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How to Fillet a Bass Fish – Steps to Clean & Prepare

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Fish is a staple in the diets of people from around the world. It’s a healthy, affordable protein that can be prepared in a variety of styles. Fish is typically divided into two categories: white and oily. Whitefish, such as cod and haddock, have flesh that is light and a little dry.

They are often coated with breadcrumbs before being fried or grilled, making them crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. Oily fish, such as salmon and tuna, have flesh that is dark and rich. They are usually steamed or baked with vegetables to help balance their flavor. Here are some tips on how to fillet a bass fish.

Importance of Gutting Bass Fish

It is important because you must clean the fish before you eat it. You can’t just go and buy a raw, unprocessed fish from the store, cook it up and expect to eat it without making all kinds of messes in your kitchen.

If you want to truly taste a fresh fish, it is important that you gut the bass first so there are no remnants of anything inside the fish itself.

How to Know If Bass is Fresh

There are several physical indicators that your fish is fresh enough for eating:

  • The eyes should be clear and bulge slightly out of their sockets
  • There should be plenty of blood coming out of its gills
  • The scales should be shiny and tightly attached to the skin

If the bass fails any of these tests then it is likely that the fish has been dead for a while. If you’re still not sure, give the fish a sniff to check for an ammonia-like odor, another sign of spoilage.

Fish Fillet Equipment

It just takes some tools and a bit of skill in order to get started. Here are what you’ll need: A sharp knife

  • A cutting board or flat surface
  • An oil pan or dish that can hold about 2 cups of water
  • Ice cubes
  • A lemon

Since you’re filleting a smaller fishes here, a sharp knife is all you really need. But if you plan on eating bigger bass down the road, a good fillet knife will be useful for both cutting and preserving the meat.

You can check out our blog to learn about how to pick the best fillet knives.

How to Properly Clean Sea Bass

  • Bring your knife up through the head with one hand, positioning your fingers along its underside so they won’t get cut, and use the handle to whack the knife into the cranium of the fish.
  • Be careful not to pierce any organs accidentally because this can taint the meat inside.
  • Then slide your knife down along one side of its body until you reach its tail.
  • Repeat on another side so that it’s split in half lengthwise, exposing all its insides for cleaning.
  • Remove gills with a firm tug downwards using your fingers or pliers if they are too slippery to budge.
  • Rinse out cavity using salt water or tap water (you might want to wash it repeatedly by letting clean water run over it so particles don’t flow back into concavity), then remove scales according to the desired presentation (like how Asian restaurants serve whole fish).

What About the Scales?

Scales come off most easily when the bass is still alive and they’re softened by the natural slime that they secrete.

Squeeze some lemon juice on it and leave it to sit for a minute or two, then try scrubbing them away with a kitchen brush. If you can’t stand touching raw fish then you can also put it in the freezer for 10-15 minutes to stiffen its skin, making the scales easier to remove.

How to Make Bass Fillets

  • Start by sliding your knife along the fish’s body, at a diagonal angle, touching only its outermost layer.
  • Cut until you reach the head, pulling away any bits of fillet that came loose with your free hand.
  • If there is a tough membrane surrounding the fillet then just cut through it.
  • Turn the fish around and repeat on its other side so that it’s halved in half again lengthwise without separating into individual pieces.
  • Use your fingers to push down on the flesh while you slide the blade underneath it for easier cutting.

Removing Rib Cage of Largemouth Bass

  • You will need to hold down the bass firmly with your free hand when you’re cutting away rib bones.
  • Trim away dark meat near the stomach area for less greasy fish,
  • and trim any fins off if they are in your way so you can see what you’re doing.
  • Then use a cloth or paper towel to wipe away any slime before cooking. Don’t worry about getting it perfectly clean since ice and lemon juice will be used during cooking too!

What Else Should I Know?

  • You can use the scraps to make fish stock if you like!
  • These leftover bits of bass work really well for ceviche too.
  • If your fillets come out greasy, soak them in salted water first before cooking them with other ingredients to cut down on the fishiness.

How to Store Fillet

Store fish in an airtight container filled with crushed ice and enough lemon juice to cover it completely, then reheat just before serving.

Remember that not all fishes tastes good fresh, so you might want to freeze some of it instead depending on how long you’ll be keeping it around for later use.

Is it Necessary to have a Fillet Knife?

You can use a serrated knife if you don’t have fillet knives, just be careful not to tear the meat when using it.

Rock the blade back and forth without exerting too much pressure for clean cuts instead of sawing in order to prevent breaking any bones or causing irreparable tears in the flesh.  It is best to use a sharpening stone for this task though, use a cutting board and clean it with a cold water.  

Important Facts and Tips

The average weight of a whole fish is 1/2 to 5 lbs.  You then cut the head off and scrape out the inside, including the eggs if any, as well as wash it thoroughly with cold running water. 

Cut it in half lengthwise for grilling (or whatever you plan on cooking it with), making sure not to break its skin or bones. You can now season your fish according to your tastes before roasting, frying, poaching, or barbecuing!

Things to Remember

Remember to cut slowly and carefully. 

  • Don’t worry if you accidentally puncture the skin with a knife, it will be fine in the end.
  • Use a cutting board with a stopper if you are dealing with a slippery fish.
  • Be patient with yourself, it can take a while to perfect this technique.
  • Don’t let anyone pressure you into doing it wrong or give up!

Frequently Asked Questions

What to do When There’s a Stomach Cavity?

Cut along the length of its abdomen and carefully remove it with your hands, then rinse in cold running water.

Now that the cavity is empty you can stuff it if you like, or leave it alone for a more natural presentation.

Is Filleting a Bass Hard to do?

Not really.  You should give it a go because it’s not as difficult as you think, and you will be able to produce more fish at home without the fear of hurting yourself!

How Long can I Keep My Fish?

If you use lemon juice then the fish should stay fresh for 24 hours. If you want to keep your fish longer than that then freeze it instead.

Remember that if you choose to freeze your bass then it would only be good for several months though!

Final Thoughts on How to Fillet a Bass Fish

Now that you have read our guidelines  on how to fillet a fish such as the largemouth fishes, congratulations on learning this new skill!

It will come in handy whether you’re cooking at home or camping. Enjoy your fish and we hope you have fun with the whole process too!