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Louisiana Sportsman

Cleaning redfish and drum

Jerald Horst
March 01, 2012 at 9:51 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Extend the cut all the way past the gill openings, nearly to the jaw of the fish. This is important to retail the prized throat of the fish.
Extend the cut all the way past the gill openings, nearly to the jaw of the fish. This is important to retail the prized throat of the fish.
Jerald Horst
Redfish and black drum are substantially more difficult to clean than are speckled trout. The heavy bone structure and larger scales make knife control more difficult, often resulting in leaving large amounts of flesh on the carcass.

Fish-cleaning expert Ricky Richoux takes advantage of any opening, or chink, in the armor of the fish, when cleaning them. One opening is the anal vent. A soft spot on the fish is the small groove that closely parallels the dorsal (back) fin.

"All fish have that," he says, "and I use it a lot."

He also avoids cutting bone, such as rib cage, wherever possible. Once the flesh of the fillet has been removed from the carcass, he rips the fillet loose, breaking the bones surprisingly neatly. Once in a while, the rib bones will not break when the fillet is pulled. Any that must be cut are sliced with a Dexter Russell Tiger Edge blade.

The procedure produces a skin-and-scales-on fillet for cooking "on the half-shell." It leaves in place the "throat" of the fish, on the lower front of the fillet, which Richoux especially prizes.

If a skinless fillet is desired, hold the tail tip of the fillet, skin side down to the cutting surface, and with the other hand cut-scrape the flesh loose from the skin. After the fillet is removed, it should be trimmed of any red flesh found on its skin side. The larger the fish is, the more important trimming becomes.

Besides the occasional use of the serrated blade on the rib cage, all cuts are made with the F. Dick Stiff blade, unless the fillet is skinned. Skinning and trimming of the red-fleshed blood line is done with the Flex blade.

Turn the fish on its back and with the cutting edge facing up, insert the blade through both gill vents, and cut to separate the belly from the head.
Make a vertical cut behind the head of the fish all the way to the backbone. The cut will be easier to start if the blade is angled under the scales of the fish, rather than trying to saw through them.
With the blade facing the tail, insert the knife all the way through the fish at the anal vent and hugging the backbone, cut down to the tail to loosen the rear part of the fillet from the carcass.
Turn the fish around and insert the knife blade facing forward in the groove closely paralleling the dorsal fin. Cut the skin the length of the fish to the vertical cut behind the head.
With short strokes cut the flesh loose from the backbone down to the rib cage. The flesh of the fillet should now be completely free of the carcass except for the attachment at the rib cage.
Holding the tail of the carcass with one hand, use the other to grasp the fillet firmly near the tail and rip it slowly from the carcass, neatly breaking the rib bones at their joints with the body.
This cut retains the succulent throat meat, here pointed out by the knife tip.
The finished skin-on fillet is ready for washing and storage.

View other articles written Jerald Horst