If you have just started fishing, you will need to learn how to clean a fish. It is not very difficult at all. You will need to decide if you want to scale the fish or skin it. If you are going to fillet it for later, do not worry about scaling it. If you want to cook the fish with the skin on and the scales are rather large, you will want to remove them.
Cleaning the Fish
Rinse your fish in cold running tap water as soon as possible after you remove it from the water you caught it in. This removes any excess slime, bacteria, and such from the surface.
Lay the fish out on its side on a cutting board. Holding the fish steady with one hand, cut through the gills and all the way through the backbone with a sharp knife. Grab the head, snap it, and pull on it. The entrails should follow right out of the fish.
Take the knife and cut along the fish’s belly from the gills to the vent by the tail. Open up the fish and scrape along the backbone to remove the blood vein. Rinse the entire fish inside and out with cold water.
Rinse the fish under cold, running tap water. Use the dull edge of a knife to scale the fish. Hold the knife at almost 90 degrees to the fish while you have the fish lying on a flat surface. Use short strokes, moving from the tail to the head. If the fish has large, flat scales, this will remove them. Keep repeating the strokes until the fish is smooth. Repeat the procedure on the opposite side. This is only necessary if you want to cook the fish in its skin.
After scaling, cut the belly open as described in the earlier section. Open up the fish and use your fingers to remove all the entrails. Scrape along the backbone with a spoon or your thumbnail to remove the blood vein. Wash the fish again inside and out with cold water.
Fins can be removed with a scissors no matter which method of cleaning you have chosen. Just snip them all off before cooking. Rinse the fish one more time.
You can debone a fish before or after cooking. While it is easier in many cases to remove the bones after cooking, it is not as much fun to debone your fish while you are eating, as it is to eat a nice fillet. You can read our article on filleting your fish to learn more about removing the backbone and ribs. This will result in a nice pair of fillets from each fish.
You may still find tiny pin bones in the fillets. You can pull them out one by one with tweezers or needle-nose pliers. Take a look first to see if you can spot them. If you cannot, start feeling the fillet gently with your fingers. Bones will feel like a thin knob sticking up through the meat.
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