Whens the best time to fillet fish?

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    Posted: 21 Nov 2021 at 7:54pm
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Aplogises if this subject has been gone over before, as I have  read in the past some forum members keeping fish up on a rack inside a container to let the moister drain from it before its sealed up.
The interesting thing is after the last couple of fishing trips, I have left the fish on ice in the bin and the fillets 24 hrs later and fillets are way drier.... like no moister at all in the container.
So does this mean that say a snapper expels the moister in its flesh even though its completely submerged in an ice slurry?
Just trying to get my head around what's happening.
Certainly cant argue that the fish a day later is beautifully firm and much nicer to fillet.
Ps... I also bleed every fish after ikying... super white flesh. 


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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote The Tamure Kid Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Nov 2021 at 8:44pm
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Good question. 

There will be others with knowledge of the chemistry involved, i'm sure, but maybe leaving the fish whole and cold for quite a while allows the moisture in the flesh to re-absorb post mortem. Kind of like leaving a cooked steak to 'rest' after you take it off the heat - for the same period of time it was cooking? The juices are absorbed back into the meat, rather than running out if you slice it straight away...just my theory.

My recall of the rack you mention is that's how they keep the fillets in the fridge until cooking, not just before it's 'sealed'? Wonder if those folk put fillets directly on top of each other?

Like you, I iki my fish. I put mine in a chilly bin with 3 x 1l Charlies juice bottles filled with frozen salt water, and fresh salt water poured from the sea on the day.
By the time i get home, the water is pretty cold to put your hand in, and the fish are chilled stiff. In winter, the fish are almost starting to freeze! I used to buy salt ice and make a slurry, but now don't bother and have noticed no difference (EDIT: though reading Smudge's contribution below, maybe I need to re-think that!)

Most times, the first fish I've kept on a trip are say before 8am, and the last by maybe 11-12, and they don't often get filleted until 4pm or later - after everything else with the boat etc is cleaned and put away, and I've done some catching up with the boys and my wife, and the heat's gone out of the day.

My method is to put a paper towel on the bottom of a Sistema container when I start to fillet,and lay fillets with a gap between each piece on that layer, then another layer of paper towel, and so on, stacking them up as I go. I am now adept at pulling off another piece of paper from the roll with just my elbows and forearms to avoid mucky fingers on the roll! Final layer has paper on top, to absorb any condensation from the lid in the fridge.

No fillet touches another one. 

With the method I never have any fluid pooling in the bottom of the container and the paper doesn't really get that damp.

Like yours, my fillets appear fairly 'dry', keep beautifully, and taste fantastic even after a few days.


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Post Options Post Options   Likes (1) Likes(1)   Quote smudge Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Nov 2021 at 8:55pm
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Never tried bleeding snapper - I must try it. We put our fish in a slurry when caught more ice than water and water transmits heat way faster than air so the fish cool down very quickly. If I have enough ice (I have an ice maker) we drain the water out of the chilly bin and cover the fish \ with ice. I also have a lot of chilly bins Big smile. We drain the water out because left over night the fish tend to go slimy.  If we don't have the advantage of being able to fillet the next day I don't lose any sleep if we have to fillet them the same day but my preference is for the next day but if the fish have been well chilled then that's ok. To put things into perspective we take two 90 litre chilly bins and half fill (at least) each of them with ice if we're heading out for a big day of fishing. We use fresh water ice and sea water to make the slurry of course. If you're using salt ice then you're kind of going backwards if you're making a slurry because the salt ice makes very good contact with the fish and is a better product if you can afford enough of it. Our system is streets ahead of frozen bottles floating around in a bin full of water. We moved away from that many years ago but it is still a reasonable option.
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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote smudge Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Nov 2021 at 8:58pm
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Just read TKK's answer. When the fish is filleted it certainly is a good option to keep the fillets separated and on a rack out of the juice that comes out of the fish, probably more important than how you chose to cool down your fish.
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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote The Tamure Kid Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Nov 2021 at 9:02pm
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Originally posted by smudge smudge wrote:

Just read TKK's answer. When the fish is filleted it certainly is a good option to keep the fillets separated and on a rack out of the juice that comes out of the fish, probably more important than how you chose to cool down your fish.

And i just read yours, Smudge, and took note of the comments re water bottles versus ice. When someone with your experience speaks, I make a point of listening!!

I think there's ice and there's ice, if you know what i mean. The charters I've been on had awesome flaked ice they get in big sacks from Sandfords etc, whereas the stuff you can buy at tackle stores is dubious quality, I reckon.

