Fishing & Boating in the Northwoods


Removing the Skin from Walleye & Other Fish

walleye filets

Many people have written me asking if there is a trick to removing the skin from a fillet of fish. The answer is: not really.  No matter the species of fish, the process is the same. Removing the skin from a walleye (shown here), bass, northern pike, bluegill or any fish for that matter – is easy, especially when compared to, say, cleaning a bass or removing the y-bones from pike.

skinning fish step1

Step 1

If you have some sort of gripper – skinning pliers work well – that makes holding the fish skin easier, by all means use it. Otherwise, grab hold of the very tail of the fillet using your left hand (I’ll assume that you are right-handed) with the rest of the fillet pointed away from you.

(This page may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure about affiliate links.)

With your fillet knife, cut down at an angle just until you reach the skin (obviously being careful not to cut through the skin… which is very easy to do) and begin to slide the knife between the flesh and the skin.

skinning fish step 2

Step 2

Keeping pressure on the back side of the blade, move the knife toward the other end of the fillet, ensuring that the blade stays at a very shallow angle between the meat and the skin.

At this point and with your left hand, you can actually begin to pull the tail away and in a direction opposite to the way the knife is moving.

skinning fish step3

Step 3

While pulling, if you move the tail in sort of a horizontal S-curve/back and forth motion, it makes the task easier. The skin will peel off like it is hardly attached… and voila, you have a boneless, and now skinless fillet!  Just make sure to keep the knife blade at as shallow an angle as possible.

skinning fish last step

I hope that helps. It, too, may take a bit of practice, but far less than removing the y-bones from a pike!. Once the skin is off, there are a multitude of possibilities in terms of the way to prepare your now boneless and skinless fillet: fried is very good and how most folks seem to enjoy it. You can even try your fillet sautéed, stir-fried, baked, horseradish encrusted or – well, you get the idea.  Check my recipe section for some great ideas!

But some time when you get some really fresh northern pike – a 3- or 4-pounder works really well – try the Mesquite-Grilled Margarita Pike recipe. I’ve never had a bad review!

And contrary to popular opinion – myth actually – that many mistakenly believe, the bigger the pike, the whiter the meat, and the better the flavor. Walleye, by the way, is exactly the opposite. Those really big ‘eyes (over 17-19 inches) are tough, and do not have the almost sweet flavor of the smaller fish.

Share this Article

Related Articles

Search On the Lake
Just Added
R. Karl Recommends
R. Karl with huge northern pike

R. Karl

Angler, Author & Epicure

Fishing since the age of eight.  Seriously writing since the age of 16. Chef and foodie from the age of 22 years… and counting. So much to learn and so little time. I have enjoyed every minute of it all.  Whether on the water (where I like it best), in the kitchen, or at the keyboard, churning out content, I feel like I have found my place.  I am sharing it with you in the hope that some of what I love to do will rub off on you. I hope to see you On the Lake!

R. Karl