How to Clean Panfish

Removing Panfish Fillets

Th­e procedure for removing fillets­ from panfish is similar to deboning.­ It's a different way to achieve the same result. Scaling is not necessary if you're going to remove the skin when filleting.

  1. Cover a cutting board with newspaper and lay the fish on it side, backbone toward you.
  2. Cut the fish under the skin and just behind the gills. Run the blade from backbone to belly.
  3. Put the tip of the blade at the backbone at the beginning of the first incision. Insert about a half-inch deep. Angle the knife slightly down, and use the backbone to guide the blade down to the anal vent (where you made the V cut when gutting).
  4. Push the blade outward and through the vent. Press the blade against the backbone and spine. Work the knife along the bones to the tail.
  5. Lift the flesh and insert the tip of the knife near the head. Start to work the fillet off the bones. Cut carefully to loosen as much meat as possible. Once you've worked the fillet off the ribcage, remove it from the body by cutting along the belly.
  6. Repeat with the other side of the fish; wrap the remains and discard.
  7. Place the two fillets skin side down on a fresh piece of newspaper.
  8. With the knife in a vertical position, cut into the flesh about a quarter inch from the tail area. Cut until you reach the skin. Now turn the blade so that it is at a horizontal angle. Cut with a gentle sawing motion along the skin to the end of the fillet to separate the meat from the skin.
  9. Run your finger along the middle of the fillet to find the small bones that still need to be removed. Use the tip of the knife to cut along each side of these bones (they run about three-quarters of the way down the fillet from the head area). Lift the strip of bones and cut it off.
  10. Repeat with the other fillet; rinse well.

Voila! You now have fresh panfish fillets ready for freezing or cooking. Enjoy!

­Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • Active Angler (Accessed November 13,2008)
  • Get Lost Magazine (Accessed November 13,2008)
  • Ontario Fishing (Accessed November 13,2008)
  • Rombauer, Irma S. and Marion Rombauer Becker. Joy of Cooking. Vol. 1. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Co., Inc., 1965.
  • Take Me Fishing (Accessed November 13,2008)