To fillet a walleye with an electric knife, lay the fish over the cutting board first. Then, use the electric fillet knife to cut behind the gill plate, and bring the blade down to the tail to separate the fillet. Remove the Y bone, rib cage, and skin if you prefer panfrying the fillets skinless. You can also remove the cheek and belly meat. Finally, put the walleye fillets in a zip-lock bag to store them in a freezer.
Filleting and cleaning walleye with electric fillet knife is easier and faster than filleting fish with a traditional knife. I have found electric knife takes approximately 46 seconds for professional angler and around one minute for an inexperienced angler to fillet walleye. Walleyes are bony fish, but even removing the pin bones is easy with a couple of quick cuts.
- Bubba cordless fillet knife.
- A trash can covered with a plastic bag indoors. And a small bucket or disposal container if you’re outdoors. These will hold the fish carcass.
- A cooler to preserve the fish fillets. Alternatively, a bucket with water and ice.
- A cutting board. If you’re outdoors, a cleaning station or stable log will work.
- A metal-mesh glove (optional).
What Size Fillet Knife Should You Use for Walleye?
You can fillet walleye with blade lengths of six, seven, and eight inches. The Bubba cordless knife comes with 7 and 9-inch flexible blades. The average size of a walleye is between 15 and 20 inches, and its weight is usually 1 to 3 pounds. Use the knife blade according to the walleye’s size.
Filleting Walleye with an Electric Fillet Knife – Step-by-Step Guide
Use an electric knife to fillet a walleye by following these steps.
Step 1: Prepare the Workspace
If you’re outdoors, you need a proper station for more comfort. Set up the cutting board over a stable base, like a wood log. Then, place the trash can and container with water and ice nearby. Wear your protective glove also.
Step 2: Place the Walleye on the Cutting Board
Place the fish on its side, horizontally over the cutting board. If your dominant hand is the right one, the fish head must be pointing toward your left side with the belly away from you. Turn the fish head the other way if you’re a lefty.
Step 3: Make an Incision behind the Forward Fin
Rest the blade behind the walleye’s forward fin, at an angle with the cutting edge toward the fish head behind the gill plate. Turn on the knife, and make an incision up to the backbone. Stop cutting once you feel the resistance of the backbone to avoid ripping through it.
Step 4: Separate the Fillet by Cutting Along the Backbone
You can separate the fillet from the walleye by following one of two methods.
The first method is what anglers prefer to save time. However, you will have to remove rib cage bones afterward. It’s not a suitable option if you want to save time filleting walleye with no bones.
With the knife still inside the incision, you made in step 3, turn the blade toward the tail. It must lay parallel to the fish backbone, which you can use as a guide. Cut along the backbone and through the rib cage all the way down to the tail to separate the fillet.
The second method allows you to remove the meat without the rib cage bones. It takes more time, but many anglers would argue that you save more meat this way.
Remove the knife from the incision, and make sure the walleye’s top side is facing you. Then, place the tip of the knife right behind the head, connecting with the end of the cut you made before.
Activate the knife and use it to cut along the fish backbone, but only insert the blade halfway. Avoid cutting through the rib cage. When you cut past the dorsal fin, insert the blade all the way until it comes through the walleye’s lower section. Guide the knife down to the tail to finish that section.
Then, lift the partially-cut meat near the rib cage, and use the knife to cut around the rib cage. Work your way around the bones of the rib cage to separate the meat.
Repeat this step on the other side of the walleye, and don’t throw the carcass away just yet. Some more meat can still be useable from the cheeks and belly. Make sure to remove these areas if you want to save as much meat as possible.
Step 5: Remove the Skin (Optional)
Lay the fillet with the meat up and the skin over the cutting board. Grab the knife, and place the cutting edge at the tail. It must be at an angle to make the first incision between the meat and the skin. Activate the electric fillet knife, and quickly turn the blade horizontally between the meat and the skin. Bring the blade to the front end of the fillet to make the separation.
Some people prefer frying the fillet with the skin on. If you want to try walleye this way, you must scale the specimen first. Leaving the skin on the fillet provides a crispy layer to a flavorful meat piece.
Step 6: Cut Out the Rib Cage Bones if You Cut Through It
If you cut through the rib cage instead of around it, now you must remove the bones.
Lay the fillet over the cutting board with the ribs away from you. Then, place the blade below the ribs, and activate the knife to cut out the rib bones. Make sure to keep the knife at a slight angle upwards to get the ribs out with minimal meat wastage.
Step 7: Un-Zipping the Y Bone
Unzipping refers to the process of removing the Y bone. This bone is at the lateral line, and you can feel it by running your finger over the fish meat. Identify the Y bone’s length, and use the electric knife to make cuts on both sides of the bone. Then, pull the Y bone out using your fingers.
Step 8: Store the Walleye Fillet Away
Rinse the fillets using clean water. If you’re outdoors, keep the fillets in a cooler or container with ice to preserve them until you get home. Once at home, put the fillets in a zip-lock bag filled with fresh water. The water must be enough to cover the fillet in the bag. Squeeze the air out, and close the bag. Place them in the freezer after.
Tips for Avoiding Common Mistakes When Filleting Walleye
- Walleyes vary in size, so make sure to use the correct blade size. The blade must be larger than the fish’s height to ensure you make clean and smooth cuts.
- You may waste some meat while filleting walleye for the first time, and that’s fine. Take the time to practice until you master the electric fillet knife.
- Avoid using a manual fillet knife with a dull blade for cleaning fish like walleye. You will need to apply more pressure, which can rip through the fish’s backbone or damage the meat.
- Make the most out of the walleye. Look for recipes on how to use the head or other parts of the fish after removing the meat.
- Keep the workspace clean to avoid damage to the meat. If the walleye bleeds over the table, use a cloth to clean it. This way, the next fillet you cut won’t make contact with blood.
- Wear your protective glove to avoid pinching yourself with bones, fins, or other pointy parts of the walleye.
Do you have to debone walleye?
Deboning walleye is necessary to clean the fillets and make them completely edible. You could leave the Y bones and remove them while eating, but unzipping them is quick and doesn’t waste any meat. As a result, eating walleye fillets will be a much more pleasant experience.
Do you need to gut walleye before filleting?
Gutting isn’t necessary when you’re cleaning walleye with electric fillet knife. If you avoid cutting through the rib cage, the fish innards won’t come out or affect the taste of the meat. However, some people still do it arguing that it provides the best tasting fish.