How To Fillet Crappie With An Electric Knife (Step By Step w/pics)

When it comes to tasty freshwater fish, it’s hard to beat crappie. Most states allow an ample harvest of the popular panfish and they can be caught all year long.

But the real work begins when you bring home a cooler full of fish that need to be cleaned and prepared for the dinner table!

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Now, there is nothing wrong with a regular fillet knife to clean fish…in fact, it’s probably the most common way fish are processed all over the world.

But have you ever tried an electric fillet knife?

It can save you a lot of time, not to mention its much easier on the hands and safer! Me and my dad ‘TY’ have been using electric fillet knives for years, and prefer them whenever we are cleaning a big mess of fish.

How to fillet crappie with an electric knife

How To Fillet Crappie With an Electric Fillet Knife

These handy tools can drastically reduce your fish cleaning time- which means more time to go fishing!

Let’s go over each step on how to fillet a Crappie (or any panfish species) with an electric fillet knife.

Here is what you need to get started:

  • Electric fillet knife
  • Cutting board
  • Fork
  • Gloves (optional but recommended)
  • Bowl or container for ready to eat fillets

Step 1: Make an Initial cut behind gill plate

Make your initial cut into the fish at the pectoral fin and behind the gill plate. The fish should be horizontal (head on the left & tail on the right) and your knife should be vertical.

Allow the electric fillet knife to cut through the meat and stop at the backbone or about halfway. Do not cut all the way through the fish.

How To Fillet Crappie With An Electric Knife
Step 1

Step 2: Turn the knife to 45-degree angle

Turn your electric fillet knife at a 45-degree angle toward the tail of the fish. This will align the knife blade along the backbone of the fish.

How To Fillet Crappie With An Electric Knife
Step 2

Step 3: Slide the knife along backbone toward the tail

While holding the head of the fish in one hand, glide the electric fillet knife down the backbone toward the tail of the fish.

*Tip* Let the electric fillet knife do the work, do not use a sawing action or force it; simply apply gliding pressure.

Your blade should bump along the backbone without cutting through and then exit at the tail.

How To Fillet Crappie With An Electric Knife
Step 3(a)
How To Fillet Crappie With An Electric Knife
Step 3(b)

Now you should have one side, or one filet of the fish with the skin on and ribs still attached. Here is what it should look like:

How To Fillet Crappie With An Electric Knife
Step 3(c)

Step 4: Remove the Rib Bones

Next, we need to remove the rib bones from our fillet.

To do this, use the tip of the electric fillet knife to glide just under the rib bones, and create a shallow “U” shape to carve out the bones.

*Tip* Before you begin cutting, use your fingers to feel the bones. This will help you identify the area to remove.

See Also: The 5 Best Crappie Lights For Night Fishing

How To Fillet Crappie With An Electric Knife
Step 4

Step 5: Remove the Skin

Now that we have a boneless fillet, we need to remove the skin. To do this, use a fork (upside down) to hold the small end of the fillet.

Take your electric fillet knife and gently cut into the meat and turn the blade at a downward 45-degree angle.

This part takes some practice, but once you get a feel for it you’ll be skinning fish in no time!

*Tip* Don’t push too hard, a gentle sliding motion will keep the blade from cutting through the skin; The goal is to glide your blade between the meat and the skin.

How To Fillet Crappie With An Electric Knife
Step 5(a)
How To Fillet Crappie With An Electric Knife
Step 5(b)

Step 6: Flip the fish over and repeat steps 1-5 on other side

Simply flip the fish over, and repeat the process on the other side. After you are done you should be left with two boneless, white, flaky meat fillets ready for your favorite recipe.

Discard the fish carcass and skin, and thoroughly rinse your fillets with cold water and pat dry before freezing or preparing.

Cleaned fish ready to cook and eat!
Voila! A mess of Crappie is ready for the fryer!


Looking for a recipe now that you have those delicious crappie fillets? Check out my article on 3 simple panfish recipes that work great with Crappie!

You May Also Like: Can You Eat Bluegill? A Guide to Catch, Clean & Cook.

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