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How To Fillet A Trout

When it comes to catching fish, trout are one of my favorite species and knowing how to fillet a trout is vastly important. Not only are they a thrilling and challenging catch (these suckers sure can fight when they’re hooked) but finding them will take you to some of the most awe-inspiring locations; helping you feel one with nature as you catch these formidable species of fish.

How to fillet a trout
Filleting A Trout in the kitchen.

What’s more? Trout make for a delicious meal; either as a main course or integrated into another dish. Before you can cook them, though, you need to fillet them — which is easier said than done. Luckily, I’m going to share how to do just that in this article, so read on to learn how to fillet a trout.

What to do After You Catch a Trout

Like any fish you intend to eat, it’s best to remove the intestines as soon as possible and put the fish on ice. This can make all the difference when it comes to having either a fish that tastes delicious and fresh or one that has an unpleasant “fishy†taste.

You might already carry a storage container or basket with you to store your catches of the day until you’re ready to head in (especially if you’re a fly fisherman). Unfortunately, this won’t do much when it comes to keeping your trout fresh. Instead, you should have a reliable cooler that is full of ice near you at all times. 

When trout fishing on a boat, you should keep a cooler with ice in it on the boat itself as it is essential for preventing your trout from spoiling and tasting bad later on.

Trout caught by fisherman

How To Fillet A Trout: Cleaning & Filleting Tools You Will Need

One tool that I always use when filleting trout (or any fish, for that matter) is a skinning board, which has a clip on one end that is specially designed to hold your fish while you remove the scales and skin.

You’ll also need a razor sharp, high quality fillet knife. It’s important not to purchase a cheap fillet knife, as these tend to dull quickly and won’t provide clean cuts. Dull knives are also notorious for causing injuries, as you will need to continuously (and forcefully) make cuts, increasing the likelihood of an accident. With a razor sharp knife, filleting a fish becomes effortless.

Here are some additional tools you will need to do the job right:

  • Standard Cooking Pan – to keep your fillet in. The pan will be filled with cold (or ice) water in order to maintain freshness. Remember, trout that is allowed to warm before cooking won’t taste as good and the texture of the fish might change as well.
  • Freezer Bag – If you’re planning on preparing your trout fillets at another time, then storing them in a freezer bag is ideal. All you need to do is place your trout fillets inside the freezer bag and fill it up with water to maintain the freshness until you’re ready to prep them for cooking. Remember, the water inside the bag should completely cover the fillets to prevent freezer burn and to ensure the fish tastes as fresh as possible.
  • Container – Once you’re ready to prep your fillets for cooking, you can take the entire freezer bag and place it into a container that has been filled with cool water to defrost them. Because the water is cool (not hot) it will slowly defrost them to preserve the freshness.
Trout Fillets

How to Fillet a Trout

Let’s dive into the process for how to fillet a trout properly:

  1. Start by removing the head. This is done by cutting through the neck (at the groove of the trout’s gills); angling your fillet knife’s blade to allow you to cut toward the head instead of the body. This will help preserve the meat.
  1. The first fillet should be cut along the top of the trout’s backbone. To do this, you’ll need to place the trout on its side (its belly should be facing away from you). A small cut should be started on the top side of the backbone, located at the opening where the head was removed.
  1. You can then insert the knife into the groove and continue to run your knife down the length of the trout while staying just above the backbone. To finish, you’ll need to slice through the section located at the base of the tail. You should now have a clean and meaty fillet. Remember: hearing a clicking sound when slicing through the rib bones is the best way to know that you’re staying close enough to the trout’s backbone.
  1. Now flip the trout over and begin cutting your second fillet. To do this, you’ll turn the trout on its opposite side and repeat the same process listed above. 
  1. The trout’s pin bones will need to be removed. To do this, you will place both fillets (skin side down) and pick out every pin bone you come across. There may be pin bones that are lodged deep inside the flesh of the trout, to find these, you’ll need to pick the fillet up and flex it to expose them. You should also scrape your fillet knife along the flesh of the trout just to be sure you didn’t miss any pin bones. 
  1. Once the trout has been filleted properly and the pin bones have been removed, the last step is to make one final cut to remove the skin. This can be done by holding the fillet on the tail end and cutting into the flesh with your knife at an angle until you’ve reached the outer layer of skin. Then, you will run the knife edge along the bottom side of the fillet while carefully pulling the skin in the opposite direction. If done properly, the skin should come away from the fillet clean and easy.

Keep in mind, you don’t need to remove the skin before you cook your trout (some prefer to keep it on for added flavor). However, doing so will make it easier to eat and is a common practice when filleting trout.

What if Your Trout is Too Small to Fillet?

Sometimes, trout can be too small to fillet. In these situations, I always recommend putting a little oil on the outside of your trout and throwing them on an open flame to grill them. If you’d like, you can also put a few seasonings on either the outside or inside of the trout to add more flavor.

When grilling small trout, I’ll usually just add some pepper and garlic salt to them before I throw them on the grill and then finish them off with some lemon to add a tasty flavor. 

My Favorite Trout Fillet Recipe

Cooked Trout Fillets

Ingredients:

  • Trout fillets (1 lb)
  • Grated parmesan cheese (¼ cup)
  • Finely chopped onion (1 tablespoon)
  • Sour cream (1 cup)
  • Paprika
  • Salt (½ teaspoon)

This recipe is quick, easy, and tastes incredible! To start, you’ll need to place your trout fillets in a shallow baking dish that has been greased to prevent sticking. 

Combine parmesan cheese, onion, lemon juice, salt, and sour cream in a small bowl and spread it over the trout fillets. Sprinkle the fish with paprika and then place the baking dish in the oven. Your fillets should be baked at 350 degrees, uncovered for about 20 to 25 minutes (or until you can easily flake the fish using a fork).

Conclusion

Learning how to properly fillet a trout is an essential survival skil. For more info on fishing and survival, check out our fishing posts here on Survival World.

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