The ice fishing Montana boards are sponsored by:

Author Topic: Filleting Whitefish  (Read 516 times)

Offline RuralMT

  • Team IceShanty Regular
  • ***
  • Posts: 226
Filleting Whitefish
« on: Mar 11, 2019, 04:59 PM »
Do any of you have extensive experience processing Lake Superior whitefish?  I caught and cleaned my first batch this last weekend and my goodness did I ever butcher it.  Is it just the fish in Echo or are whities inordinately mushy?  The fillets were unbelievably soft and had to be handled far more delicately than say a perch (of which I've cleaned hundreds...not an expert by any means but I'm no rookie with a fillet knife).  On the whitefish, I'd be going along just fine until it came time to remove the pin bones and then I'd proceed to turn the fillet into hamburger.  The tail section was the only consistent piece of meat I got off many of the fish.  Only on the larger fish was I able to salvage much of a loin/backstrap. Any tips or tricks?

Offline missoulafish

  • Team IceShantyholic
  • ***
  • Posts: 5,173
  • TēM HPē FSh
Re: Filleting Whitefish
« Reply #1 on: Mar 11, 2019, 05:13 PM »
You were using a filet knife and not an electric filet knife?

The electric filet knife inherently involves much less handling of the fish and may make the experience a little less traumatic for the filet.

Having them mushy in winter seems strange but I have never noticed them to be extremely firm filets anyway....

Offline sra61

  • Team IceShanty Addict
  • *
  • Posts: 654
Re: Filleting Whitefish
« Reply #2 on: Mar 11, 2019, 05:40 PM »
We really get into them on Flathead in the summer, and I've never really had a problem with them being mushy/soft. They can get that way if not kept on ice, and also if they're frozen and then thawed.

Offline pmmpete

  • Team IceShanty Regular
  • ***
  • Posts: 332
Re: Filleting Whitefish
« Reply #3 on: Mar 11, 2019, 05:51 PM »
I've filleted many lake whitefish in the summer, and have never found them at all mushy.  I don't know why lake whitefish caught while ice fishing would be mushy, particularly since you are presumably putting them "on ice" as soon as you catch them.

My process for filleting lake whitefish is as follows:

1. Remove the pectoral fins (the pair of fins on the stomach of the fish), gut the whitefish, and then cut the fillets off the backbone with an electric carving knife, which is fast and easy when you have a lot of whitefish to process.

2. Remove the rib bones with a fillet knife.

3. Remove the skin with the electric carving knife. This will be easier if you removed the pectoral fins in step one.

4. Because the pin bones are pretty big on lake whitefish, I remove the strip of meat above the pin bones with a fillet knife, sliding the knife along the pin bones.  Then I remove the pin bones with as thin a strip of meat as I can. This leaves me with a strip of meat from the back of the fish, and a fillet from below the pin bones.  You could remove a "V" of meat along the pin bones and leave the fillet in one piece, but I find it to be less hassle to just cut all the way through the fillet above the pin bones.

5. If I'm going to vacuum pack the filleted meat, to make it more compact I cut the back strip and the fillet in half, and then organize them in the vacuum bag as follows, from left to right: Front left fillet, rear left fillet, four half strips of back meat, rear right fillet, front right fillet.  This creates a compact package of meat.

If I'm going to smoke a lake whitefish, I do the same thing, but leave the skin on. And because the meat above and below the pin bones is a lot thicker than the meat next to the rib bones, I cut off the thin meat next to the rib bones, and brine the thin meat for a shorter time than the rest of the meat.  Then I put the thin meat on separate smoker racks than the thick meat, and take the thin meat out of the smoker when it is sufficiently dry and flaky, and leave the thick meat in the smoker longer.

Offline RuralMT

  • Team IceShanty Regular
  • ***
  • Posts: 226
Re: Filleting Whitefish
« Reply #4 on: Mar 11, 2019, 08:08 PM »
Thanks for the replies!  It's clear I made numerous errors which all likely contributed to my failure.  They were kept alive as long as possible in a shaded bucket, but weren't bled and kept on ice.  Mistake number two involves being cheap and not having invested in a fillet knife which upon reflection, considering the number of perch I eat, seems a bit too cheap even for my standards!  Finally, I handled them like I would a perch fillet which is clearly more firm in texture to begin with. 

