Blue Herring
Herring [Skipjack Shad; Alosa chrysochloris]

While most herring are found in cold ocean waters this one likes subtropical temperatures and ventures far up rivers, having been found as far north as Minnesota in the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. This fish can grow to 19 inches and 3-3/4 pounds, but the photo specimen, caught wild off Florida, was 9-1/2 inches and weighed 5 ounces.

More on the Herring Family

After filleting this fish and removing the ribs you'll find the fillets are still "prickly" with tiny spines. That's why herring is often pickled, which softens all those spines into edibility. Since it's a fairly strong flavored oily fish, it works well for pickles and marinades.

Fish in the 4 to 6 ounce range have too many tiny bones to deal with as a whole fish so they are usually filleted. A 5 ounce fish will yield about 2.3 oz of Fillet (46%). This fish is too strong and oily to use the head and bones for stock so discard them.

You have to fillet the fish quickly to make it worth the bother and this procedure works reasonably well.

  1. Scale the fish. It has a lot of large scales but they scrape off easily with a minimum of flying about.
  2. Clean the fish. You'll immediately notice you can't get your knife into the belly due to a hard keel and hard "scutes" covering it. Take your kitchen shears and cut off the entire keel from vent to jaw. Now clean the usual way but don't bother with the gills, the head will be discarded.
  3. Cut across the tail on both sides and make a cut on each side of the anal fin from the tail into the body cavity.
  4. Make a cut around the collar as usual and fillet this fish the "classic" way. Start at the head end with the knife crosswise to the fish and just run it down to the tail. Any other method will take too much time for such small fillets. Use your long nose pliers to remove ribs from the fillet.
  5. Once the ribs are removed you'll notice the fillet is still prickly with tiny spines. These just have to be pickled or cooked into softness - there's too many and they're too small to pick out.
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