How To Filet A Walleye
Walleye (Sander Vitreus) are a game
fish found in lakes, rivers, streams and reservoirs. They are most abundant in
Canada and throughout the Midwest, especially Lake Erie. Because of its
abundance of Walleye, Lake Erie is often referred to as the walleye capitol of
Walleye are sometimes called
walleye pike, yellow pickerel, yellow pike, or pike perch and have been
incorrectly identified as a member of the pike family. A quick look at the
dorsal fins of the walleye (two fins) and the pike (one fin) shows that the two
are not from the same family.
Walleye are similar in body shape
to both sauger and yellow perch. However, walleye can be identified by the dark
spot found at the bottom of their first dorsal fin and their large canine
teeth. Saugers lack the dark spot and yellow perch lack the large teeth. Most
walleye are yellow, but occasionally a variation occurs which gives the fish a
blue color. Called "blue phase," these fish are not blue pike.
Walleye prefer the deep water
sections of large lakes, streams, and rivers. They have large, light-sensitive
eyes that help them locate food in poor light. To protect their eyes from the
sun, walleye stay in sheltered or deep water during the day and move into
shallower water at night. They are voracious predators and use their large
canine teeth to catch a variety of minnows and the young of other fishes.
Yellow perch are often a favorite meal.
Spawning takes place from mid-March
to early April. Adult walleye randomly release their eggs over rocky bottoms of
lake shoals or gravel bars in rivers and streams. The eggs fall between the
rock crevices to hatch.
Walleye are one of the most mild
tasting and best eating fish around and they are very easy to filet. Below, I
will detail how to filet a walleye:
1. A sharp filet knife is a must,
or an electric two bladed knife- the kind that mom used to carve the turkey
with on Thanksgiving.
2. Start by grabbing the walleye by
the gill with your weaker hand and with knife in your other hand make a cut
from behind the gill down to the backbone, making sure not to cut through the
3. Now find the backbone again and
run your knife along the backbone cutting through all of the rib bones toward
the tail, but making sure not to cut through the backbone. Stop when you are
about 1/2 inch from the tail, then flip the whole piece over to your right
while it is still partially attached to the tail.
4. Once the filet is flipped over
now run your knive through the flesh down to the skin and run the knive along
the skin and it should come clean away from the fish.( this takes some
practice, but the sharper the knife the better) Then cut all the way through,
cutting the fillet loose from the skin.
5. Now turn the walleye over and do
the same to the other side, you should have two fillets with the ribs still
6. Lay the fillet so that the ribs
are away from you and place the electric knife under the ribs and keeping it
flat against the ribs cut away from you removing the ribs.
7. Un-zipping the "Y" bone. Looking
at the filet above you can see at the tail end where the "Y" bone runs the
length of the fillet down the center (the red marks down the center, the full
length of the fillet). I take a standard (not electric) knife and cut about 1
to 2 inches in from the tail end of the fillet down both sides (parallel with)
of the "Y" bone to the tail. Now take the "Y" bone in one hand and one side of
the fillet (where you cut the notch) in the other and gently pull the 1/2
fillet away from the "Y" bone until it is free. Now do the same to the other
side. If it fails to tear free you may have to take your knife and trim off
what is left of the "Y" bone.
You should now have four pieces of
fillet out of one walleye, completely boneless. Turn the pieces over so that
the skin side is up toward you, if you see any dark meat (the bigger the fish
the more dark). I like to then turn the fillet over so the dark meat is down,
take my standard fillet knife and lay it where the dark and light meat join and
shave it off the fillet. This dark meat is what gives walleye a strong fishy
We then rinse the fillets in clean
water two or three times until they are clean, then place a meals size portion
in a quart zip lock bag, fill the bag with fresh water until it is above the
fillets, then zip the bag shut while squeezing the air out of the bag. Once I
have the bag closed with no air inside, I lay them on their side in the freezer
and let them freeze solid. This makes it easier to stack them when storing them
for winters use.
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