Anyway, thanks again for the tips.  And thank you, Pete, for the detailed instructions; that was thorough all the way to the packaging of the fish!  I didn't consider saving them for the smoker.  I'll definitely be trying out your techniques.

Offline quaildog

  • IceShanty Rookie
  • **
  • Posts: 2
Re: Filleting Whitefish
« Reply #5 on: Mar 11, 2019, 10:05 PM »
Great tutorial pmmpete!

Offline flatgo

  • IceShanty Rookie
  • **
  • Posts: 40
Re: Filleting Whitefish
« Reply #6 on: Mar 12, 2019, 09:36 AM »
whitefish bruise easy too.  I like to knock them out right away just flopping on the ice or in a bucket will cause bruising effecting the meat taste and texture.  bleeding is always good too they are a bloody fish and blood tends to get in the fillet if they are not bled, which taints the color of the fillet.

Offline KDW

  • IceShanty Rookie
  • **
  • Posts: 34
Re: Filleting Whitefish
« Reply #7 on: Mar 13, 2019, 09:20 AM »
Love seeing all the info on how to use and eat off the land.  Have never filleted whitefish but they are on my list to catch
this spring when  the rivers open up. I love to eat fish but absolutely hate to find a bone in my meal. Over the years have
fallen in love with the pressure canner. It solves all the bone issues and you get the benefit of all the nutrition that
is in the bones etc. Since loads of pike didn't pan out to well this winter its whitefish mania for the canner this spring.
I will save a couple for the fillet knife however so I can learn a new skill. Thanks for all the advice anglers.

Ken

Offline RuralMT

  • Team IceShanty Regular
  • ***
  • Posts: 226
Re: Filleting Whitefish
« Reply #8 on: Mar 13, 2019, 04:45 PM »
Like I mentioned, mistakes were made...

Quote
whitefish bruise easy too
 
Quote
bleeding is always good too

I had no idea about the former and while I knew the benefits of bleeding fish, I mistakenly assumed I could keep them alive in buckets of water (didn't work for very long).  Thanks!

Quote
Over the years have fallen in love with the pressure canner. It solves all the bone issues and you get the benefit of all the nutrition that is in the bones etc. Since loads of pike didn't pan out to well this winter

Thanks for the tip!  I've been on the fence about buying a nice pressure cooker unit but being a penny-pencher, I've yet to pull the trigger.  One more reason to take the plunge!  And as far as pike go, don't fret; the best pike fishing of the year is upon us.  For better or worse, I tend to ignore pike in the winter and begin targeting them during their late-ice/spring spawn; spring and fall are my pike seasons. 


Offline missoulafish

  • Team IceShantyholic
  • ***
  • Posts: 5,173
  • TēM HPē FSh
Re: Filleting Whitefish
« Reply #9 on: Mar 13, 2019, 06:15 PM »
Get the pressure cooker!:)

Offline RuralMT

  • Team IceShanty Regular
  • ***
  • Posts: 226
Re: Filleting Whitefish
« Reply #10 on: Mar 13, 2019, 08:58 PM »
Haha, well if two of you are vouching for it I think I will.  I've made do with a crockpot for my venison roasts and such, but a friend of mine was telling me about a universal cooker or something similarly named.  It has multiple functions like pressure cooking, rice steaming, slow cooking.  I'm like you KDW, I thoroughly enjoy wild game from harvest to the table.  I'm always looking for new ways to prepare dinner!

 



Follow Iceshanty at Twitter Iceshanty Facebook Page Iceshanty Youtube Channel
Iceshanty | MyFishFinder | MyHuntingForum
Contact | Disclaimer | Privacypolicy | Sponsor
© 1996- Iceshanty.com
All Rights Reserved.