How To Clean A Fish After Catching It?

By Bryan ListorLast update: 2024-03-17

Cleaning a fish is a necessary skill that any fisherman should know. Before getting started, you'll need a clean workspace, a sink or faucet, and a very sharp fillet knife. Keep reading to learn more on how to clean a fish after catching it.

Kill and Scale the Fish

Smack And Kill The Fish

After catching a fish, hold the center of the fish's belly on a firm surface using your non-dominant hand, then hit the fish head with a blunt object to knock it unconscious.

Next, use a skewer or small knife to stab the fish brain by poking its head from behind, slightly above the eye. Move the skewer or knife in the fish's head to pierce its brain.

Although you can smack a fish in the head with a blunt object as many times as possible, poking its brain is considered the most humane method of killing.

Wash The Fish

How To Clean A Fish After Catching It?

Place the fish in a sink or fish plate, rub the body with cold water using both of your hands. Wash off slime, dirt, and debris from fish scales to prevent foreign bodies from getting into the flesh when you cut the fish.

If you're using a fish stand, be sure to put all the crumbs and guts in the blender and clean it up when you're done.

Wear rubber gloves if you want to keep your hands clean while cleaning the fish.

Cut Off Fish Fins

How To Clean A Fish After Catching It?

Although not required, removing the fish fins will make the rest easier.

Use your non-dominant hand to hold the tip of the fin straight up. Place the blade under the base of the fin and discard. Cut off any large fins that you think will interfere with the process of dissecting the fish.

Depending on the species of fish, the dorsal fins of the fish can be very long and difficult to remove. You should cut small sections along the length of the fin to make it easier.

Use any knife you have at hand, as long as it's sharp. But a flexible filleting knife is best because its thin blade won't crush the fish.

Scale The Fish

Place the fish in the spacious sink or fish worktop.

How To Clean A Fish After Catching It?

Grab the tail with your non-dominant hand and lift it slightly so that the fish's body is at a 45-degree angle. Hold a knife firmly in your dominant hand and scale the fish using the blade with long, powerful scraping motions.

Starting from the fish's tail, gradually scrape the scales towards the head. Flip the fish over and continue to scale the other side.

Wash the fish after scaling so that the flakes do not get into the belly.

If desired, you can scale the fish after dissecting it.

Tip: For fish with thick skin, use the sharp edge of the knife blade to scrape the scales, just be careful not to let the blade get into the flesh.

Slip The Knife Tip Into The Fish Cloaca

Place the fish face up on a cutting board. Tilt it at a 45-degree angle so that the head is facing away from you.

Place the blade towards the fish head, use the knife tip to make an incision into the fish anus, pressing it about 2.5 - 5 cm deep, depending on the fish size.

The fish cloaca is at the bottom of the belly.

The anus is a small hole located near the base of the tail and is usually in a different color from the rest.

Slit The Fish Belly Towards The Gills

Hold the knife firmly and cut up and down (about 1.5 cm each) when making an incision along the fish's belly. Keep doing that until there is about 2.5 - 5 cm left from the fish's mouth.

How To Clean A Fish After Catching It?

Try not to cut too deep into the fish belly. Otherwise, the fish intestines will be pierced and everything will be very slimy.

Cut through the fish throat and gills if you plan to discard the head.

Remove The Fish Guts

Open The Fish Belly & Remove The Heart And Intestines Of The Fish

Try not to tear the flesh. Open the fish belly to the sides as long as the opening is about 5 - 15 cm long. Reach near the fish head, use your thumb and index finger to gently pull the inner parts out. Run your hand towards the fishtail, slowly pull the intestines out.

Check the fish abdominal cavity and remove any remaining viscera.

Discard fish intestines in a trash bag. If using a fish stand, put them in the blender to process.

Tip: Fish gills and guts are relatively easy to remove without much resistance, and you won't need to cut anything with a knife.

Remove Fish Kidney

Some fish have a small kidney inside the spine in the middle. Look along the fish spine for a small bean-shaped organ. If the fish has a kidney, use a spoon to poke it out.

Wash The Fish

How To Clean A Fish After Catching It?

Hold the fish on its stomach in a sink or on a fishing table. Turn on the cold water and open the fish belly.

Let the water run all over the fish belly, and at the same time, use your hand or a spoon to rub the inside to remove any leftovers from the fish's internal organs and clean the fish flesh.

Wash it for at least one minute to make sure the entire belly is clean.


I hope that through this guide on how to clean a fish after catching it, you have got some extra tricks to do the task faster and easier. For more useful articles, please follow our blog, and don’t forget to share with me if you have some more tricks on cleaning a fish. I’d like to hear from you.

Related Articles