Capt. Scott Goodwin shares his method to clean cobia and most other large-bodied fish.
First step is to make a cut behind the head/gills area. Cut downward until you touch the spine.
Then I move to the tail and start making an incision up the back. I’m only cutting an inch deep on this pass.
Cut along the back, just above the fins, until you reach your first cut by the gill. Your basically just cutting the skin at this point.
Now go back to the head and do the same shallow cut along the belly side. I leave the bottom of the belly intact and use that piece for strip baits.
Now cut the entire lower side until you meet the cut at the tail. You will have cut the skin 360 degrees.
As I near the tip of the tail, I poke my knife all of the way across creating a loose flap. I push the knife through the skin a couple inches from the end to make a finger hole for later steps.
Now continue cutting the meat free from the skeleton by letting your knife tip ride along the bones as a guide. Do this all the way around the fillet. The goal is to have the meat free, except for right on top of the spine. (Yes this pict was from the second side)
Now flip the fish over and repeat. By leaving the opposite fillet on the fish, the carcass lays flat and makes cutting the second side much easier.
Follow the same line down the back and belly until the meat is only hanging by the center strip.
In this shot you can see the line I cut stays above the belly skin. I use it for strip baits later and there is hardly any meat at the bottom.
Don’t forget the finger hole on this side and now its time to use it.
Using the finger hole to put upward pressure, cut the meat on top of the spine to seperate the meat from the last point of attachment.
You will cut through some bones over the ribs, but they will be removed in the next steps.
Do this for both sides and then cut the belly flap free for future bait. Salt the belly and feeze for awesome strip baits.
Now cut the rib pocket away using an angle with your knife to save the meat on the underside. Some people like to cook the rib bones and I love to give them to those people.
On big fish, I skin the meat one chunk at a time. It takes some practice, but if you let your knife ride above the skin about an eighth of an inch or so, you will leave the red layer of fishy-tasting meat on the skin. I cut and trim the chunk of fish on top of the skin so the meat never touches the less-than-sterile cleaning table.
Now flip the chunk of fish over and cut the red center meat out following the curved shape of the red. This will also remove the bones in the upper portion of the fillet.
Now you are left with fully trimmed ready to eat chunks of meat. We toss them in a bucket of ice water to rinse and keep them cold while we continue to cut in the Florida heat. This is the same method I use for big dolphin (dorado), wahoo, tuna and more.
Here is a quick tip to keep track of which fish is which till you get home for processing.