How To Clean a Fish

Catching a fish, either big or small, excites us all, but do you know how to clean fish to eat and enjoy fresh fillets? Not everyone knows and enjoys cleaning fish because it is a bit messy task, but a true fisher should definitely know how to clean a fish. And once you start fish cleaning on your own, you will feel how much satisfying it really is. 

It would be best to clean and gut a fish within a few hours after you catch it. Leaving the fish to dry for more than 2 hours after catching it might spoil the meat with smells and bad taste. However, you can also keep the fish alive in a bucket of water or keep it cold in an ice bucket until you are ready to clean it. 

There are a few simple steps that you need to follow for cleaning fish in a short time. These steps will help you master this skill even if you are a beginner. Let’s look into these easy steps of how to clean a fish, 

  1. Bleed fish 
  2. Descale fish
  3. Gut fish
fish on ice before cleaning

How to Clean Fish Before Cooking?

Before you start cleaning a fish, you need to collect some supplies, including a sharp filleting knife, a butter knife, a dull spoon, a bucket of ice, a cutting board or any flat surface, and some newspapers or an empty bucket to discard scales and fish guts. Follow this basic guide on how to clean a fish to become the unbeatable fish cleaner in your family and friend’s group.

How to Bleed Fish?

Bleeding fish is very necessary to make a flavourful fish fillet or steaks. You can effortlessly do fish bleed in the following few steps, 

  • Take a sharp knife and hold the fish in your non-dominant hand while keeping its belly away from you. 
  • Identify the strongest artery near the gills and insert the knife between the gills right above that artery. 
  • Now, cut the artery by passing the knife through the base of the gills.
  • Put the fish in the ice bucket as soon as it starts bleeding. 
  • Leave it there for some good amount of time to let it bleed. Meanwhile, you can collect your accessories for scaling and gutting fish. 

When you see the meat is pink or white, it means the fish has bled completely. You can also watch this video for bleeding fish.

YouTube video

How to Descale Fish? 

These simple steps will make scaling a fish a piece of cake for you. Before you start, the first step is to rinse the fish with water to remove the oily layer and blood on it. Dry it by patting it with a paper towel. Now, you can start descaling fish,

  • Place Fish on Newspaper: Put the fish on a flat surface/cutting board placed on a layer of newspapers.
  • Hold the Fish With Firm Grip; Hold the fishtail tightly with your hand. And if you have a fish fork, you can also use it to keep the fish in place by inserting it into the meat near the tail. 
  • Remove Scales With a Spoon: Now, take a spoon or the dull edge of a butter knife and start scraping off the scales in the opposite direction. Use small strokes when sliding the knife from the tail towards the head. 
  • Repeat on Other Side: When you are done scaling on one side, use the same method on the other side as well. 
  • Rinse the Fish: Now, rinse the fish with flowing water to remove any leftover scales while slowly moving your fingers on the fish’s torso to feel if there are any scales left. If yes, then remove them using the same process. 
  • Discard the Scales: Clean the cutting board and discard the newspapers with all the scales in them. 

Now, you are only a single step away from knowing the complete process of cleaning fish to eat delicious fillets, and this step is gutting a fish.

How to Gut and Clean a Fish?

Gutting fish is actually equal to cleaning fish because it is the most important step for cleaning fish on a boat or in your home kitchen. If you don’t know how to gut a fish, then these easy steps will surely help you answer your question: how to clean a fish.

Choose the Sharpest Fillet Knife:

Hold a very sharp and best fillet knife in your dominant hand to remove the fish guts. 

Hold the Fish in Place:

Lay the fish on the cutting board with the belly towards you and your other hand on the fish torso to prevent it from moving or slipping. 

Cut Near the Anal Opening:

Now insert the tip of the knife blade closer to the anal opening, which is very near the tail. 

Start Cutting Towards the Head:

Start sliding the knife from the insertion point towards the head and stopping by the gills. Ensure to not cut very deep into the meat to avoid damaging the intestines with your sharp knife. It is because damaged intestines will create more of a mess and make cleaning fish difficult for you. 

Remove Guts:

After making this cut, open the fish and remove everything you see, including intestines, kidneys, and eggs(if present). Do not forget to remove the dark blood vessel because it will spoil the fish with extra oil and a strong smell when you cook it. You can remove all these innards with your fingers (maybe while wearing a glove) or with a dull spoon. 

Remove Anus:

Cut a V-shaped incision to remove the anus. 

Discard the Wastes:

Collect all these guts in a small bucket and discard them later if you are on a boat and fish cleaning in the middle of the ocean. And now you have a clean fish to eat after cooking.

Rinse the Fish:

Now, carefully rinse the fish very well under running water to remove any blood and veins leftovers. 

YouTube video

Although this step is not included in gutting fish, this is the last step of our guide on how to clean a fish. Remove any fins by tightly holding them while applying pressure towards the head, and this way, tearing them off the fish. Or, if you have scissors around, cut the fins off with them. Also, chop the head off the fish by cutting it exactly from the gills, or you can keep it if you are cleaning a trout and planning to cook it with its head. 

We know we said that this was the last step, but there are still a few steps left which are,

Cook fish! Eat it! Enjoy it! 

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Cleaning fresh fish is very important to make and enjoy freshly made fillets. And we hope that we were able to convey an easy method to you for how to clean a fish. The above method will take a maximum of twenty minutes, and once you master it, you will be able to pull it in less than fifteen minutes. Please ensure your safety while cleaning fish by wearing cut-resistant gloves and keeping your other hand always out of the sharp knife’s way.

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