Cleaning and Preparing Australian Salmon
  |  First Published: July 2006

Australian salmon are one of the best sportfish available to Victorian anglers. Unfortunately, this is where the attraction ends for most of us because they aren’t the best fish to eat.

Over the years I’ve found one method of cooking salmon that produces superb results – smoking – but correct preparation of fillets is a must. Here’s how I do it.

Step 1

Bleeding salmon you intend to keep is vital. The quickest and most effective way of doing this is by cutting through the tissue beneath the gills then, if possible, keeping the fish upside down in a vertical position to let the blood drain out.

This is easy to do when surf fishing because you can stick the fish into the sand headfirst and buried to just above the pectoral fins. It’s a bit trickier on a boat, but I’ve seen some blokes tie a piece of mono around the tail and then hang the fish over the side.

Step 2

Take a fillet off both sides of the salmon.

Step 3

Next, remove the rib cage. The best way to do this is to find the last rib towards the tail end of the fillet, then run the edge of the knife under it and back towards the head end of the fillet.

Try to take as little flesh off the fillet as possible.

Step 4

Now remove the bones that run down the lateral line. Do this by locating the bones with your fingers, then making an incision on either side of them so that the two incisions create a ‘V’ shape.

These bones generally run about 3/4 of the way down the fillet so if you make long enough incisions you should be able to cut all of them out in one go.

Step 5

I hate scaling any sort of fish. I find it much quicker and less messy to skin fillets instead.

To skin any sort of fish fillet you must have a sharp knife. If you can’t work up a decent edge on your current filleting knife then do yourself a favour; get rid of it and buy a good quality one.

In this article I’ve used a filleting knife from Frosts. Its blade is made from high carbon steel and holds its edge brilliantly. With a little work on a fine sharpening stone it can be made razor sharp – and I mean razor sharp. This really makes filleting a breeze and maximises the yield of flesh because it works so much more effectively.

I normally start at the tail end of the fillet and work along in a smooth action towards the head end of the fillet. To ensure you leave as little flesh as possible on the skin, run the edge of the knife at a slight angle downwards during this step.

Step 6

A quick rinse, then wipe down with paper towel and they’re ready to cook or should I say smoke!


Smoking Salmon

From my experience, there really is only one way to prepare salmon for eating – smoking.

Smokers are relatively inexpensive. Mine cost around $80 but there are ones available for half that.

I use about half a cup of methylated spirits as fuel and a couple of tablespoons of sawdust to produce the smoke.

Fillets take about 20 minutes to cook.

Salmon’s oily texture makes them ideal for smoking because it prevents the flesh from drying out while cooking. Believe it or not, smoked salmon is also really nice served cold. I’ve even had it in sandwiches!


Salmon Facts

There are 2 sub species: eastern and western Australian salmon.

The western variety is the larger of the 2 sub species and ranges in distribution from Western Australia to southern NSW.

The eastern variety is distributed from southern Queensland to Port Phillip Bay in Victoria.

The 2 species overlap in distribution in Victorian waters.

Juvenile fish are often referred to as ‘bay trout’ and have more spots along their lateral line than adult fish do.

Adult fish develop a striking green colour above the lateral line as they mature.

Spawning occurs in April and May.

Australian salmon have no teeth.

They can grow to in excess of 9kg or 20lb.

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10. Smoking fish, whether they are Australian salmon or freshwater trout, is a delicious alternative to baking or frying.

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