How To Skin Largemouth Bass Like A Pro

Largemouth bass are one of America’s most popular fish because of their incredible fighting abilities. The skin on a largemouth is covered in small scales that do a good job at protecting the fish from predators and injuries. When it comes time to serve them for the dinner table, this can make cleaning them a lot harder. How to skin largemouth bass is a skill you want to master if you will be eating the meat. There are a few different ways to skin bass. All it really needs is a sharp fillet knife, a little time, and some effort.

Largemouth tend to be on the meatier side of fish. Because of this, filleting them is a bit easier because it is similar to many other species that you would clean. In this tutorial, we will be going over the process of how to do it properly and effectively so that you can put fresh fish on the table for you and your family. There is no way that is right or wrong. Only what works and what doesn’t. Under that assumption, lets get started,

But First, Understand The Largemouth Bass Skin

Largemouth bass skin with a bass biting a lure.

The skin on a largemouth bass is covered in uniformly oriented scales. Like all members of the sunfish family, the scales on the largemouth run parallel to the fishes lateral line. The skin itself is tough and a little hard to work with. For this reason, you should skin the bass or at the very least, descale it. You can eat the skin but The will taste different depending on what body of water you caught it from. Clean waters like rivers and streams will provide the most succulent option.

That is if you choose to consume it descaled. On the other hand, the skin itself is very fishy tasting as well as off-putting too many people. You can eat the skin but it will taste how the water smells. They tend to take on a lot of the environment that they swim in. Moreover, colder temperatures and winter seasons equate to the best times to consume them. This is because the water is a lot cleaner and there is a lot less algae.

The meat on a largemouth bass is also extremely meaty for a fish. As many fish species have flaky white meat, this one is more like a steak in texture. Because of this, the skin has a tendency to stick to it harder than it would on other fish. As far as I know, there is not one place in the United States that farms the largemouth bass. As a consequence, every single one that you consume will be naturally wild-caught. Always make sure you are harvesting legal catches from waters that are clear and clean. Avoid waters that are dirty, full of litter, and the like.

Tools Needed

  • Fillet Knife
  • Knife Sharpener
  • Skinning Pliers
  • Cutting Board
  • Cut Resistant Glove

Prepare The Fish

You always want to get the perfect cut of meat. To do this, preparation is key. It is always better to clean and fillet the catch as soon as it comes out of the water because it will taste the best this way. Doing this will also make it much easier to take the skin off as well as the fillets. A great method is to take the fish and put it on ice or a frozen ice pack which will bring down its body temperature.

This is a very humane way of euthanizing the fish because it just goes to sleep. Your first step is to catch yourself a largemouth bass which is sometimes easier said than done. Although they exist almost everywhere, sometimes they can get picky about what they eat. They generally hover above the bottom of most water bodies. They can be taken by using live minnows or my favorite offering, a soft plastic jig.

Humanely Dispatch Your Catch

As mentioned earlier, the easiest and most efficient way to dispatch your catch is with ice. The fish does not feel pain this way. Sometimes, you do not want to bring ice with you. In that case, a good sharp knife or big nail will help you out. All you have to do is hit the brain of the fish. This will make the fish stop moving and is almost painless. Another alternative is to sever the spine or just cut the head off.

I hate doing these because it’s unnecessary suffering. Hitting the catch in the head does not work near as well on these fish. Instead, I recommend bleeding the fish. Bleeding the catch pumps all of the blood out of the fillets. All you have to do is take a knife, a pair of scissors, or a pair of pliers and rip open one of the gills. The bass should die in minutes.

How To Skin Largemouth Bass Using A Fillet Knife

Outline of where to cut largemouth bass skin on a fish.

You can take the skin off of the fish easily by slicing into the skin next to the edge and pulling on it. Start with a sharp knife and get the tip between the skin and the meat. Puncture the skin with the knife at the backbone and start to dig your way between the two. Just “wedge” the knife enough. After that is complete, you can pull the skin off with a good pair of pliers.

