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A plug for good knives.

Some 20 years ago I was introduced to one of my best mechanical pals--the electric knife. Sadly, that one has long since expired, but its descendents serve me well. Without them, I could not have become quite as lazy as I am today, or nearly as confident when I step up to a cleaning table.

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Yes, indeed. An electric knife is a great boon to fishermankind, no matter how many--or how few-=fish need to be cleaned. This buzzing gadget can convert a mess of bluegills or grunts into a pile of tender little fillets in a fraction of the time it would take with muscle-power and the sharpest ordinary knife. And when it comes to slicing the sides off larger fish, an electric knife not only can spare you a great deal of effort, but might actually save you from injury. How? Well. none of us likes to admit it, but those of us who have filleted a lot offish have all been stabbed by sharp dorsal spines. Such wounds usually result from slippage while laboring to shove a fixed blade through resistant rib bones. They are always painful and sometimes cause infection.

The obvious drawback to an electric knife is that it refuses to work unless it can find a handy source of electricity. That problem, however, is more imagined than real, inasmuch as the majority of popular fish camps and marinas now provide cleaning stations with handy power outlets. And some electric knife models don't even need a wall plug at all, instead drawing their power from a 12-volt connection or from a built-in rechargeable battery. My current knife--no pun intended--is sort of a jack-of-all-power that works with either household or 12-volt current. It can get its 12-volt power either from a cigarette lighter, or by clamping to a car or boat battery.

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As for the rechargeable type, I have never owned one and probably never will, owing to a personal prejudice based on unhappy past experiences with rechargeable weed cutters, drills and hedge trimmers. They always seemed to conk out half!! way through a task. I'll grant, though, that a fully charged, cordless knife would likely handle most catches with power to spare. And the absence of a cord definitely allows more freedom of movement, whether you're cleaning your fish afield or at home.

In order to efficiently fillet and skin your fish with an electric knife, the only "trick" you have to learn is restraint. Forget pushing and sawing. All you need do is maintain the correct angle, keep your finger on the trigger and guide the blade. The knife will do all the work. Remember that and don't get too physical or you might end up with two fish halves instead of two fillets. The knife can slice through backbone as easily as butter, so concentrate on keeping it in position and moving in the chosen direction.

The basic filleting procedure is the same as with a fixed blade. First you make a vertical cut down to the backbone, just behind the pectoral (side) fin. Next, you carefully turn the cutting edge toward the tail and, with the blade resting flat against the spine, gently guide it along until the fillet is detached.

Skinning, too, is just the old familiar procedure made easier. While holding or pinning the tail end of the fillet, you work the blade between skin and flesh. Then, keeping the blade flat, you move the knife forward, slowly and steadily, until the skin is separated from the good part. The last step is to cut completely around the rib cage and remove it.

Standard blade length for electric fish knives is six inches. If your catches frequently run bigger than that, all the popular models offer nine-inch blades, either as an accessory or as part of a complete kit.

VIC DUNAWAY, Senior Editor
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Title Annotation:Sportsman's Kitchen
Author:Dunaway, Vic
Publication:Florida Sportsman
Article Type:Viewpoint essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2009
Words:647
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