SO, YOUR BUDDY CAN’T CLEAN… by Montana Grant
By angelamontana

Posted: December 5, 2023

Fish or game! We have all had buddies that lack skills when it comes to cleaning harvested game or fish. They love the going, catching, and shooting, but never learned how to use a knife! Once in awhile it is no big deal, but if they never learn how, it just gets old. 

Processing Big and small game requires training and practice. If it is their first critter, maybe some help is in order. I used to print out directions, with pictures, from Outdoor Life magazines, along with a gutting kit that included plastic gloves, bags, cleaning wipes, and the directions. They may have had to go step by step, but there was no excuse. A mentor can stand overwatch while the deed is done. 

I was a member of a Deer Camp where no one seemed to know how to quarter a deer. After opening day, Sunday was a no hunt day. The other camps in the area would bring their deer over for me to cut and quarter. I charged one loin/deer. The rest of the guys would handle the rest of the jobs. At the end of the day, everyone’s deer was cut, wrapped, and labeled. I had a skill that was welcomed, and everyone else did their fair share. 

Cleaning fish is a chore, but with practice, you can filet a fish in no time. Years ago, on a trip to Canada, we got into a boatload of walleye. As the sun set, my buddies were nowhere to be found. All had excuses and reasons why I should do the deed. The cleaning station was screened, but full of holes, and mosquitos. The BIG Canadian bloodsuckers. 

I sharpened up my knives, got a bucket of water from the lake, and went to work. There were 4 limits of walleyes that needed attention. It took about 3 minutes per fish. I rinsed the filets and had to dump the fish waste from the boat into the lake. It took longer to get ready and clean up the mess than to clean the fish. No buddies were around to help. They were snug and warm in the camp. Wussies!

So how should you deal with buddies that can’t filet a fish?

Let Them Drive    If you can’t clean fish, find other ways to contribute. My buddy Meatstick brings snacks and drives. He’s great company and has my back. He also treated me to dinner! I will clean his fish anytime!

YouTube Videos    Have them do some homework and watch how it is done. Everyone has their own angle on the best way. Let them figure it out. Learning new skills is fun.

Give them a Knife    A Rapala filet knife is a great way to start. Some come with a cutting board and 2 different length knives. A 6- and 9-inch blade. A sharpener is also a great gift idea. There will be directions on the package, or you can print some out with links to videos or instructions.

Practice makes Perfect    Your first fish filleting sessions will be rough. It takes practice to feel the flexible blade against the bones. You may bleed a bit if you don’t cut away from your fingers and body parts. Bandaids may need to be on hand. The more fish you clean, the better you will become.

Hands On Mentor     Get a friend to show you how to filet. Hands on is best. Then take over with the mentor giving tips and advice. Cleaning fish and game is a perishable skill, so stay sharp. Learning is fast and easy.

Gear you need.    Have a clean, flat cutting board to work with. Keep your knives sharp as possible. Have a bowl for the filets and one for the waste. Zip bags and a marker will store and label the catch/date. A vacuum sealer is also a good idea. I save old Styrofoam meat trays, in different sizes. The long ones work well for whole filets. The smaller ones work well for fish portions or smaller filets. Cover with plastic wrap and label/freeze. If you can’t filet, help with organization, cleanup, and packaging.

Presentation    When the fish are labeled and wrapped, they need to look nice. A bag of fish is not appetizing as a tray of filets. Include some recipes with the fish when you share. Everyone gets an equal portion.

If you want to keep fish, learn to clean them. If you can’t clean them, help deal with the mess, cleanup, or cooking. Have a cold beverage for the fish monger, or at least keep them company. Cook dinner, clean the boat, do something to help the fish or game cleaner. Solo fish cleaning gets old and eventually, the Mongerer feels used and abused. This gets old fast!

If you fail to learn how to clean your fish, fowl, and wild game, find another sport!

Montana Grant

New Podcast!

Riley's Meats - Butte Wild Game Processing