NZ Fishing World home
NZ Fishing World

Filleting gurnard – the oft forgotten art

December 19, 2019
Filleting gurnard – the oft forgotten art

They go by various names, but the humble gurnard rate highly in some fishermen’s eyes. They can be suicidal, and they can be maddeningly fickle. But when winter arrives on the Manukau Harbour the gurnard fishermen get out the light rods and the flasher rigs and prepare for one of the greatest little fishing contests in the country.

The right knife

To start with the choice of knife is critical when filleting a fish like gurnard or blue cod - and you fillet, skin and bone a blue cod in exactly the same way. I have a pet knife with a thin, narrow, soft steel flexible blade that I really treasure.

It is an el cheapo that I paid about five bucks for some years ago, and it quickly responds to a few strops on the old steel. One trick is to never hone the blade to a razor sharp edge or you will cut through the thin skin every time.

If we have a large catch from several anglers I use my special knife for the filleting and boning when I really make it razor sharp, and use another flexible not so sharp one for the skinning.
Be aware of the wicked little spike just behind the gill plate of a gurnard.

That’s why I always handle them with a piece of wet towel when caught to minimize the many cuts and nicks my poor old hands seem to suffer when fishing, which can result in infected wounds.
All fish killed should be stored in an ice slurry so when it comes to filleting they are firm and in top condition.

Filleting instructions

1. Place the gurnard on a flat board and hold it firmly by the head - watch out for the spike - and slip your thumb through the gill plate.

2. Make an angled cut back towards the head through to the backbone.

3. Ensure you keep downward pressure on the blade so it sits perfectly flat and hard against the gurnard’s backbone then run the knife back towards the tail.

4. Keep the blade hard and flat against the backbone as you remove the fillet.

5. Continue to the end.

6. Flip the fillet over and cut it off at the tail.

7. Turn the fish over, and repeat the process. You now have a gurnard head and frame and guts, plus two fillets. If you remove the gills and guts you have the makings of the best tasting fish stock imaginable.When the head and frame is boiled up the juice tastes unlike any other fish stock you have ever tasted. Just ask Pete Jessup!

8. Now comes the so called tricky bit – getting rid of the bones and skin. Remember, don’t use a razor sharp knife for skinning! I place my left thumbnail firmly down on the tail end of the fillet and carefully make a flat bladed cut about one inch (25mm) along the skin.

9. Now here’s the big trick. Hold this tail section of the skin in your left hand thumb and forefinger in a firm grip and draw the skin back; at the same time “see-saw” the knife blade as you draw the skin right back to the end of the fillet. Remember you draw the skin towards you and the knife blade does not move forward. Keep the knife blade dead flat during this operation, and after a while you will get all the confidence in the world. As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect.

10. Removing the bones - either use a sharp knife or give your knife a few licks on the steel. Place the tip of the knife at one end of the rib cage

11. With a downward curving motion follow the line of the rib cage and remove this with a semi-circular cut.

12. Run your finger tip from the centre of the thick end of the fillet and you will feel a line of pin bones that extends about a third of the way back towards the tail end.

13. Cut along one side.

14. Make a small V cut along the other side of the row of pin bones and remove.

15.    You now have two boneless, skinless fillets of delicious gurnard.

Related posts

How to catch tarakihi - Pete Lamb's top tips
Hints & Tips
If your taste in fish is like mine, tarakihi are arguably the best quality eating fish you can catch in New Zealand virtually all year round, and a crumbed fillet at the Fish’n’Chip shop is commonly made from this species. They can be caught throughout the country but are more prevalent around the Cook Straight, east Cape and South Island, and Bay of Plenty regions than they are further north. Not only are they great eating, they also offer a pretty good tussle on the end of the line. You can catch them off the shore and in the boat anywhere from as shallow as five metres, right down to well over a hundred. Without doubt they are probably my favourite eating fish, so although they only grow to a limited size, they are always more than welcome on board.
How the moon and tides affect fishing
Hints & Tips
How the Moon and Tides affect bite times for fish like snapper, trevally and kingfish.
How to mechanical jig for kingfish
Hints & Tips
Here at NZ Fishing World, we like to help out keen young fishing publishers where we can. Here's a great vid produced by young Milan from Fishbro NZ, you can subscribe to his YouTube channel once you get there. Don't let his age fool you, there's some good info here if you are keen to learn a bit more about jigging. Milan's obviously a pretty accomplished angler and we might see some more of him in the future.
Pete Lamb’s top tips for catching snapper
Hints & Tips
Editor note: Pete Lamb operates Pete Lamb Fishing Charters, and runs a bait and tackle shop out of Wellington. He’s fished the Wellington region for most of his life and knows just about every place that holds fish in the region like the back of his hand. Pete is a land based and surf casting specialist, but also runs a charter operation that targets the main coastal areas on the south and west coast. He’s learned a hell of a lot over the years, and like all good fishermen is still learning every day. He is most always happy to share information to help you get a better fishing experience if you rock up to his shop in Rongotai. Here’s Pete’s top tips for targeting arguably NZ’s favourite fish, the good old snapper.
Kingfish: How the experts catch them
Hints & Tips
NZ Fishing World spoke to five of the country’s most respected kingfish fishermen to find out the secrets to their success.
Rod and Reel Maintenance
Hints & Tips
Rod and reel maintenance is an activity seldom loved by fishermen however it can save you money and heart ache if something fails on a monster fish.
All Related

See Also

Fish release for July School Holidays
Fresh water
Are you looking for an outdoor activity for your kids these school holidays? Why not try fishing? North Canterbury Fish & Game has released around 200 catchable sized salmon into the Groynes children’s fishing lakes. The salmon have been kindly donated by Mount Cook Alpine Salmon and The Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust.
How to catch squid from the rocks
Land-based
How to catch squid New Zealand. Egiing for squid NZ off the rocks. Michael Walkley shows some EGI techniques and tips as we have an epic land based squid session throughout the night.
Yamaha Helm Master EX
Boats
Yamaha has launched an amazing new digital boat control system that holds you over your fishing spot or sets up a controlled drift, hands free! Applicable to single and multi engine craft, this is a world first and should be very popular if you like holding over pins, deep drops etc.
The Lateral Line - EP #6
Land-based
Milan, Nathan and one of “the boy’s” Toby, are on board Savoy headed to great barrier island and they are going to use the tender on the front of Savoy to go land based fishing at Great Barrier Island.
How to get back on your SOT kayak with Paddle Guy & Dave
Kayak
In this video Dave from Fergs kayaks Wellington NZ shows us a few tips on how to get back into your sit on top kayak in the case of a capsize...NOTE: this video is just a quick reference, it is highly recommended that you take a course to get the full understanding of how to self rescue quickly and safely.
Freediving for Crays, West Coast New Zealand
Spearfishing
A nice video showcasing some awesome freediving from Ritchie Johnston down in the deep south west.
All Posts

Drop NZ Fishing World a line!

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.