Monday, April 19, 2010

Like a Sturgeon, Caught For the Very First Time - How to Fillet a Sturgeon


The following post is rated PG-13 for Violence, Blood and Gore. Thus, it may not be suitable for small children, animal rights activists, those with sensitive stomachs, vegetarians or vegans. However, all Pescetarians are more than welcome to view at their leisure.

I have been absent from my blog for a few days, in case you have not noticed. This is primarily because I have "Gone Fishing". Literally. I have spent the last few days down at Rooster Rock State Park on the Columbia River, in a somewhat less than satisfactory attempt to land "the Big one". Though the piece of dead tree I DID succeed in dredging from the murky depths was more than worthy of a fish tale.

My dad, on the other hand, had much more luck than I did, and shall hence forth be known as the "Sturgeon Whisperer". His pole wasn't even in the water a full 2 minutes and he pulled out a 41 inch beauty. I mean, that is all great and everything, but come ON. It's been 20 years since I have fished for sturgeon, doesn't that entitle me to a little bit of beginner's luck? Evidently not.

That's OK though, because I was present during the fillet'ing process. So without further stories, let's get down to the somewhat gruesome business of dressing out a fish (though that is technically a hunting term).

"Say hello to my little friend!"

This is a White Sturgeon. Not to be confused with a Green Sturgeon which is also found in the Pacific NW. The green ones taste terrible. Though they are regulated much more harshly than the white sturgeon. Which I find amusing. The regulations try to make it sound like Green Sturgeon is some sort of delicacy or something. Personally, if I catch one (yeah, sure, not with my track record) I am throwin' it back, cause it ain't ripe yet. ;)

So here he is (yeah, it's a male, so there is no caviar) about ready to become dinner. Well, several dinners as a mater of fact.

First you need a VERY sharp fillet knife, I suggest a Rapala, and a bowl of cold water.

The bony spines must be removed along the backbone as well as on both sides.

They are REALLY sharp, so be careful. Here is a closeup of the Sturgeon's armour.

Almost an exoskeleton.
Begin cutting down 1 side of the spinal cord, all the way to the tail.

Starting at the armor plated head, carefully slice the meat from the cartilaginous rib cage and ending with a vertical cut behind the head to release the fillet.

Yes, Sturgeon are similar to sharks in that they don't really have bones, they have cartilage instead.

There, one fillet removed.

Now repeat along the other side, carefully removing the meat without cutting into the rib cage as you do not want any of the internal organs to come into contact with the meat.

The reason for this is simple. Fish eat other fish, thus their digestive tracts contain enzymes to digest fish flesh. If you break open the intestines or the stomach, the resulting "ooze" will immediately begin breaking down the meat, producing the ammonia stank of rotting fish.

Once you have removed the fillets from each side, respectfully place the carcass on the ground. (Yes, they have really big heads)

To remove the skin, make a small slice at the tail end and, keeping the skin tight in one hand, begin slicing down the length of the fillet. (Sturgeon don't have scales)

Cut into more manageable pieces and trim away any dark red or bright yellow fat. This is where the fish oil is located and will give the fish that "fishy" taste... So get it off the fish.

Also trim up any "fin roots" cause they tend to be tough.

Place the trimmed fillets into the cold water bath.

Repeat the above steps with the other fillet.

OK, now it's cleanup time.
Grab a post hole digger and dig a deep hole; preferably in your garden area.

"Hello down there!"

Dispose of the carcass, fill the hole and thank the fish for relinquishing it's life to fill your belly.

Bring the fish inside and rinse it under cold water. Then place it in a stainless steel bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours before slicing the fillet into little "steaks", which I will show you how to prepare tomorrow.



Patti T. said...

I was soooooo hoping that you would catch "the big one." Nice that you will be able to eat one though. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with to cook this rather scary looking fish.

Spryte said...

Shane this is an AWESOME post!!!! I love love love the step by step pics on how to do this!!

Danielle said...

wow....that's impressive! And don't wasn't gory. Just very interesting :)

DDpie said...

Awesome post! You had me at "gone fishin' with your dad". How cool! Ok, sorry dad caught the "big one" and your tree limb "got away" hehehe

Bob said...

Somehow I missed this post the first time around, but it's a good one. I'll probably never do it, but it's cool to see how it's done.