There’s nothing like catching a mess of speckled trout, especially when the action is fast and furious and they’re flying over the gunnels as fast as you can get your bait in the water.
The end result of your efforts — hopefully — is a big box of fish to clean.
That’s always a good problem to have, but for a guide like Capt. Tommy Pellegrin with Custom Charters in Houma, La. — who often has to clean several limits of fish for his customers every day — the proper cleaning setup is key for speed and to maintain the fillets’ freshness.
He often takes his day’s catch to Bait House Seafood on Highway 56 in Chauvin, where owners Samantha and O’Neal Sevin have a unique fish-cleaning table that Pellegrin said helps keep his customers’ catch as fresh as possible.
The key to the system is a ramp at the edge of the metal table leading to a 5-gallon bucket filled with ice and water. Pellegrin uses a portable cutting board and an electric knife to make short work of the specks, expertly separating the fillets from the carcass of the fish.
“When I’m cleaning the fish and I get the meat off, the fillets slide into the bucket of water that’s very, very cold,” Pellegrin said. “So it rinses the fillets and keeps them cold while I’m cleaning all the fish.
“You’re not putting them in a big pile that’s sitting out in the heat.”
And with the ramp, there’s no wasted motion: Pellegrin flicks the fillets off the cutting board with the blade of his electric knife, and they simply slide down into the icy bucket.
He doesn’t have to stop or try to grab the fillet with his fingers — and that time saved adds up when you have 50 or 100 trout to clean every day.
Plus, the fillets aren’t the only thing staying cold: When Pellegrin first puts the catch onto the cleaning table from his KYSEK cooler, he shovels several scoops of ice on top of those fish, too.
“The fish on the table also get covered in ice,” Pellegrin said. “All of these steps keep the fish at a premium. For me, people come and spend money, and they want quality.
“They don’t want to bring home a pile of mush, so you want to take care of everything.”
Once he finishes cleaning the fish, he rinses off the now ice-cold fillets, bags them up and hands them off to his customers to put in their ice chests for the ride home.
“All the fillets stay premium quality,” he said. “It’s very important to keep your fish as cold as possible.”