Preparedness blog

How to Clean a Fish

By Mike from Ready Store
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Fishing has been an age-old hobby, sport, and way-of-life in many cultures. Many people enjoy eating fish, but many do not know how to clean one. Cleaning a fish is a skill that brings a sense of independence and can prove to be useful in survival or everyday situations. For those who have never cleaned a fish, the task might seem daunting and messy, but with practice, the process can be quick and relatively clean. Below you will find a step-by-step guide to cleaning your fish.

Materials Needed:
-Sharp knife or scissors (a dull knife can be dangerous to use)
-Source of water
-Plastic zipper bag
-Cutting board (if desired)
-Waste container or bag for guts

Prior to cleaning your fish, first check with the area where you will be cleaning to know if it is legal to leave the guts of the fish or if you need to take the guts with you.

Before cutting into the fish, rinse the fish with water to remove any debris, such as grass, dirt, moss, etc. *Note: If you like eating your fish without scales, this would be the best time to descale your fish. To do so, simply take your knife or edge of a spoon and begin scraping the scales away beginning at the tail and working your way to the head of the fish.

Step 1:
To grip the fish without it slipping out of your hand while cleaning, insert your thumb into the gill area. Begin by inserting the tip of the knife or scissors in the soft indentations of the throat on the outside of the jaw bone, below the tongue.


After inserting your cutting tool through both indentations, slice through the area cutting away from yourself.


Step 2:
Next, insert the tip of your tool into the small anal pore on the underside of the fish close to the tail. Begin cutting forward toward the head. Make sure to not cut too deep as this will puncture the innards resulting in more of a mess.


Cut along the white underside until the belly and the gills meet at a point.


Step 3:
Next, remove the gills and intestines. To do this, hold the fish belly side up with the head held between your index finger and thumb cavity. While holding the head, insert a finger into the opening you created earlier when you cut through the soft indentations of the throat and then firmly, but slowly, pull down toward the tail. This action will remove all of the innards in one quick motion.


Step 4:
Now that the guts have been removed, discard of them properly according to your local land ordinances.

With an empty inner cavity, you will notice a dark red line along the spine. This dark line is the kidney of the fish. You do not want to eat the fish with this still intact, because the flavor of the fish will be affected. To remove the kidney, make a slit along the length of the spine exposing the blood within. Then using either your thumb or a spoon, push the blood out of the cavity. This may take a couple times of running your thumb along the spine to remove all of the blood.


Step 5:
After removing the blood as completely as possible, rinse the internal cavity of the fish of any remaining blood or debris.


Congratulations! You have now completed cleaning your fish. The fish is now ready to eat. Some people enjoy eating their fish pan-fried, baked, or even grilled. Find your favorite!

Comment below to tell us any tips or tricks you have to cleaning a fish or how you like to cook them. We'd love to hear about it!

Pictures and references credit to:

8 years ago
Brennen Munro
8 years ago at 5:59 PM
A simple yet through explanation of how to gut your catch, thank you! Munro
8 years ago at 11:03 PM
I fillet my fish. Use a sharp knife ( fillet knife is best ) Make a cut behind the gill down to the spine. flatten the knife and slide the knife towards the tail in an easy slicing motion along the spine. Just before you get to the tail STOP. Flip the fillet back towards the tail with meat side up. take the knife and cut under the meat and on top of the skin. Knife has to be flat. Carefully slide the knife in a wiggle motion to the end. A clean fillet ready to cook.