How To Fillet Spanish Mackerel (And Get Rid Of The Fishy Taste)

By: Joseph Simonds on March 5, 2020
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how to fillet spanish mackerel

Want to learn how to fillet Spanish mackerel the easy way?

These fish often get a bad rap for tasting “fishy,” but if you do it right, you’ll be left with nice white fillets that are surprisingly delicious (especially as fish tacos).

Spanish mackerel can be tricky to properly clean because of their delicate skin and small scales, but in this video, you’ll learn:

  • How to fillet them and get the most meat possible
  • How to skin and debone them
  • The simple trick that takes a lot of the fishy taste out of them
  • What to do after you clean them to make sure they taste amazing

To learn how to clean Spanish mackerel, watch the video below.

How To Fillet Spanish Mackerel [VIDEO]

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Before you start cleaning your fish, it’s important to start with a sharp knife.

This will make your job cleaning them a lot easier.

Now let’s get into the steps.

Step 1: Fillet the fish

Cut the fish behind the pec fin, turn the blade, and slide it down towards the tail.

By keeping the knife close to the backbone, you’ll maximize the meat you get off of them.

Step 2: Cut the rib cage out

Once the fish are filleted, cut the rib cage out, but be sure to do so on an angle to leave more meat on the fillet.

Step 3: Skin the fillets

The key here is to keep the handle of the blade off of the edge of the table.

This will help the blade stay parallel and close to the skin, so you leave the most amount of meat on the fillet.

Another tip is to slightly angle the blade up so you don’t cut through the skin.

Step 4: Cut the bloodline out

When people complain of a “fishy” flavor, it’s mostly due to this bloodline, so if you cut it out you’ll have better-tasting fish.

Step 5: Cut into thirds to make fish fingers (optional)

Cutting the fillets into fish fingers makes cooking them very easy.

Step 6: Rinse off the fillets

It’s better to put saltwater fish in saltwater than freshwater, so toss the fillets in a bucket of saltwater as you wrap up filleting the rest of the fish.

Step 7: Bag them up!

If you’re traveling far, make sure to put the bags of fish on ice.


how to clean spanish mackerel

In case you were wondering, yes the fish tacos we made with these mackerel were delicious!

When you’re filleting Spanish mackerel, make sure to remove the rib cage, bloodline, and skin to get rid of the fishy taste.

Also, rinse them off in saltwater to preserve meat quality and keep them on ice if you’re not cooking them immediately.

Have any questions about filleting Spanish mackerel?

Let me know in the comments below!

And if you’re in the Florida Keys and you want to get on some mackerel with Capt. Hollywood and his crew, you can get in touch with them at

Know someone who needs to learn how to fillet Spanish mackerel? Please TAG or SHARE this with them!

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Matthew Brand
2 months ago

great advice as always. Thank you. Any tips on keeping your knife razor sharp?

James McKinney
2 months ago

Mackerel and Kings also makes great smoked fish. If smoking leave the skin on – you can still remove the blood line and if you smoke the fish on brown paper like butchers paper of a paper bag the skin will remain on the paper after smoked. Makes great fish dip. I brine mine over night and add a little brown sugar right before putting in the smoker. Fillets can be frozen until you have time or a big enough batch to make a smoker full.

Vincent C Ruggiero
2 months ago

My post is worthless because all it is is a huge compliment – it was a joy to watch and learn from you! [Ok here is one tip: talk even More (to offset that other silly post saying talk less 😜- I mean, wtheck?!?!]

2 months ago

he did a very fast and good job on how to clean them. on you tube i asked what kind of knife he uses as that was supper sharp and i want one. thanks for sharing this video.

2 months ago

Way too much talking

Richard Fiorentino
2 months ago

Great Video ! you should have filmed the eating at the Restaurant.

Richard Fiorentino
2 months ago
Reply to  Joseph Simonds


Thomas Herzog
2 months ago

Another great video. I would love for the Salt Strong brothers to put together an entire course on the best ways to prepare all different types of fish. Everything from proper storage, how best to filet that particular species, and a few recipes for each all in one location.

Thomas Manley
2 months ago

This was a great demonstration of how to fillet the macks but, I would have like it much better if he would cut the carcasses up when throwing in the water due to the Pelicans can choke on them and get them caught in the throat. We always cut the heads off separately from the body so that the head will usually sink and go the fish below. Thanks

john simkunas
john simkunas
2 months ago

awesome video Hollywood !!! love the skinning trick

Pedro Carrillo
2 months ago

Captain, surprised that you fed the pelicans.comment image

Thomas Manley
2 months ago
Reply to  Pedro Carrillo

Sorry Pedro….I didn’t see your response before posting mine.

