How to Clean and Fillet a Bass

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Assuming that you already know how to catch bass, you can expect a rich and tasty dish. However, if you do not clean and fillet it properly, it can potentially result in bacterial or foodborne illness. However, you can clean and fillet your catch quickly and easily right at home with the proper method.

Here I give the best way to do it for a tasty and healthy meal.

bass fish

What you need to clean and fillet a bass

Before you start to clean your fish, make sure you have the following tools:

  • Fillet Knife: Buy a thin 8-10 inches long knife. The knife should be sharp, not serrated, to avoid shredding the bass meat.
  • Trash bag: For catching waste products to make cleaning easier afterward.
  • Cutting board: For preparing the bass to keep it free from bacteria.
  • Cut-resistant gloves: Bass are slimy, and you will need gloves for extra grip power and protection from scrapes from fish fins and cuts from a knife.
  • Ziploc bag: If you do not plan to prepare the bass right after cleaning and filleting, you need a Ziploc bag to keep in the fridge. If you want to keep the meat for an extended period, go for vacuum sealers.
  • Fresh running water: For cleaning your equipment and fillets throughout the gutting process.
  • Tweezers: For removing remaining bones from the fillets

How to clean and fillet a bass: Step-by-step guide

Once you have all the tools ready, follow the steps below:

Step 1: Scale the bass

Place the bass on the cutting board near the sink

Scaling the fish can be messy as the scales will go in different directions. Consider scaling near the sink to contain the mess and easily wash and throw waste products into the trash bag.

Wear the gloves, bring your bass and place it on the cutting board.

Remove the scales by running your knife along the sides of the bass

Grip your knife in one hand and hold the fish by the tail in the other hand. Work your knife to scrape the fish against the scales using the blunt side. Start from the tail and work towards the head. Go easy to ensure you remove all scales on both sides and near the neck and gills.

Rinse the fish under running water

Once you remove the scale, clean the fish under cold running water. When all scales have fallen off, pat it with a kitchen roll to dry.

Step 2: Gut the fish

Slice the bass along the belly

Take your knife and slice the bass along the belly using the sharp end. Start from a small hole (vent) near the tail fin to the jawbone to open the stomach. Be careful not to slice the inner organs even as you use extra energy to cut through the hard last inch or two.

Remove the innards

Once the fish stomach is open, use your knife to remove the innards (inner organs: stomach intestines, liver, kidney, heart, and reproductive parts). All internal organs are contained in a thin sac. You should remove it gently without letting any piece burst to avoid contaminating the meat.

Use the knife to separate the innards connected near the bass throat fully. Once out, throw them into the trash bag.

Rinse the fish under cold running water 

Run the gutted fish under cold running water to clean up the inside and the outside.

Why is gutting important before filleting?

Fish innards contain harmful bacteria such as Escherichia and salmonellae. If the fish is left with guts, it can build up gases and eventually burst. The unwanted innards and stomach acids will spread throughout the meat and render the fish discolored, smelly and inedible.

Therefore, Gutting prevents harmful bacteria from contaminating your fish and makes it possible to store it as long as it is healthy.

Step 3: Remove the bass fillets

Detach the upper fillet

While your fish is still on the cutting board, place it so that the tail is towards you. Cutaway the back skin by slicing with a knife down the spine to the tail. Ensure your knife is between the flesh and the spine.  Continue slicing until the upper fillet is cut off.

The video below will guide you.

Detach the fillet on the opposite side

After detaching the upper fillet, flip your fish over, and repeat the same process to cut off the fillet from the opposite side.

Since you have detached the first, you should remove the second one carefully as you will not have much support. 

Now lay both fillets on the cutting board, and throw the other parts to the trash pin.

Remove any remaining bones using tweezers

Take your tweezers and remove the leftover pin bones (about 6-10 bones on each side) from the fillets.

You need to be keener when filleting fresh bass as it could be harder to remove the bones.

Rinse the fillets with cold running water

Once all the bones are out, rinse the fillets with cold running water to prepare them for cooking or storage.

If you do not intend to cook immediately, put them inside a Ziploc bag or vacuum sealers and straight to the fridge.

Key Insights & Takeaway!

Whether you want to clean and fillet the bass to enjoy a tasty meal at home or just for fun, hopefully to this far, you can do it following the steps I have highlighted above. It might look hard at first, but you will perfect the technique with time. Keep in mind that cleaning and cooking fish will leave the room smelling like fish, so hopefully, you know how to get rid of the fishy smell. In any case, give it a try, fillet your bass, and thank me later!

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