I figured with all the questions on how to prep a shark within the various sections on here I’d give my 2 cents. I’m a catch and release kind of sharker, but I keep one or two males of the commonest species once in a while. I had a small (36 3/4” FL) blacktip die on my line last night, which bummed me out but made me realize I could use his unfortunate demise as a teaching tool.

There are numerous methods people espouse for cleaning and filleting sharks. The popular one is from a New Zealand kite surfing webpage, http://www.fishingkites.co.nz/articles/articlefive.htm, but I find it wasteful and it doesn’t tell you how best to cut fin rays and spines free from the finished trunk. As you get larger sharks this method wastes a good deal of available meat. As a person who prefers to not kill them, I like to use as much available meat as possible when I do keep one. So lets get started shall we?

You will need:
1 shark (pretty obvious)
cutting board
lemon juice (~1 qt for a 5 fter)
SHARP fillet knife
Sharpner (you will use this often)
kitchen counter (if your wife is asleep)


Start on the beach. As soon as you realize you want to keep the shark put it out of its misery. Many people just cut the sline whereever they can. The killing is best accomplished by cutting through the spine near the front of the gills. This will cause the shark to lose function in heart and gills. This is the difference between making it Christopher Reeves and actually killing it. Cutting up here will also aid in bleeding out the gills by cutting into them. Now run your knife along the base of the tail to sever the caudal artery and vein. You can cut the tail off but I worry about FL wardens claiming I’m finning sharks as by law all sharks must be maintained whole until you leave the jetty, beach, dock, etc. The shark’s slowing heart should now pump most of the blood out of its body via these two main venous systems. I then gut the shark and wash it in the waves until the tail and other gut cavity stops dripping copious blood. Put that bad boy on ice until you’re ready to head home


Once departing, depending on your shark’s size you can either cut the head free from the body just past the pectoral fins. If you have a larger shark (4.5 ft and up) you can take 2 cuts that run above the gills and end at the cartilaginous projections at the pectoral fins (superficial cuts are made in the picture to show general area of cuts). These cuts taste just like the rest of the fish, but most people throw them out. They can in a 4.5 ft shark provide a meal for 2 by themselves.


Next flip the shark over and feel the area near the anal fins. You can feel the cartilage that holds them together. Cut this away from the fish leaving you with a nice ready to fillet piece.


The easiest way to remove the spine and halve the fish is to make a cut down middle of the fish giving wide berth to the dorsal fins as shown. This will give you two pieces of shark, one with fins and spine and one ready to fillet.


Take the piece with the spine and fins and make an incision above and below the spine at a slight diagonal to meet on the other side of the fish mid spine. This sounds difficult but it’s easy to do since sharks only have the spine and there is nothing but muscle left on the fish by this point. When looking at the fins you will notice that there are vertical muscles and fibers near the trunks horizontal muscles. These are the fin rays and they are inedible. Just cut around the fin rays and you’ll have removed the fins leaving a piece of the shark that is ready for filleting like the other half.


Now segment your two fillets into portions you’d use for typical per person meals. Here this shark could be split into 3-4 portions (~1/3-1/2 lb) per side. A note, on 4ft and greater sharks face the shark gut cavity facing you and you’ll see a line that shows where belly muscles end and trunk muscles start (can see the line in pic 5). Cut a portion along this line for each 1/2 a shark. Unlike bony fishes which have bones and fatty deposits in their bellies, shark belly flaps taste like the rest of the fish. Sharks store all fat in the liver and lack bones making this area worth portioning and filleting. In a small shark, like the one shown, the belly is small enough to fillet with the rest of the trunk.


Next step is where some people make a mistake, they then set the fish down and fillet. This will not work since the shark’s meat has skin on three sides and it is difficult to get any good fillet knife action when you’re cutting in 3 dimensions. To solve this problem, simply cut down the fillet to create steaks with only skin on the one side. 
Then simply fillet the meat as you would for any other fish with one exception. With bony fish you tend to run the knife right along the skin to get the most meat possible. Doing this on a shark will result in gaining tons of red meat that tastes off as its full of blood, and hence urea. I tend to give myself 2-3 mm of room off the skin and fillet the skin free. This will provide you with mostly white fillets. There will be some redness, but this is unavoidable due to this muscle type being found within certain points of the body. Good news is you won’t notice it at all when eating as there is so little of it.


After getting my fillets I place them in a Tupperware dish and fill with 100% lemon juice (any brand will do as you see Wal Mart bargain juice works great) to just cover the fillets. I prefer numerous shallow dishes to use less juice and cover more shark. The duration of lemon juice soak depends on fillet size. The fillets picture range from 1/2” -3/4” and less than 7 min was sufficient. The thickest fillets I’ve done were 2 1/2” thick and I just over half covered them and gave them 8 min a side. Lemon juice is an acid which pulls the urea out of the flesh. People also buttermilk but I’m unclear about durations and amounts necessary. I prefer lemon juice because if done right it will leave a faint lemon vest to your fillets. One last word of warning, don’t keep the fillets in too long or the citrus acid will chemically cook the fillets. They’ll become shriveled and dry. However, this takes a while, so simply setting a timer and getting them out is sufficient.
After a soak pat them dry with paper towel and store in freezer bags however you see fit. I hope this helps answer questions about filleting a shark that I’ve seen asked. My method is fairly quick from bleeding to soaking time (this shark took me 15 min and yielded 5 lbs of meat) and wastes very little shark. Tight lines and I hope this helps everyone out.