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Knowing how to clean a fish is a lifesaving technique that can play a huge role during emergencies. The process is easy and can help ensure that you have enough to eat in your survival food supply. Let’s discuss how to clean a fish as well as how to gut and fillet them.

How to Clean a Fish

For the process to be smooth, you’ll want to use the right equipment, even if you have to search a bit for them. Your tools should include:

  • One bucket
  • Newspaper
  • One sharp fillet knife
  • One cooler box with ice packs
  • A scaling tool
  • A platter
  • A hose
  • Disposable gloves

Preparing for the Cleaning Process

The fish cleaning process should be done as soon as possible once you catch a fish. They is quite delicate and can go bad within a short time. You may want to keep your fish on ice or in water if you are not yet ready to gut it.

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What You Should Know Before Cleaning Fish

Cleaning a fish can be a messy process which is why many people choose to do it outdoors. If you want to clean fish during emergencies in a state park, if you search it’s likely you’ll find a cleaning station with water around. If there isn’t, identify, or place a table outdoors, and line it with some newspaper.

Make sure there’s clean, running water close by before you start cleaning a trout. This will help you rinse it off thoroughly. You’ll also need to clean your station well after the process.

Understand your fishing area to establish the safety of the fish. It’s important to note that some waters are polluted with heavy metals which fish can absorb. Also, be aware of the fishing rules in your state in advance. Once your fish is cleaned and filleted, you can either store it inside the cooler box or proceed to cook it.

Remember that fish fins are sharp and can prick your skin. Exercise caution during the cleaning and gutting process. Be familiar with the gutting fish process before you can go ahead with it.

Some fish come with sharp teeth which can cause harm – especially if you hold them by the head during the cleaning process. Additionally, some fish species have a strong flavor and lots of bones making them difficult and dangerous to consume. You may want to avoid them when possible.

Fish Cleaning Video

How to Gut a Fish in 6 Steps

Whether you will be filleting your fish or cooking it whole, you must know how to clean a fish, and how to gut it. The gutting trout process involves removing the fish guts and it can be gross.

Here are some steps to help make it easier.

  1. Place the fish on its side and position your superior hand on top. In a smooth motion, insert a knife through the fish’s rear part and drive your cut along through to the base of the lower jaw. Avoid pushing the knife too deep lest you puncture the intestines. Doing so exposes you to a nasty smell.
  2. Work the cavity apart and take out the insides of the fish. Where necessary, use your knife to simply remove the gill filaments from the base of the head.
  3. With a spoon, scrape the kidneys, liver, and the other remaining organs out. At the belly area, the black stomach lining along the cavity can be disgusting to taste. Remember to remove it. Some people choose to remove the head too. If you’re gutting a trout, you don’t have to remove the head.
  4. Rinse the cavity thoroughly using your hose. You want to maintain a low water pressure to avoid damaging the fish meat.
  5. Once your fish is gutted and cleaned, wipe it dry using paper towels.
  6. Make sure to clean your working table immediately. Discard the guts, scales, and head immediately and appropriately.

Tips to remember:

Controlling a dull knife can be difficult and you will be forced to apply more force. Search for a very sharp fillet knife to use and it will be a lot easier – and safer. You only need to make sure that your knife’s handle isn’t slippery.

Gutting Video

How to Scale a Fish

Fish scaling your catch is a good skill to know since a huge percentage of the fish you catch will come with scales that need to be removed before cooking. And you don’t have to be an expert! Tip: scales can cause clutter and you may want to place a bucket near your working area to collect them. Where possible, execute this process inside a deep kitchen sink.

Here is how to go about scaling a fish.

  1. Place your fish with the head facing your non-superior hand. Hold the head firmly with your non-superior hand and use your superior hand to hold the scaling tool that will remove the scales. You can also use a butter knife to execute short, but quick strokes until the body of your fish is smooth. Repeat the process on the other side of the fish.
  2. Use water to rinse it off and remove excess scales from the skin while using low water pressure to avoid damaging the meat. If you notice that your fish has just skin as opposed to scales, you may want to remove it by making a shallow cut across the pectoral fin and its back area and pull the skin off with the help of pliers.

Scaling Fish Video

How to Fillet a Fish in 7 Steps

Once you have a clean fish, the next step is to cook it. You can decide to bake or grill it whole in the oven, or roast and fry pieces of the fish meat. If the latter is the case, you’ll need to fillet your fish.

Some experts prefer filleting fish without going through the gutting process. If you’re a beginner, however, consider going through the gutting process first. Here’s how to fillet fish.

  1. Place the fish with the dorsal fin is facing you
  2. With a flexible and sharp fillet knife cut behind the pectoral fins and gills
  3. Cut through the spine while exercising causing to avoid severing it
  4. When the knife gets to the spine, turn it flat and start cutting through the spine to get a flap spanning from the head to the tail of your fish
  5. Using your non-superior hand, lift the flap and continue cutting the fillet until you entirely remove it from the fish.
  6. Cut as close along the spine as possible. This way, you’ll be able to keep a meaty fillet.
  7. Repeat this process on the other side.


How Long Can I wait to Clean a Fish

According to research, after you catch a fish, they can keep fresh for up to 24 hours without cutting, gutting, and cleaning – provided it’s bled, chilled, and stored appropriately.

How do you remove the fishy smell before cooking?

Clean a fish thoroughly with saltwater. Proceed to soak it in saltwater for approximately 15 minutes before rinsing. This will reduce the smell on your fish before cooking.

How do you scale and clean a fish?

Use a butter knife to scrape the scales off working from its tail. Proceed to gut your fish by sliding a knife cut near the tail and cut it through to its gills. Use a spoon to remove the entrails after making each cut.

What direction should you scale fish?

Hold the blunt edge of your knife at an angle of 45 degrees and position it against the fish’s skin close to its tail fin. Scrape off scales from the fish’s tail to its head.


Some fish come with sharp teeth, spines, and fins. You may need to wear gloves during the fish cleaning process. If you don’t already know how to clean a trout, this post should be of help. And that’s how to clean a fish!

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