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I have done them whole and just the sides and I perfer doing just the sides I think its easier to get a more uniform smoke/cook so to speak

Leave the skin on and I have even left the rib bones in. Its all picks apart nicely when done.

Oh BTW enjoy

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I agree with Gordie. I have done my share of sucker smoking and I just fillet each side with an electric knife. I then place in a brine of 1 cup pickling salt to one gallon of water for 24 hours. The I rinse them off and place them in the smoker. I make a baste of dissolved brown sugar and water and baste about 6 times through the smoking. I smoke them with oak for about 10 hours at 150 degrees F.

When they are done, I peel out the rib bones and slide the meat off the skin and gather all the smoked meat in a big bowl. I then hand it over to my mom (the king of pressure cooking) and she cans them up. Canning them makes the last without refrigeration and also dissolves all the annoying "y" bones. Too bad there is an actual spearing season on a rough fish that has a limit of 100 when they are open.

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Splitting fish down the backbone lets them fan open much better. An electric knife works well for this. That way they lay flat when you brine them or lay them on the rack in a smoker. If your smoker is big enough you can bend coat hangers into S hooks and hang them by the tail and they stay open. Hanging them also lets the smoke get to the topside better.

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