After you have done this, sharpen your knife and put a nice straight edge on it once again. The skin on largemouth is tough on the blade. Trust me. its better to be safe than sorry before you hack apart your catch. Put on a cut resistant glove over your dominant hand and hold onto the head of the fish. Make sure that your knife situates itself in just the right manner. Make a vertical cut near the tail and trace the outline of the fish with your knife as the blade cuts the skin only.

Turn the fish around and repeat on the other side. Next, you can grab the skin with your fingers or a pair of pliers and peel it right off of the fillet. Although this does seem like a whole lot of extra work, trust me. You get the most meat this way. There is no waste when done properly. Once you find yourself at the ribs, you can just cut around them or you can cut right through them. The main thing to remember is that whether you break them or not will affect how you clean your fillet.

Alternatively, you can leave the skin on while filleting and take it off after. That is where a tool like the Skinzit Fish Skinner comes in handy.

How To Gut Largemouth After Skinning

After you take the skin off of the largemouth, you can gut it by opening the belly cavity. This is important because belly bursting can occur from a buildup of methane gases in the stomach. The bacteria inside the stomach will also taint the meat if this happens.

It will also affect the quality of the fillets. Use the tip of your knife and slice the fish down the belly to open up its internal cavity. Start in the middle and work your way up to the head of the fish. Grab the internal organs starting at the heart and scrape against the inside of the spine to take out the remaining giblets such as the heart, liver, and stomach. Next, use your knife to cut off the fins. Next, use your knife and dispose of the fins after slicing them off.

Filleting The Fish After It Has Been Prepared

You want to use the tip of your knife and start cutting along the backbone of the fish start from the head region and start to work your way down the rest of the body use a very light touch use pressure at all don’t start sawing at the filet but the edge of your knife do the work begin to peel off the filet as a knife slices through it what you get to the tale you want to stop once you get to the ribs keep gently slicing the meat around it and the ribs should lead you around them. Take off the fillet poking your knife through and finishing it off.

Clean Up With Clean Water

It is always of crucial importance to keep a clean workspace when you’re working with raw fish and handling food. Although the largemouth bass is not the same as skinning catfish as far as cleanliness, you should still be careful that you don’t taint the meat. Since these fish eat everything that they can find, it is always imperative that you use cold running water to sufficiently clean the meat. Cold water keeps the fish firm which translates to a tastier dish.

Thoroughly washing the meat also ensures that you take all of the blood out. These fish naturally have big gills and a lot of blood. There is a bloodline on the inside that can make the meat taste murky. Cold water will rinse that out and leave you with nice, fresh, meat. Always remember to sufficiently wash your fillet knife, your cutting board, your work area, and everywhere else that is made contact with raw fish. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a whole lot more than a pound of cure.

Lady washing hands under running water in a kitchen on a sunny day.

Store The Bass in a Suitable Container

One thing that you may notice about the largemouth is that they are very sensitive to storage. You always want to make sure that you store this fish in a suitable container. I always recommend covering a bowl with aluminum foil or storage using vacuum suction. Since this fish is so incredibly moist, it is very easily dried out if left uncovered. Cooked dishes also last longer than the raw fillets will. Most cooked dishes are good for a week after prep.

The raw fillets should be used in three days or less. By treating your fish fillets with respect, you can get a very nice meal out of making fish stew, fish tacos, or a beautiful fish sandwich. Remember to season your fish generously and do not overcook it. The meat has a very mild and sweet flavor that imparts a buttery richness to any dish that you put it in. Assuming you take the skin off, the meat underneath is very tender and incredibly flavorful.

Cook And Enjoy Your Largemouth Bass Fillets!

Now you can enjoy that buttery and sweet largemouth bass meat in so many different dishes. Largemouth bass tends to favor mild and more robust flavors such as baking broiling and pan-frying. Now you know how to skin a largemouth bass correctly and you also can get the most meat out of your catch. If you have a good bass recipe for us to try, reply, leave us a comment, and tell us what it is! Do you have a favorite largemouth bass recipe?

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