Posted by: socalsalty | January 13, 2012

How To Filet A Halibut (and other flat fish)

Nice flattie Ron

Quick Trip Report:

I’ve been in Las Vegas all week for CES.  At this point, I’m not feeling very salty.  I have the kids this weekend, and they have a full schedule of events that will prevent us from getting out on the water.  Thank goodness for Martin Luther King day on Monday!  I last fished on Sunday the 8th, which was my first trip of 2012.  Dana Wharf added a Sunday halibut drifting day to their schedule.  AND, I need to get a bigger fish on the board to stay in the Top 25 and qualify for the May fish-off in their Derby.  So Sunday I found myself racing down to Dana Point to make the boat’s 7am departure.

Dogboned 'dine 😦

I have to admit, the day was kind of slow.  I personally got skunked for the first time in a long time.  And my unofficial boat count wasn’t much better…1 legal halibut (3 shorts and 1 controversial legal lost at the gaff), 2 sculpin, and 1 calico bass.  I had a couple promising bites, but both times I retrieved a scarred fish where it appeared the sardine was dogboned, so I didn’t get hooked up.

The lucky angler who saved the trip from being a flattie skunk for the boat was Ron Owens who’s fish weighed in at 13.8 lbs.

The main fish that are both available now and in season (legally) are halibut, saltwater bass, and sculpin (although a white seabass did get caught already).  I’d like to get halibut crossed off this year’s list early and it’s a great eating fish, so I’ll be fishing for it a lot in the coming weeks.  Maybe you will too, so on the way home I paid close attention to deckhand Marcus filet the fish.  I took pics from this trip and the one in December where I caught my halibut, so I mixed them up to get the best shots demonstrating the technique.

How To Filet A Halibut

The essential idea is that you segment the fish into quarters.  Instead of the 2 filets you get for most fish, you end up with 4 pieces.  Also, on the boat they use the burlap sacks to help keep the fish from slipping as you cut.  You may want to use a fish towel (CLEAN!) if you do it at home.  I assume you’d follow the same technique if you wanted to filet other flat fish like fluke, flounder, sole etc.

Step One:  Make your crosscuts.  One behind the head and the other in front of the tail.

Step 2: Make a lengthwise cut along the bone

Step 3:  Cut down and away from the bone out to edge

When you are done with the 2 filets on one side, flip the fish and follow the same process on the other side.  Once you are done, just take the 4 filets with the skin on them and remove the skin as you would on a normal filet (see Step 4), starting at the tail end and working forward.  Once you are done, you may want to trim off the fatty part on the outside edge of the fish.  Pretty simple.  The halibut carcass is a good one to make fish stock so keep it and use it.  Enjoy!



  1. This would’ve come in handy if my halibut was legal. Thanks again for the invite. It was a great start to fishing for 2012. And thanks to you, I’ve added another landing that I can fish out of. Looking forward to what you have planned for this year. Keep up the good work and I hope to fish with you again.

    • Good to see you buddy. Happy New Year. Congrats on the jackpot. I just posted the trip report. Tight lines!

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