Roger Bonifield
2 months ago

I’m new to Florida and just got my first Spanish last week. Even though I saw this video after the fact, I didn’t mess up too badly, but definitely learned a couple tricks. Thanks for the great video. Now I will do better the next time.
Still have a couple questions. I was told you should never freeze Spanish mackerel. Always best eaten fresh. How true is that?
Also told that because they are an oily fish, they should be broiled, not fried. I fried mine, and they were pretty good however.

Thomas Manley
2 months ago

They are good fried/Broiled but NOT Baked. When you freeze them, they tend to get mushy and not fit to eat. I heard some people freeze them in water but, I would rather have them fresh for a meal for sure.

Argelio Marin
2 months ago

Great video by Captain Mark Hollywood Johnson. I would only add my secret method removing all the blood from the fish. This of course makes the fish taste better. Right after you catch the fish and it’s still alive cut its throat and throw them in a bucket of sea water. Let the fish bleed out in the water and change the water when it gets to red. When you have clear water put the fish on ice. It doesn’t take much to do this and you will see how much better your fish taste.

John Kaplan
2 months ago

Such a great video! The “blade off the table” is a great tip! Also just cutting out the blood was also insightful. I spend way too much time trying to get that bone line out like a surgeon. Waste of time and only preserving the nasty bloodline. Thank you!

Steve Anderson
2 months ago

Outstanding video Hollywood. I try for the same result but using your technique should greatly improve my results. One thing I do with most fish is bleed them in a bucket before putting them in the cooler to limit the amount of blood when I fillet them.
Keep up the videos, always excellent!

Argelio Marin
2 months ago
Reply to  Steve Anderson

I just suggested the same thing. I guess I should have read your reply. Oh well repetition is the best form of flattery isn’t it. Tight lines

Steve Anderson
2 months ago
Reply to  Argelio Marin

Thumbs up!

Robert Peck
2 months ago

This is one fine toutorial on filleting Spanish mackerel..It shows me how much I don’t know…TU

Ron Vahey
3 months ago

Question. Since I don’t get to the water as much as most members, being up in the Atlanta area, a number of you say to “bleed the fish as soon as possible” then into a salt water slurry. I have seen it done with flounder by cutting the gills. Is that the proper way to do it on all salt water species? Thanks in advance for the information. Anything to keep the catch tasting good is what I need to learn to do!

Ron Vahey
3 months ago

Really nice job on the explanation and showing the proper technique! There are more fisherman out here that don’t know the best way to maximize their catch by cleaning the best way. I have been one of them. Salt Strong is changing that!!! If you all would keep showing “how to do it properly” with different species, we will all eat better! Thanks for sharing. Keep up the excellent videos, tips and educating us while we are not out on the water!

Tom Watts
3 months ago

Great ideas that I have heard some before. But you put it all together. The best on Spanish I have ever heard/seen. Thank you, Tom Watts, Naples, Fl.

Glenn Acomb
3 months ago

Excellent video. Spanish are one species that I tend to cut up poorly and loose good meat. This video was very helpful. Another idea for a short video would be to talk about/show how to keep fish freshest in the boat cooler and maybe make it part of this one. Good job!

Thom Ray
3 months ago

I’m ordering an AFTCO knife right now. So should you Luke !

The rest is very well stated in this tutorial.
The rest is very well stated in this tutorial.
3 months ago

Bleed fish and put in salt water slurry ASAP

The rest is very well stated in this tutorial.
The rest is very well stated in this tutorial.
3 months ago

First step ,Most importantly.!

Bleed the fish immediately after catching,
than ice them in a salt water slurry .

The rest is very well stated in this tutorial.

2 months ago

Fishing in Hatteras with a old man that was a Spanish Makeral fisherman we never skinned Spanish. WE filed and then lay the filet skin side down and cut down the blood line with an inverted V angle. Using light presure the knife will not cut through the skin. Pick up the inverted V section with your fingers and pull it out. This removes a row of horizontal bones and the blood line or red meat. Cut out the rib cage and fry. You have two rows of meat that you eat off the skin. Skin is not eaten. This was so fast you could go through 100 fish in no time.