How to Fillet a Bluegill
Well you caught a bucket full of bluegill with your special secret bait. Now what do you do with them. Filleting a bluegill can be quick and easy if you know what you are doing. Also, the more proficient you are at this chore, the more meat you will be able to harvest to enjoy for dinner. Here is a step by step guide of how to fillet your catch.
1. Insert the tip of the fillet knife into the gill plate. This is just behind the pectoral fin on the side of the fish. Have the blade of the knife facing towards the top of the fish for the next step.
2. Draw the knife towards the top of the fish cutting towards the top of the head following the back side of the gill plate.
3. Now insert the tip of the fillet knife, about half an inch or so, into the slit just cut so that the side of the blade is resting on the spine. Draw the blade along the backbone of the fish moving from the head towards the tail feeling the backbone with the knife as you go. Be careful to not go through the spine while making this cut. Pause this cut about two thirds of the way down the body keeping the blade in the fish.
4. Push the tip of the blade through the body so that it exits the fish's belly behind the rib cage. It should come out roughly where the lower fin is located.
5. Continue to slide the blade along the spine separating the spine from the muscle all the way through the tail.
6. Position the fish so that you can lift the free meat as you insert the blade into the slit created above the ribs. Gently lift as you slide the knife across the ribs to separate them from the meat without cutting through the ribs. Short light cuts at an angle work best. Continue to tease away the meat in this fashion until the side comes free by cutting the final piece of belly skin attaching the meat.
7. You should now have a fillet without any rib bones. Repeat te process for the other side of the fish. There is a small lateral line of bones in the meat just above where the rib cage had been. Some leave this in as it will usually cook out. If you prefer to remove this continue.
8. Simply take the point of your fillet knife and cut a slit on the top side of this line, about an inch or two long. Then cut another slit on the bottom that connects with the back of the first cut to form a narrow triangle with the bone in the middle.
9. Lay the fillet on the board with the scales down and grip the tale end firmly with your fingertips. Take the fillet knife and cut into the meat at the tail with a very shallow angle until you reach the skin. Flatten the knife as you continue to move forward separating the meat from the skin al the way through. The small triangle you cut previously will fall away to be discarded.
10. The fillet is now ready to be prepared to eat.
Just like fishing, golf, or anything in life you will get better with practice. Much of this process is the feel of the knife against the spine, ribs and skin. So try not to get frustrated and keep trying. Good luck and good fishing.