Salmon runs produce great fishing, and even better food during the fall and winter months. Salmon can be caught in staging areas at the mouths of rivers, and up into the rivers and tributaries themselves. Size and creel limits vary by state, but harvesting a few salmon for the table is a healthy, sustainable activity when done in accordance with the regulations. There’s not much in nature that is better tasting than wild-caught salmon.
After getting your catch home, find a sharp, appropriately sized fillet knife. Bigger fish require longer knives to cut the entire fillet. Position the fish so that its dorsal fin is toward you. Start your first cut by lifting the pectoral fin away from the body, and making a diagonal cut in the “armpit”, and going toward the head. This cut creates the front edge of the fillet. From there, face the knife blade toward the tail, and allow it to ride down the spine of the fish until it gets to the last bit of fillet on the tail. This will free the first fillet. At this point, you can remove any eggs that may be inside to use for table fare or bait. Flip the fish over, and repeat the process to remove the other fillet. Lastly, you can clean up the fillets and remove any veins or rib bones that are clinging to the fillet. Pat any remaining blood off of the fillets before storage. To maximize usage of the entire fish, you can smoke the backbone with the meat that didn’t come off with the fillets. As it cooks, you can peel this meat away from the backbone.