How to Fillet a Red Drum With Your Sharp Fish Knife

Updated on October 2, 2019
suzzycue profile image

Susan writes about salt water fishing in Florida and enjoying the Florida coast.

My boat and fillet knives.
My boat and fillet knives. | Source

My Fish Knives

I have used the set of knives above for a decade or more. Most of them were gifts or found along my way. The red-handled Normark fillet knife and the Golden Tiger pocket knife were left behind, by the fire pit, by campers at my family's trailer park on Lake Huron.

The knife with the carved homemade bone handle, the rough wooden-handled fillet knife, the black-handled Normark knife, and the Russell boat knife (pictured beside the bone-handled knife with the brown leather case) were all gifts from friends.

A Good Fillet Knife Makes Prep So Much Easier

I always skin my fish instead of scaling it. If you remove the skin you are also removing the strong fishy taste from the fish meat when you cook it.

It is as important for a fisherman to have a set of quality fillet knives as it is for a chef to have his tools of the trade.

I use Normark fillet knives most of the time. They are made of quality stainless steel and come with six- and eight-inch flexible blades that made it easier to fillet your fish. Their sharp tip can puncture the skin easily.

My favorite fillet knife is the rough wooden-handled knife. You can tell by the photo, I use it the most. The difference is the curve of the blade. It is comfortable in my hand and I can control the five-inch blade better, down the back spine of the fish. The blade is built into the wooden handle and secured by two rivets. You can purchase one of these fillet knives at any bait store. There is no brand name on the knife.

Cleaning a Red Drum Fish

First cut in just behind the gills.
First cut in just behind the gills. | Source
I prefer a flat surface to clean fish.
I prefer a flat surface to clean fish. | Source

Cleaning a Salt Water Red Fish

These photos show me cleaning a salt water red fish caught in the Indian River Lagoon.

Cleaning fish can be an easy chore if you keep your knives sharp. Believe it or not, you are more likely to slip off the fish and cut yourself with a dull knife than a sharp one.

Some people use a fish fillet board with a clip on it to hold the tail firm while they clean the fish, but I think it is easier to clean the fish with the head on, on a flat surface.

You make an incision directly behind the head, just behind the gills. Make sure you cut the fish all the way through the whole side and push the knife down until you feel the backbone of the fish with the knife. Then, turn the knife to the right and making sure the knife is through the whole of the fish side, saw back and forth with the blade of the knife down the spine to the tail of the fish and sever this side off from the fish.

Now turn the fish so that the tip of the tail (on the side that has been severed off) is the starting point, and go from the tip down the skin with your knife to remove the meat from the skin. It takes a little patience to get your knife between the skin and the meat, but once you get started, just hold the skin tight in one hand and seesaw the knife down the skin to remove the meat. Hold the skin tight (with your left hand) for leverage and the work is easier. Repeat for other side.

Using Fish Parts

I save the red fish head and throw it in a crock pot to make soup. Just add celery, onions, carrots, garlic, rosemary, and thyme for fish head soup. Have you ever eaten fish cheeks? They are awesome, the pearls of fish meat. My neighbor ate the eyes but that was something I could not do.

Wet sharpening stone and diamond sharpening steel
Wet sharpening stone and diamond sharpening steel | Source

Sharpening Your Knife

Always keep your knives sharp. I use a whet stone and a diamond steel to sharpen my knives. The stone has two sides, a rough side to start with and a smooth side to finish the job. Always drag your knife from the bottom of your knife to the top to sharpen it. The video below shows how, in much more detail.

When do you sharpen your knives?

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    • suzzycue profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Britton 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Merry Christmas Shiningirisheyes!

    • suzzycue profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Britton 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thanks shiningirisheyes. I love to get your stories in your comments. Our Trailer Park was on the shores of Lake Huron in fact we owned 1600 feet of sandy beach. So lots of fishing and I have some of the knives left behind by campers that never returned to pick them up. The Red Drum fish, I am cleaning is at my place on the Indian River Lagoon in Florida. It is a salt water fish.

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 

      7 years ago from Upstate, New York

      Suzzy Cue - You brought me back to those lazy summer days fishing with my Grandpa and Dad. Although this is a useful hub, it reminded me so much of these two great men. They took their fishing seriously and had a collection of "cleaning" knives as you do. I would sit and watch the process while they concentrated on cleaning our catches of the day.

      By the way - fishing on Lake Heron - wow! how awesome a place to be enjoying the sport.

      Thanks for the memories my friend.

    • suzzycue profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Britton 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      You are welcome always exploring. Thanks for your comment and Merry Christmas . Wishing you a prosperous New Year.

      Thank you carol. Glad to see you are back writing. Keep up the great work. Merry Christmas and a have a New Year full of cheer and the jingle of coins in your pockets.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      Lots of good information here and well written. Voting UP.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      7 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I had no idea about putting the stone in water before i start to sharpen. Thank you so much..

    • suzzycue profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Britton 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you mayank786 very much.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great job and very well written hub:)

    • suzzycue profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Britton 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you lesliebyars for stopping in to comment.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I loved this very useful hub. Voted up and useful my friend.


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