon, of course.
Caring for caught fish
After ensuring your fluke is within the legal size limits your fish should go into a livewell, on ice, or an ice slurry (ice and saltwater mix), directly after coming in the boat.
When you’re day is done and it’s time clean, filleting is easy. You’ll need a flat surface (i.e. your local marina’s cutting station or boat’s cutting board) and a very sharp thin-bladed fillet knife. Be sure to keep a sharpener handy, as you’ll need to keep the knife’s edge fine.
To fillet your fluke, start with the eyes-side up. To get two fillets per side, begin with an angled cut across the head, but not all the way through (about halfway should suffice). Next, cut down the middle of the back. This gives you a dividing line to use as a guide for cutting the fillets. Starting at the head end of the fish, lay the fillet knife along the fish’s back, using that as a guide to slice out, away, and towards the tail.
When you get about an inch from the tail, fold the filet over (By keeping the fillet attached to the rest of the body, it provides you with a strong grip for skinning the fish). The meat portion is now facing up. Lay the filet knife under the meat at the tail and slide it along the skin of the This will provide you with a boneless and skinless (no scaling required) fillet, which should be mostly, if not completely, bone-free. Place your fillet in saltwater to keep fresh while finishing off the rest of the fish. Repeat this process for the other fillet and the bottom section of the fish and you’re ready for the fish fry. If you’re going to eat your fish within a couple of days, keep it in a cooler well packed with ice to keep fresh. If you’re not going to eat your fish for a week or so, then freeze the fillets.
Other summer fish such as sea bass and striped bass can be cleaned in the same manner. With stripers, be sure to bleed the fish first by cutting under the gill plates. Then place the fish on ice or in an ice slurry as described above.
This article originally appeared in the August 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.