How To Clean A Fish: Detailed Guide

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How To Clean A Fish

Wondering how to clean a fish? Cleaning a fish can be messy, but it’s not as difficult as you think. After you’ve done a great job at the pond, the next step is for you to clean the fish you’ve caught. 

I understand that many times, we may be tired of the stressful job at the pond or even in the market, but this step is very important and can prevent us from liver damage. 

So if you are a fisherman or a cook, I congratulate you for coming to this place of solution. Because in this guide, I’ll explain the important steps and things you need to clean a Fish, I’ll also give you the important tips you need to do the job neatly. Are you ready? Let’s get started! 

What You Need

To clean your Fish, you’ll need a: 

  • Clean cutting board to cut your fish
  • Sharp knife or fish scaler to remove the scales 
  • Clean running water to rinse your fish
  • Bucket to collect your fish scales or guts 
  • Cloth or paper towels to dry your fish after rinsing 
  • Gloves to protect your hands from fishy odors and sharp teeth (optional)
  • Detergents to wash your knife and cutting board after use 
  • Ice bucket to prevent your fish after cleaning
  • Disposable bag to dispose of the intestines and other waste 
  • Fresh Fish

How Long Can You Keep Fresh Fish Before Cleaning It?

Personally, I always prefer to clean my fish within an hour or two of catching it. However, anytime I am really tired after a long-term trip, I might have to store it by freezing it for just one day. 

To keep things right, it’s better you keep your fresh fish for just one hour or two before cleaning it. If you have to go any longer, make sure to keep your fish alive in water or place dead fish on ice. 

I am saying this because these fish are just like other stuff that lose their quality taste over time, so the earlier the better. 

However, if you are planning to fish for several days, it will be good that you take everything you need for your fish cleaning with you. I mean things like the refrigerator, sharp knife, and other tools we mentioned earlier.

The purpose of the refrigerator is to keep and preserve all your fish for up to 24 hours, so that after 24 hours of fishing, you can start to clean them batch by batch. 

Cleaning a Fish

  1. To begin, rest the fish on the table or cutting board
  2. Insert the knife tip into the fish’s belly near the anal opening and move the blade up along the belly, cutting to the fish’shead
  3. Keep the knife blade shallow so you don’t puncture the intestines
  4. Spread the body open and remove all of the entrails
  5. Locate the fish’s anus and cut it out in a “V” or notch shape
  6. Some fish have a kidney by the backbone. Remove it by scraping it out with a spoon or a dull knife
  7. Rinse the cavity out with a good stream of cool water and wash the skin
  8. Some fish have a dark tissue lining the abdominal cavity that can be scraped off to prevent a strong, oily flavor
  9. Remove the fish’s head if you like, trout are often cooked with the head on
  10. Clean your fish-cleaning table immediately, collect the guts, heads, and scales, and discard them properly
  11. Your clean fish is now ready to be cooked

How to Scale a Fish

Scaling a fish is an interesting process and I promise you that by following these steps, you can learn how I easily scale a fish: 

  1. Rinse the fish with cold running water to loosen the scales.
  2. Rest the fish on some newspaper to avoid messing up your place.
  3. Grab the fish by its tail and scrape away the scales with the blunt edge of your knife.
  4. Repeat step one by rinsing the fish to remove any remaining scales.
  5. Turn the fish over and repeat steps one to four. 
  6. Move your finger against the grain of the fish to make sure that all the scales have been removed.

For a better explanation of the steps above, kindly click on the link below: 

How to Gut a Fish

Snytime you wish to cook or smoke a whole fish, or when you want to fillet a fish, it is best to gut the fish first.

You can gut a fish by following the simple steps below: 

  1. Fix your knife just in front of the anal fin.
  2. Slice the fish all the way up to the jawbone.
  3. Use your hand to remove the guts.
  4. Clean the gut cavity with water to get rid of blood and you’ve got yourself a gutted fish. 

To learn more about gutting a fish, click on the link below:

How to Fillet a Fish

When filleting a whole fish, it is essential that you use a sharp knife and a fish filleting knife. Round Fish and flatfish are the two types of Fish you can fillet. 

To learn how to fillet a flatfish, follow the steps below: 

  1. Remove the head by slicing the skin with a sharp knife.
  2. Use a fish filleting knife to cut down the central line until you come in contact with bone. 
  3. Rest the knife on the backbone and draw it down, repeat this until you begin to get underneath the fillet.
  4. Separate the fillet from the bone, then turn the fish over and repeat until you have four fillets.

To learn how to fillet a round fish, follow the steps below: 

  1. Cut the fish at an angle that’s from the gill top to the belly.  
  2. Use a fillet knife to cut the fish from the dorsal fin to the dorsal fin to the tail. 
  3. Free the skillet by skimming the knife over the bones. 

To watch the practical process of filleting a fish, click on the link below: 

How to Steak a Fish 

A Fish steak is also called a Fish cutlet and it is a cut of fish that is at a right angle to the spine and may include the bones. To learn how to steak a fish, follow the steps below:

  1. Place the filleting knife on the gill of the fish behind the pectoral fin.
  2. Hit the back of your filleting knife with a wooden stick.
  3. Continue slicing the fish with the knife until the head is detached.
  4. Put the knife just above the spine and start cutting towards the tail.
  5. Repeat the same process until you feel that the steaks are getting small. 
  6. Use the steak for a delicious soup.

To learn more about how to steak a fish, click on the link below: 

Tips and Warnings

There are some general tips that every fish cleaner must have at the back of their mind. These general tips are what have made me a lot better when I clean a fish today and here are some of them: 

  1. Don’t clean a fish with your bare hands so as to avoid unnecessary odor
  2. Put your fish in a sieve after washing, this will help you drain all the water left
  3. Wash your hands with soap and water to free yourself from blood stains.
  4. Season the fish with salt to preserve it for 5 minutes
  5. Boil them immediately to prevent butterflies from gaining access 
Photo of author


If it has fins, John has probably tried to catch it from a kayak. You can find John fishing from the rivers of Bosnia to the Coast of Croatia anytime he's not camping, hiking, or hunting.

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