How to Fillet Lake Trout: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Fillet Lake Trout

Lake trout is a popular fish among anglers due to its delicious taste and abundance in many freshwater lakes. If you’ve managed to catch a lake trout during your fishing expedition, knowing how to fillet it properly is essential to make the most out of your catch. In this article, we will guide you through the process of filleting a lake trout in simple and easy-to-follow steps.

Step-by-Step Procedure:

Filleting lake trout is made easy with these simple steps:

1. Understanding Lake Trout Anatomy

Before diving into the filleting process, it’s crucial to have a basic understanding of the lake trout’s anatomy. Lake trout have a cylindrical body shape with a long, slender head and a forked tail. They possess sharp teeth and thick, oily flesh, making them ideal for filleting.

2. Gathering the Necessary Tools and Equipment

To fillet a lake trout, you’ll need the following tools and equipment:

  1. Sharp fillet knife
  2. Cutting board
  3. Fish scaler or spoon
  4. Pliers
  5. Paper towels or clean cloth
  6. Disposable gloves (optional)
  7. Ziplock bags or airtight containers for storage

Having these tools readily available will ensure a smooth and efficient filleting process.

3. Preparing the Workstation

Create a clean and organized workstation before you start filleting. This helps maintain hygiene and makes the process more manageable. Clear a spacious area on your kitchen counter or a designated table and cover it with a cutting board. Place all the necessary tools within reach for easy access during the filleting process.

4. Removing the Scales

Before filleting the lake trout, it’s essential to remove the scales. You can use a fish scaler or the back of a spoon to scrape the scales off the fish. Start from the tail and work your way towards the head. Rinse the fish under cold water to remove any loose scales.

5. Making the First Cut

Lay the lake trout on the cutting board with its belly facing up. Hold the fish firmly by the head with one hand and make a shallow incision behind the pectoral fin with the fillet knife. This cut will guide you through the filleting process.

6. Separating the Fillet from the Backbone

Starting from the incision, carefully slide the fillet knife along the backbone towards the tail. Apply gentle pressure to separate the flesh from the bone while keeping the knife parallel to the cutting board. Use the other hand to hold the fish steady as you glide the knife through.

7. Removing the Skin

removing fish skin

Once you’ve separated the fillet from the backbone, flip it over so the skin side is facing down. With the knife blade angled slightly towards the skin, insert the knife between the flesh and skin at the tail end. Hold the tail firmly and move the knife back and forth, gradually lifting the fillet away from the skin. Repeat this process until the entire filletis free from the skin.

8. Trimming the Fillet

Inspect the fillet for any remaining bones or fatty areas. Using the fillet knife, carefully trim off any excess fat or dark-colored flesh. This step helps improve the taste and appearance of the fillet.

9. Checking for Bones

Before moving on, run your fingers gently along the fillet to detect any small bones that may have been missed during the initial cleaning. Use a pair of pliers or tweezers to remove any bones you find. Ensuring bone-free fillets enhances the dining experience and prevents any unpleasant surprises.

10. Cleaning Up

After filleting the first side, repeat the process on the other side of the lake trout to obtain the second fillet. Dispose of the fish remains properly and clean your workstation thoroughly to maintain hygiene and prevent cross-contamination.

11. Storing and Cooking the Fillets

Once you’ve successfully filleted the lake trout, you can store the fillets for future use or cook them immediately. Place the fillets in ziplock bags or airtight containers and store them in the refrigerator. They can stay fresh for up to three days. For long-term storage, you can freeze the fillets. When cooking, you can grill, bake, or pan-fry the fillets according to your preference.

Fillet Trout

Tips and Tricks for Filleting Lake Trout

  • Sharpen your fillet knife before starting the process to ensure clean and precise cuts.
  • Maintain a steady hand and work slowly to avoid damaging the flesh.
  • Use a smooth, gliding motion while separating the fillet from the backbone to achieve clean fillets.

If you’re unsure about filleting, consider seeking guidance from an experienced angler or watch instructional videos for visual assistance.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Applying excessive pressure while filleting, which can result in torn or damaged flesh.
  • Neglecting to remove all the bones, which can pose a choking hazard.
  • Using a dull knife, which makes the process more challenging and increases the risk of accidents.
  • Rushing through the filleting process, leading to sloppy cuts and wasted meat.


Knowing how to fillet lake trout is a valuable skill for any angler or seafood enthusiast. By following the step-by-step guide provided in this article, you can confidently and successfully fillet lake trout. Remember to gather the necessary tools, prepare your workstation, remove the scales, make clean cuts, and remove the skin and any remaining bones. With practice, you’ll become more proficient in filleting lake trout and be able to enjoy delicious, bone-free fillets for your culinary creations.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)