Beginner’s Guide to Cleaning a Fish

While catching your first fish can be a thrilling experience, learning how to prepare and cook it afterward can be just as rewarding. And while cleaning a fish is a simple process, it seems to be an under-discussed subject when the topic of fishing comes up. If you intend on cooking your next big catch, here are a few useful tips below on how to correctly clean a fish.

1. Gather All Necessary Tools

Before you begin to clean your fish, make sure that you have all of the required tools to ensure a smooth cleaning process. These resources include a sharp knife, a spoon, a flat surface, a container for the entrails, water to rinse, and storage bags for preserving the fish (if not cooked immediately).

2. Gut From Bottom to Top

Once you’ve found and cleaned a flat surface, take a sharp knife and place it into the anus of the fish, which can be found on its underside towards the tail. Then, begin to cut towards the head and stop when you reach the base of the gills. You should be able to see all of the entrails inside the fish once you’re done and able to open it.

3. Remove the Entrails

Next, remove everything from within the fish and place it in a container to dispose of later. If the fish has a kidney near its backbone, scoop it out by using a spoon. If you find that the inside of the fish is dark, make sure to scrape off all the tissue, as it might cause an unpleasant flavor when cooking the meat.

4. Scale, Skin, and Fillet

If you want to scale your fish, you can begin by grabbing it by the head. Then use a scaling tool, spoon, or knife to drag the tool from the tail of the fish towards the head until all of the scales are removed.

Skinning your fish involves removing the spine and making an incision behind the head and on the pectoral fins. After making the cuts, you’ll need to grab the head and pull the skin towards the tail until it separates from the fish.

If you choose to fillet your fish, you won’t need to scale it. Instead, start by placing your knife near the pectoral fin and cutting towards the tail without cutting the backbone. Once you’ve made your way through the tail, place the scales facing down on your flat surface and separate the meat of the fish from the skin using your knife.

5. Rinse Inside and Out

After you’ve finished the steps listed above, rinse the inside and outside of your fish with a generous amount of flowing water. And once you’ve thrown away the entrails and cleaned up your station, you’ve successfully cleaned a fish and are ready to cook a tasty meal!