And most of the time i bring home max 5 fish in a smallish bin, which is plenty for my circumstances.
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Some of the salt ice brought in store, isn't true salt ice. They use fresh water and then throw salt in (a lot of "salt ice" is made km's inland). Buying off the wharf where it's made is the best solution if available.

I've moved to the slurry, then in fridge on rack system and thinks it's the way to go.
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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote brmbrm Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Nov 2021 at 6:16am
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I use a couple of Charlie's juice bottles (handy ring on the top!) plus a couple of 2 litre ice cream containers with frozen sea water plus some salt water.  Iki then bleed for 20 minutes or so - a lot of crap comes out. I fillet when they have semi-frozen: if still warm they are a bugger to fillet.  No special treatment in the fridge - maybe I should - but the ones not being eaten soon get vac-packed and frozen.  Stay in excellent condition for months.

Also I cut off the strip of brown oily flesh down the centreline of the fillets.  Her indoors doesn't like it.
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I filleted some yesterday morning, caught the day before. We place a 1/2 dozen water bottles filled with fresh water, sealed, then frozen solid in the chilly bin. Once we start catching fish we want to keep we use a bucket or in our case the wash down pump and fill the bin up with sea water to just cover the fish. Even on a hot day the fish and salt water are very cold. As you said you don't have to panic about processing the fish until the next day if you arrive home late or don't feel like fish filleting after cleaning up the boat and gear. I filleted the still very cold fish 12 hours later, placed the fillets uncovered in the refrigerator for a few hours then sealed them for either freezing or eating ( we had some last night) I've found that if you place them on a large plate uncovered they dry out enough for either vac packing or eating. I use glad wrap to cover the ones I'm not going to freeze and will eat tomorrow night. We are quite fussy with fish and they seem very good if processed this way. Interesting about the salt ice as I have mixed this in with the slurry in the past.
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Our call on when best time to fillet is made on when the best time to taste, rather than firm up while filleting .

Cant beat a fresh fillet , from the hook , straight into the pan on the boat/ beach... And failin that, for dinner the eveing its caught.... melt in the mouth when just cooked  thru after resting.

So if fishing not hard out, we gut before going in the bin on the boat.
 If busy pulling over the side, dropped in the bin.
Bin has icey packs, lots of them with a large icey slab on the bottom.
 As fish go in the bin, if gutted, a pack goes inside. If not gutting, they are re stacked over the top.
 Either way they stiffen nicely istacked/ kept flat.

Filleting is always done after engine rinsed (while unloading, boat has been foamed up.

Usually one person cuts off the fillets, next removes skin and bones, then get laid out in a covered container.
If a 3rd person, they, check for bones scales and rinse in fresh sea water we collect out at sea.

I think one can get real fussy, or less so as we do.
Much depends on if one has limit or not, the size , species
etc.
 Personally, 2 of you bring back a 95L bin that the lid cant be closed and fish on the floor.....maybe after the 2nd time or 1/2 way thru the 1st, the fussy stuff goes out the window.
 A bin with a basic feed 2/4 pannies, very different story..if one chooses... And choice is based on how the over flowing bin filleting is carried out and result of finished product.
Most of our trips over the last 10+ yrs , east and west coast, bins are full.

Also I have noticed over the yrs, that how, and more so when to fillet is directly related to how many beers have been consumed and/ or just to damn tired to fillet when get home.... let alone wash down boat and gear etc.


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Havn't "iki'd a fish in ages. Do bleed them though in a bucket. Before putting on ice (like the sea water in a bottle), save on buying ice, will try next time.Don't have my own ice maker, lucky Smudge Beer
Look at the diff between an iki fish & a bled one..... Filleting when I get home, usually gut em at the beach or on the boat, then back in the ice..

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Using frozen water in bottles is a very inefficient way of chilling water or fish in a bin.  The ice really needs to be free in the bin.
Reason is that once the bottle starts to thaw it is the water surrounding the ice in the bottle that does the chilling of the contents in the bin.  This water is (obviously) a lot warmer than the ice, which means that the bottle is trying to chill the contents of the bin from a base of no more than 0degC, rather than the temp of the inside the bottle ice which is much colder.
Frozen sea water in bottles is slightly more efficient because the sea water melts at around -4 deg.
I use 2 bins.  One with a couple of blocks of frozen sea water and the same volume of fresh sea water added.  No need to iki, just throw the fish in and the cold shock stuns them instantly.
After the fish are chilled, pack them in another bin with salt flake ice around them.
I always have one or two 10l buckets of sea water in my freezer at home.  Put some plastic dividers in the buckets because 10kg blocks of ice sliding around inside your bin will split the liner.
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You can look at this two ways. On one hand, we all know it's easier to fillet a fish that has "set" (i.e. properly chilled with rigor mortis). On the other hand, bacteria can translocate from the gut to the fillets if you leave it too long. Admittedly, if the fish is iced down, this is likely to be slowed down significantly. Regardless, any fish I'm going to eat raw (i.e. kingfish; trevally), I gut immediately after catching.

