Although it's not the best part of the fishing experience, someone has to do it. We are discussing cleaning your catch. Knowing how to clean a fish is something every anglers should know how to do. After all, it is the first step in making your fish taste good. We have included answers to some of the most commonly asked questions regarding cleaning fresh fish for this article. Follow these steps, and you will be cooking up a tasty meal in no time!
When Should you Clean your Fish?
Try to clean your fish within one or two hours after catching it, or at the very least, on the same day, even if you want to freeze the fish later. If you will be out fishing on your boat for many days, ensure you have everything you need onboard to simply clean fish right there on the boat. Luckily, cleaning a fish does not need much effort.
What Do You Need to Clean a Fish?
- Sanitary work station
- Sharp fillet knife
- Newspaper or plastic lining
- Dull butter knife, fork or spoon for removing scales
- Sharp knife for the fish guts
- Bucket to collect your fish guts
- Cooler of ice
- Disposable gloves (optional)
- Clean running water
- Platter for clean fish
What Are the Preparation Tips to Clean a Fish?
When learning how to clean a fish, it's important to note that you need to clean it as soon as possible. However, if you have another day of fishing ahead of you, try to keep the fresh fish on ice or water until you are ready to clean it. Here are some quick guide tips:
- Since cleaning fish is a bit dirty talk, it's preferable to do it outside. There will most likely be a cleaning station nearby if you are at a state park. If not, locate an outside table and spread out some newspaper. Before you begin, ensure you have access to running water since you will need to rinse the fish and clean the station after you are done.
- Rinse the slime off the fish as thoroughly as possible; it's never fun attempting to clean a slippery fish, especially with a sharp knife in your hand.
- After rinsing the fish, wipe it dry using paper towels.
What are the Steps for Cleaning a Fish?
Step 1: Bleed the fish
It would be best to bleed a fish as soon as you catch it to preserve the meat flavor and make gutting easier. To perform this, make a tiny incision under the fish's gills. Next, break the spinal cord by snapping its head back, then threading a rope or wire through its mouth and out the gills. Allow the fish to bleed out into the water completely. Then, place the fresh catch on ice. And keep it there until you are ready to go on. Besides, if you happen to be ice fishing, you can bleed the fish you catch and store them right on top of the ice until you're ready to gut them.
Step 2: Gather your materials
Spread some newspaper on your sanitized work surface to collect liquids that may drip from the fish and onto the floor. If possible, conduct your fish cleaning outside on an outdoor table because it will be messy! We recommend using gloves and having them handy. Moreover, keep a bucket within to collect the fish's fins, bones, skull, and intestines. Also, before processing, inspect your fish for signs of sickness such as ulcers, spots, wounds and discoloration.
Step 3: Take off the fish scales.
Using a scaling tool or a dull knife, remove the scales off your chilled fish. Use a raking motion from the tail to the head, going against the direction of the scales. Do both sides, plus the top and bottom of the fish. However, if you can't remove all the scales, don't worry ( they are not toxic to consume); only ensure you aim for the majority of them since they usually don't taste very nice.
If you are dealing with a fish with thick skin, try skinning it rather than descaling it. First, cut a one-inch thick skin where the top of the fish's head attaches to its body. Then, hold the fish at the head and peel the skin down to the tail. If the skin is tough, you can use pliers.
Step 4: Take out the guts
In this step, you need to take out the guts. To achieve this, make a long, shallow incision down the belly from the fish's anus to the base of the gills. Ensure the incision is shallow; otherwise, you will nick the intestines, making the removal process more difficult and messy.
Remove the guts from the abdominal cavity using a spoon or your fingers. It's not an enjoyable experience! The fish guts should be easy to remove, though uncomfortable. Don't overlook anything! Certain varieties of fish may still have darker membranes. Ensure you scrape these out to prevent a sturdy flavor and scent from infiltrating your dish.
Step 5: Remove the fins and the head
If you want to remove the head of the fish, you can do so at this stage. Remove it from right behind the gills. Some people like to leave the head on the fish, and in some cooking methods (especially for trout), the head usually adds flavor and depth to the meal.
Next, you can decide to remove the dorsal fin from the bottom of the fish by pulling it firmly towards the head. Removing the dorsal fin in a quick sawing motion also removes lots of small bones from your fish. You can also decide to chop it off. Don't forget to remove the pectoral fin too.
Get rid of the fish guts responsibly. Toss the guts back in if you are out on the wide ocean, but if you are in a residential area, wrap them in newspaper and dispose of them when you get back on land.
Step 6: Rinse or wipe the fish down.
Rinse your fish quickly in cold water, inside and out, removing any blood, sticky scales, and other odd fish parts. You don't require any cleaning chemicals; only water should suffice. Nonetheless, avoid using too much water, or you will wind up washing out the flavor of the fish. Instead of washing the fish, lightly wipe it with a paper towel.
Step 7: Cook, your fish
Depending on the cooking method you prefer, you may need to perform further prep work before you can cook the fish, such as cutting it into steaks or filleting and removing the backbone (if you're not grilling or baking it whole). In either case, you are done cleaning and well on your way to savoring your catch of the day! Besides, knowing how to clean a fish will allow you to enjoy it.
Frequently Asked Questions on How to Clean a Fish
1. Is it difficult to clean a fish?
Cleaning and gutting are crucial skills to cook a whole fish for dinner. You will need a clean work surface, a faucet or sink, and a sharp filet knife for best results. And with a little patience and some precise cutting, you will be enjoying fresh fillets in no time.
2. Can you clean your pet fish?
When cleaning, it's preferable to leave your fish in the fish tank. Removing it causes undue stress for your fish, and you risk inadvertently hurting it. Keeping your fish in the tank while cleaning is possible since you do not need to remove all water to clean the tank adequately.
3. What type of fish doesn't smell?
1. The Arctic Char has a taste comparable to salmon, although it is considerably milder. It's lighter and creamier than salmon since it's less greasy. Besides, it doesn't stink up your kitchen when cooking.
4. Why is it necessary to gut a fish?
The entrails might cause your fish to spoil if left in the water for too long.
Even after a fish has died, enzyme activity inside its stomach causes tissues to break down, which might result in unpleasant odors and scents or make you sick. In other words, taking off the intestines keeps the fish fresher and preserves the quality and taste of the meat. Conversely, keeping an entire fish cold reduces enzyme activity inside it, providing you a long time to get it before it spoils.
5. What do you do with guts after cleaning fish?
Dispose of them in the same manner as usual household garbage.
If you are gutting a fish far from home, bring the guts with you in a firmly closed plastic bag or other sealable containers. Then, put the guts in your garbage bin at home. It's occasionally allowed to throw guts back into deep or rushing water so that other fish might eat on them in small quantities. Nonetheless, this is unlawful in certain regions, so check your local fish and wildlife service's website for local rules. Besides, to keep your trash from smelling like rotting fish, place the guts in a zip-top plastic bag and freeze them until it's trash day.