Although consistently finding and fooling brilliant game fish is enjoyable in its own right, another reward comes at the end of the day when you finally get a chance to sample the fruits of your labor. But only with proper care and cleaning techniques will you be able to create wonderful seafood dishes. There’s nothing quite better than fresh wahoo, but the way you prepare the firm white flesh is critical. The question is are you going to steak or fillet your fish?
Before we get ahead of ourselves there are three requirements for an impeccable final product. You spent a great amount of time and effort to find and fool the fish, so why jeopardize the meat by not taking great care of it? The first requirement is icing your catch immediately after it is boated. Even better, a saltwater slush will drop the temperature even more since saltwater freezes at lower temperatures. The second necessity is a stable and clean surface to clean your catch, and the most important part of the equation is a quality set of fillet knives and sharpening tools.
Cleaning fish can be both dangerous and time consuming without the proper tools. Choosing the proper knife for the job can be a daunting task, as most fish are shaped different and not all fillet knives are created equal. Rapala, Forschner and Dexter Russell are certainly trusted brands, with the Teflon coated Bubba Blade quickly gaining market share. As a basic starting point you’ll want to get at least two knives. One should be an all around fillet knife with a long, thin and flexible blade. The second knife you need in your arsenal is a cimenter or breaking knife. A cimenter has a longer blade and is much stiffer than a typical fillet knife. Some feature smooth blades for all around performance, while others feature serrated blades for enhanced bone cutting power. Without the proper tools you risk wasting precious meat and personal injury.
While some prefer wahoo fillets, many choose to steak wahoo to keep the firm oceanic tenderloins intact. It’s best to steak smaller fish to 30 pounds in an effort to get maximum yield. Start preparing your wahoo by thoroughly washing the slime off the fish. You should also run the blade of your knife along the skin to remove the small scales. Wahoo slime is nasty stuff and will taint your meat so be sure to rinse the fish off thoroughly before cutting. Now it’s time to take a sharp knife or shears and remove the anal fins and finlets. You also want to remove the dorsal fin.
Next, take your knife and make a long incision from the anal cavity to the fish’s chin, directly down the center of the belly. Remove the stomach contents, entrails and clean thoroughly. You can use a rag to scrub the stomach cavity while aggressively rinsing it out with a hose. Now grab your cimenter or steak knife and begin cutting through your fish starting just behind the gill plate, working your way toward the tail. Keep your steaks around 1.5 inches thick for the best results. When you get toward the tail and the steaks become too small you can transition and fillet the remainder of the fish. Many anglers like wahoo steaks because they hold up great on the grill, but some choose to take it one step further. With a sharp paring knife you can slice out the individual loins for the most succulent meat you’ve ever tasted. Wrap the loins in bacon before grilling and thank us later.
Wahoo is phenomenal sashimi style, but you can’t eat all of your fish raw. Whether you choose to grill, bake, broil, or sauté your wahoo steaks it is important you don’t overcook the tender fish or it will dry out and lose its delicate flavor.
With regular use even the highest quality knives dull—especially if you’re cutting bone. There’s simply no way to avoid it, so you need to be keen with a sharpening stone and the proper sharpening technique. Most stones are two sided and feature varying textures. The coarse texture should be used first, while the finer side is used to polish the blade. Lubricate with water and starting at the heel, place the blade at a 20-degree angle and draw the knife down the stone in a single motion. Use the same motion over and over again. A shallower angle will result in a sharper yet weaker edge, while a steeper angle will give your blade more durability but less cutting power. Alternate sides of the knife to make the edge straight and balanced. Complete the process by flipping over the stone and polishing the edge.
Keeping Knives Sharp
When using a sharpening stone you’re effectively reshaping the cutting edge by grinding away the blade, which is a great way to sharpen a knife but can leave the blade’s edge rough and uneven. The alternative to a sharpening stone is a sharpening steel. By running your blade down the side of the steel at approximately the same 20-degree angle, it actually flattens and realigns minute teeth on the blade, which results in a fresh, sharp edge.