Iki all fish. Bleed most fish, although I can't say it makes a flavour difference with snapper, but the fillets look prettier. Once the fish have been filleted, I'm very much in to dry ageing. Again, can't say it much improves flavour, but you get firm, non-slimy fillets that will easily go 7 days in the fridge and freeze better as well. Nicer sashimi too.
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I never rinse fillets in salt or fresh water.  Never.
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[QUOTE=brmbrm]I never rinse fillets in salt or fresh water.  Never.[/QUOTE 

exactly, if you have filleted your fish properly. then there is no need to wash/rinse at all. Instead of washing your  knife while on the job just use a towel to clean blade.
My wings do go down to the sea for scaling.
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What I think this thread shows is that we all care about our catch, and the end result on the table - which is great.

My circumstances - small runabout, 5-7 pannies max in one bin, on a trip - is very different to some guys loading two 90 litre bins.If I get a real biggie that won't go back, or very rarely a kingie, i head to the nearest shop that sells salt ice on the way home. 

What i am going to try from reading the tips above is bleeding snaps, and getting some smaller icecream containers and freezing salt water in them. I'll take those with me and empty them into salt water on the day, dropping the water temp faster and supplementing the iced salt water bottles.
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I’ve started filleting while on the water. I have a roll of 200 snap locks on board and move to a flat spot on the way home, chuck a stray line out and put the sounds on and get filleting. Fillet bags are stacked beside frozen water bottlesn chilly. I keep frames guts etc that go into a large lidded bucket to take home to put in vege patch. When home dig a trench, gear boat wash down and time for a beer all done. Get the odd good fish in my scale burly trail. I scale and leave skin on most fillets unless fillets too big.
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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote Schampy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Nov 2021 at 6:08pm
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Yeah I have always been a bit dubious about freezing water bottles to keep fish cold. I kinda figure if your gonna go to trouble of gassing ya boat, buying bait/burly or jigs and softbaits another $5.00 on a bag of saltice is not a deal breaker.
I guess we have come along way though....As a kid fishing with dad at Kennedys bay over summer... there was no ice.. just a wet sack and fish were filleted by who ever was not to pissed that night and I don't recall ever getting sick from off fish. (a lot of bones stuck in throat though funnily enough)
As for bleeding. yep a definite.
I have the "bucket of death" below bait station to put the fish in to bleed out for a few mins before transferring to chilly bin.
Saves contaminating the ice with loads of blood and constantly going up front to stow fish ( bin lives in cabin)
System works well.
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I definitely have gone down the salt ice rabbit hole and make my own.


First was how much salt originally I went with 35g/ litre which got too cold and would rapidly freeze the fish in the slurry I have settled on 15g/litre which gives a very cold slurry but not frozen fish in 5 mins.
I use pool salt (cheap) in 5 liter bottles to mix then transfer to shallow 2ltr containers with lids procured from a $2 shop and stack them in milk crates that are then put in the deep freeze. I don’t want saltwater leaking into my freezer.


The shallow containers produce almost sheets of ice which break up easily and give good surface area to make the slurry a bucket of saltwater. I am trying to figure out how to make an ice crusher run of a 24v battery drill to make it even more like flake ice but haven’t figured that one out yet.


The fish get submerged in the slurry straight after Iki and bleeding (I don’t always bother bleeding snapper).


When back into the harbour I drain the saltwater and there is usually plenty of ice left. Gut and Gill then pack in ice.


I will fillet after flushing the motor if not too late but if packed nicely in ice am happy to fillet up to 24hrs later.
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I seldom fillet mine the same day. Left on ice over night. I've never bothered bleeding snapper but might give it a shot and see what results I get.
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great to see such care and attention been given to fish in this thread.

things ive noted over the years as i try to improve my processes;

depositing just-caught fish into an ice slurry seems to negate the need to iki.

try to be clean when filleting - not letting any muck get on the flesh - and definitely no water - use paper towels to dab any transferred unwanted blood etc.

keep fillets in a second and really cold fridge if you can - i have a 'drinks' fridge in the garage - and i dial it down to 1degree when fish is in it - seems to help longevity. 

placing fillets on a grid which allows the 'juice' to drain away makes a huge difference - adds at least a day or two to their 'shelf-life'
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