Each summer, Alaskans excitedly await the salmon run, the beautiful migration of wild Pacific salmon back to Alaska’s rivers and streams. The salmon run is the lifeblood of many Alaskan towns, and when the fish arrive, we take off work and rush to get out on the water; a community celebration!
Almost no town in Alaska is immune from the summer salmon fishing season, in fact, we rely on it. Make sure to read up on the 5 species of Pacific salmon here.
Catch your fish! Ideally, the fresher the better, we bought our sockeye fresh off the boat in the Skagway harbor, the same day our sockeye were caught. Once you have your fish, you’re ready to learn how to fillet a salmon.
Gut your fish! If you don’t want to remove the heart and intestines yourself, you can buy your salmon pre-gutted (preferred.)
To begin, make sure you have the right materials
•A large cutting board
•A fillet knife, which has a curved blade designed to make your cut easier (if there is one thing to make sure you get right, make sure you have a very sharp knife)
•A quality and fresh salmon, pre-gutted (removing the heart and intestines)
Slice open the belly from the tail to the head. The cut should be deep enough so that you’re almost able to open up the salmon like a coin purse. Make sure to wash the cut out with some warm water to remove any excess blood.
Cut perpendicularly to the belly cut you just made, along the pectoral fin towards the head.
From the top part of that cut, start cutting along the spine. You want your knife to abide by the spinal column to remove the most amount of meat, but you also don’t want to cut too deep and accidentally sever the spine. Remember, the spine is your guide.
Once you cut to the end of the fish, make a one-inch incision on the fillet.
You can slide your finger into this hole and use it to easily carry the fillet you’ve cut. Now turn it over and repeat the spine-abutting technique on the other side.
The last step is to de-bone the fillet because there are still pin bones inside your fillet. The best way to go about de-boning is to use a pair of kitchen pliers. This will save your dinner guests from discretely picking at their mouths to remove whatever bony surprises you left for them.
Bake or smoke your favorite salmon recipe! Fillet’s will stay fresh refrigerated for several days or frozen much longer.
And there you have it. You can judge the success of your cut with how much spine you can see on the remains of your fish. Of course, you can also judge how fun your fillet session was with the amount of silly kitchen pics you took with co-workers.
We hope your salmon filleting experience was as fun as ours!