Homer Alaska - Outdoors

Story last updated at 12:20 PM on Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Nick offers easy-to-follow tips to fillet salmon


Last week I promised one simple way to fillet a salmon. But after prowling the cleaning tables, I started second guessing the pledge because some folks bringing in sockeye from China Poot were so good that their knives made the flesh smoke. Two women in particular went Bruce Lee on a couple of dozen reds in less time than it took the guys next to them to choose which end of their fish to start with first.

I eased up to a gentleman who was bagging the women's fillets and whispered, "Those ladies are amazing."

"Suppose so," he grumped. "You shoulda seen 'em back in their 60s."

The only thing that kept my ego from crawling into a commode and flushing itself was that they were using the same technique that I do only I'm not from the Planet Krypton and don't have fillet knifes that can carve through steel girders with a flick of the wrist.

Anyway try this: Once the fish has been cleaned (keep the head on), lay the fish with its back toward you and near enough that the head can be firmly gripped (fillet gloves are worth it). This will decrease the possibly of slippage during the procedure resulting in the inadvertent dismemberment of your fishing bud working next to you.

Just behind the gill plate slice down at a slight angle toward the head until you hit the backbone and stop.

Turn you knife 90 degrees so that it is facing the tail, start just behind the head and begin to smoothly cut toward the tail with the knife blade in contact with the vertebral column. Cut at a slight incline to glean as much meat as possible along the back.

Continue slicing through the ribs letting the backbone be your guide until you reach the tail end. Place the finished fillet aside and let bystanders stand in awe unless they are the mildly amused aforementioned ladies.

After completing the slicing on one side, flip the fish over and repeat. Take care to cut around the dorsal and anal fins and then continue slitting until you've reached the tail. Voila, another professional looking fillet.

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 waste more food than a dinner for two. Once the ribs have been removed, trim around the fillet to remove fat or anything else that disgusts you (it makes great bait).

If you are really a perfectionist, remove the pin bones that were cut through during the filleting process. Use a small pair of needle nose pliers to pull them out of the flesh.

There's no shortage of ways to fillet a salmon. This was just a basic suggestion to keep you from ending up with a heap of meat resembling raw Yummy Chummies rather than fillets fit for the grill, canner or smoker.

Now let's take a look of some of the state's weekly fishing report.

Regulation Reminders and Emergency Orders

The following restrictions apply to sport fishing on the Anchor River, Deep Creek, Ninilchik River or Stariski Creek: Sport fishing gear is restricted to a no bait, single hook artificial lure or fly through July 31. Sport fishing is closed for king salmon, including catch-and-release. Kings may not be retained or possessed. Kings caught while fishing for other species may not be removed from the water and must be freed immediately.

The following emergency orders apply to sport fishing in marine waters of Cook Inlet: Sport fishing for king salmon is closed through July 31 in the salt waters of Cook Inlet north of the latitude of Bluff Point (59° 40.00' N). This closure includes catch-and-release. King salmon that are caught while fishing for other species may not be removed from the water and must be released at once.

The noncommercial (sport, personal use and subsistence) Tanner crab fishery will not open for the 2012-2013 season.

The English Bay River drainage and Cook Inlet from Point Bede to Point Pogibshi is closed to sport fishing for sockeye salmon through July 31.

Other Regulation Reminders

Lingcod must be at least 35 inches long with head attached or 28 inches from tip of tail to front of dorsal fin. Anglers who choose to fillet lingcod at sea are reminded that to comply with minimum size regulations, the fillet must be at least 28 inches long or anglers must retain the prehistoric looking carcass with an evil grin.

Salt Waters: Halibut

Halibut fishing is passable to braggadocios though most fish are small enough that they look like they're skipping a grade school class. Sampled halibut harvested out of the Homer port during the past week averaged just over 15 pounds making it tough to tell if you had anything on the end of the line.

Salt Waters: Salmon

Trolling success for feeder king salmon has been a snoozer to just short of passable in Kachemak Bay. Snagging is allowed Lower Cook Inlet and Kachemak Bay south of Anchor Point but still a huge no-no in the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon.

Pink and chum salmon are being nailed and broiled in the Seldovia area.

Sockeye salmon have arrived for a terminal convention in the Tutka Bay Lagoon.

A few silver salmon have been reported at the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon. A couple of small schools were spotted cruising outside The Hole during low tide Tuesday morning. It was unknown at the time if they were big enough to enter without getting mugged by the newly planted smolt.

Other Saltwater Fishing

Lingcod season remains open. Fishing success has been pretty good for anglers targeting the ill-tempered beasts near Chugach and Perl islands. Rockfish harvest in Lower Cook Inlet is improving.

Fishing off the end of the Homer Spit can be a righteous way to use up old funky bait and experiment with lures that you bought in a dollar store grab-bag special. Hungry species lurking around are pollock, cod, an array of weird looking flats, Dolly Varden and mystery thug fish that steal your gear and dare you to come in after it.

Personal Use>

Good numbers of sockeye salmon have been reported in China Poot Bay so it should be easy to bone up on your filleting skills.

Fresh Waters: Salmon

Expect fair fishing for pink salmon and Dolly Varden in roadside streams. From what I hear the dollies were poppin' hot in The Anchor.

Pink salmon will start entering streams on the south side of Kachemak Bay if you care about that sort of thing.

Shellfish >

For those not exhausted from commuting to the dip netting frenzy at the mouth of the Kenai River, the next clamming tide series will be July 30- Aug. 5.

Nick can be reached at ncvarney@gmail.com if he isn't out at The Hole trying to nail a coho before the seal eats the few that do show up.