So here we have a front-on view of our fish, showing (more or less) how he’s put together. Filleting would be very straight forward, if it wasn’t for the line of small lateral bones that you see in the diagram. In order to fillet a ‘Reddie’ with a minimum of waste, it is necessary to cut through that line of bone while removing the fillet from the main carcass. The line of very fine bones left in the fillet must be cut out, once the fillet has been skinned.
This brings us to a critical point about Redfin Perch. They are blessed with an astonishingly tough armor plating of fine scales. You don’t scale a Reddie (not unless you are a masochist with a lot of time to kill). You simply skin the fillets, once you have them removed from the carcass. Don’t gut the fish, either. The guts will be discarded with the carcass.
The filleting process that I follow is as follows:
Begin by making an incision on each side of the fish, angled towards the head at about a 45 degree angle, with the knife blade passing behind the gill case and pectoral fin, as shown.
Next, make an incision along each side of the fishes spine, just deep enough to cut through the scales and skin, as per the following photo and diagram:
Next, starting toward the tail and working your way forward, cut downward, following the dorsal bones. At the tail end of the fish, there are no lateral bones and you will cut right though to the skin on the underside, at which point you penetrate the skin and cut backwards to the tail. You’ll now have a flap of fillet with skin attached. Work your way forward, still following the dorsal bones. From the beginning of where the ribs begin, you will encounter those fine lateral bones. You must cut through these, before following around and against the rib bones with your knife. Hopefully, the following diagrams will make this clear.
Do one side of your fish in this way, and then the other. When you have almost completed the second side, you will be able to simply tear the carcass, guts and all away from the fish’s two fillets with belly still attached.
Discard the carcass (our chooks love ’em). I then remove the belly section, complete with the fins, leaving me with two fillets with skin still attached.
All that remains is to skin the fillets and remove the line of lateral bones. Place the fillet skin side down on your cutting board. Insert your knife at an angle, just forward of the back of the fillet and move it forwards with a sawing motion, as shown in the following images:
Discard the skin and you’ll be left with two fillets. It remains only to remove that line of lateral bones which extend roughly form where the ribs were, to the front of the fillet. You will find that you can locate that line of bones by feel and it’s simply a matter of cutting through the full thickness of the fillet on each side of the bone line:
This final image shows the lateral bones removed from one fillet. As you can see, there is little waste and what remains is a perfectly boneless fillet that is just plain scrumptious!
The whole process, from beginning to end takes perhaps five minutes, once you have the technique down. I have a friend who worked in the fishing industry in a past life and he can dissect, fillet and skin a Reddie in a minute flat. However, his technique involves wasting a little more meat, something I’m not willing to do!
I hope these pics and commentary will provide adequate guidance to at least get you started. Filleting isn’t all that difficult, once you get a bit of practice. Redfin perch are numerous and the smaller ones are easy to catch. In my opinion, there really isn’t anything to beat a nice feed of freshly caught ‘Bush Whiting’. Enjoy.