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How to Fillet and Smoke a Salmon

By John Harlan
Everyone knows how to fillet a fish, right, but sometimes when it's done it looks like the tool of choice was a chainsaw. Not that I do the best job, but I do have some experience in filleting fish, and I have discovered through the years some meat saving tips.

How to fillet and smoke a salmon, John H,

First, when I was at Humboldt State, my roommate, Paul Gregory showed me that the collar plates are two separate plates. If you run the knife between those plates you can cut right to the top of the head of the fish.

How to fillet and smoke a salmon, John H,

I prefer a knife with a short stiff blade. After the cut to the top of the fish, I turn the blade and cut aft feeling the blade in contact with the dorsal bones. I only cut a couple of inches deep on the first cut, feeling the tip of the knife hitting the backbone.

How to fillet and smoke a salmon, John H,

The next cut I cut the spur bones off with the tip of the blade. The next cut is made down along the ribs, shaving the meat off the ribs. Then I flip the fish and over and to the same to the other side.

How to fillet and smoke a salmon, John H,

I am slow, but I take it personally if I leave over an ounce of meat on the carcass. Of course, I save any roe.

How to fillet and smoke a salmon, John H,

Next I cut the fillets in 1/4" strips vertically. All I put on them is Salad Supreme, a seasoning made by McCormick, which is an old Indian trick I learned from Billy Pearson, then I hang them in the smokehouse.As far as we know, this is the only Forest Service campground with a smokehouse in it, and this smoke house was old when I first started using it in the late 1960s.

How to fillet and smoke a salmon, John H,

Some rotten alder smoldering in the smoke house should do it.

How to fillet and smoke a salmon, John H,

Ahhhh, it's a beautiful sight. The smokehouse smoking nicely in the morning sun, and my chores are done. Fish from the river to the smokehouse, all in a couple of hours.

John Harlan provides reports like this to MyOutdoorBuddy via our correspondent in Willow Creek. E. B. Duggan who authors our weekly Trinty River Fishing Report.

[Editor's Note: Please share with our readers what you know that will enhance the experience of fishing in Northern California or Southern Oregon. What have you learned? Your expertise, no matter where you fish (fresh or saltwater) or what species you target, could be invaluable to other anglers. What not to do is just as important as what to do. Please send your strategies, ideas, tips, techniques and personal experiences to Please include your name and hometown.]

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