Look like a pro when you fillet your catch

Once the dipnetting for reds took off this summer, I starting receiving requests for some tips on how to fillet a fish without turning it into something more suitable for stew or soup.

It is astounding how many processing challenged individuals you’ll find chopping away at carcasses splayed out on cleaning tables with everything from dull pen knives to implements more suitable for logging.

Veteran blade wielders have customized techniques that are far superior to those enthusiastic but hapless hackers. Class acts realize that and are frequently more than willing to offer tutoring, if requested. That’s how I learned.

I’m in no way a knife whiz but my finished products don’t resemble squashed road kill so appalling that they horrify starving scavengers either.

The following is one method that I’ve presented before and received positive feedback about its ease to understand and produce recognizable fillets rather than an oatmeal-like substance infused with scales and fish oil.

First, use a fillet knife sharper than the back side of a spoon.

Once the critter is cleaned (keep the head on as a grab point), lay the fish with its back toward you and near enough to firmly grasp it. This will decrease the possibly of slippage resulting in the ill-timed deletion of a nose chain from a neighboring cage fighter whaling away on a pollock.

Start just behind the head and begin to slice toward the tail with the blade in contact with the vertebral column. Carve at a slight incline to glean as much meat as possible along the back. Continue smoothly cutting through the ribs until you reach the tail.

Place the finished fillet aside and allow admiring spectators to rubberneck in stunned awe.

Once this done, flip the fish over and repeat the procedure.

Take care to cut around the dorsal fin and then continue until you’ve reached the tail again. Voila, another fillet instead of taco stuffing.

Now remove rib bones. Start by sliding the fillet knife lightly between the rib bones and the flesh. Keep the fillet knife as close to the ribs as possible to make sure that you won’t slice off more meat than you could serve as an entrée.

Once the ribs have been removed, trim the fillet to remove unwanted fat or anything else that disgusts you. Good luck and fillet away.

It’s time to now take a look at this week’s fishing report.


Snagging is allowed in Kachemak Bay east of a line from Anchor Point to Point Pogibshi through Dec. 31, except in the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon.

China Poot personal use dipnet fishery is open upstream of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game markers and continues through Aug. 7. Personal-use caught reds must have both tips of the tail fin removed.

The marine waters of Tutka Bay Lagoon within 100 yards of the hatchery net pens are closed to sport fishing for any species.

Lingcod season is open and the bag and possession limit is two fish. The minimum legal size for these creatures is 35 includes. They produce absolutely delicious fillets despite having a nasty set of teeth anchored in a grin that would make a killer shark incontinent. Try around the Chugach Islands to Gore Point.

The lower portions of the Anchor River, Deep Creek and Stariski Creek are open to sport fishing except for kings. Chinooks cannot be hunted and if hooked, they must be released immediately.

Note: Things have changed on the Anchor River, Deep Creek, Stariski Creek and Ninilchik River. Bait and treble hooks are now legal gear through Aug. 31 on these streams.

The upstream locations remain closed until Aug. 1.

Saltwater Fishing: Halibut

Halibut fishing in Cook Inlet has been pretty good with limits the norm last week.

Sampled fish harvested out of the Homer port averaged 11.68 pounds (range 3.1 to 86.58 pounds).

This will shock you. Herring hung on circle hooks remains the ultimate flat blaster. If this keeps up for another hundred years or so, we may have a trend on what works best.

For those more adventurous, try a touch of squid, octopus or various bright jigs in case some ’but is bored with humdrum herring and wants to sample a variety of bottom lurking cuisine.

Unguided anglers can retain two halibut a day, four in possession.

Saltwater Fishing: Salmon

Success in trolling for kings has slowed around Bluff Point and is fair along the South side of Kachemak Bay.

Silver fishing is picking up nicely.

Good catches of pinks along the south shore of Kachemak Bay have been reported for some reason. Maybe it’s because pinks may be used as bait in the salt water fisheries to nail the cooler fish. Don’t forget they are counted as part of your daily bag limit.

Silvers have been limping into the Nick Dudiak Fishing lagoon.

Fishing for them remains slow enough to study for another career while your bobber floats around but is picking up to above “tedious” status. The run should hopefully peak later in July or early August.

Maybe the big tides this week will roll some fresh schools into the lagoon.

If so, try plug cut small herring or eggs about 18 inches below a float that can’t be used as an alternative landing site for drones. People are still flinging bobbers that result in miniature tsunamis when they hit the pond.

Red and blue bodied spinners will work too if you can cast without snagging someone’s line twenty feet down your side of the beach.

Hit ’em during the tide change outs.

There are reports of fair success in catching sockeye in Tutka Bay Lagoon and China Poot Bay.

Pinks are arriving at Tutka Bay Lagoon along with sockeye. This is a stocked fishery paid for by enhancement taxes on commercial fisheries. Avoid commercial boats operating in the area.

Freshwater Fishing

For the Ninilchik River, some bright to blush hatchery kings are still available.

Salmon roe clusters, plug cut herring, spinners, spoons and jigs should all be effective bait and tackle for the hatchery chinooks.

There should be some fair to good fishing for Dolly Varden and pinks in roadside streams as most runs are just starting to fire up.

Dipnetting success for sockeye in China Poot remains fair. The peak of this run is should about now.


The next clamming tides run from July 19-24.

Razor Clam Emergency Order: All Eastside Cook Inlet beaches from the Kenai River to the tip of the Homer Spit are closed to all clams through Dec. 31.

Razor clams can be found on beaches along the west side of Cook Inlet and are accessed by boat or plane.

Popular razor clam beaches include Crescent River, Chinitna Bay and Polly Creek.

Boaters should use caution before traveling across the inlet because of the smoking currents and not forget to check the weather forecast before traveling.

Littleneck (steamer) and butter clams can be found in gravel beaches on the south side of Kachemak Bay from Seldovia to Chugachik Island.

Good numbers of butter clams are found on the islands in China Poot Bay. Littleneck clams can be found in a variety of habitats from Jakolof Bay to Bear Cove.

Tanner Crab Emergency Order: The Cook Inlet and North Gulf Coast sport, personal use & subsistence Tanner crab fisheries will not open for the 2016-2017 season.

All shrimp and crab fisheries in Kachemak Bay remain closed for 2016.


Nick can be reached at ncvarney@gmail.com if you have any tips, tales or crystal ball prognostications about the arrival of the silver runs.