No Bones About It

The right way to fillet those tasty panfish.

Field & Stream Online Editors

Many people avoid filleting panfish because of their diminutive size, but a big bluegill can provide two boneless chunks of sweet meat worthy of the effort.

Today, many people use electric knives to fillet and skin fish. Starting at the head, they cut through the rib cage down along the backbone and out the tail. Then they trim the rib bones. That method works but wastes too much meat on a small panfish. Try this way instead.

Here's How **
**1
) Scale the fish (if you won't be skinning it) then place it on a flat surface.

**2) Make a shallow incision **across the fish from back to belly just behind the pectoral fins, down to the backbone.

3) With the knife blade parallel to the surface, make another shallow incision along the back of the fish, just above the dorsal fin. Cut to the tail.

4) Starting where the incisions intersect near the head, use your thumb to lift meat off the bones, almost like peeling an orange. Continue lifting and peeling, using your knife to free the meat.

5) From back to belly, pull the meat from the rib cage, slicing through the belly skin to free the fillet from the ribs.

6) Hold the knife flat and cut toward the tail until the fillet separates completely from the skeleton.

7) Skin the fillet, if desired, by placing it skin-side down. Press a corner of the skin against the surface, and work the blade between the meat and skin.