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How to Clean a Fish!

... ready for the frying pan!

A Freshly Caught & Cleaned Kamloops Rainbow Trout

Well every year we get a good number of emails on this subject so we thought it would be a good idea to get a step by step post out on it.

Properly caring for your catch is the most important thing you can do once you’ve made the decision to take a fish. You owe it to yourself, and the fish whose life you’ve just taken, to do this right and to do it in a timely manner to ensure the highest quality table fare for you and your family.

* WARNING – this post contains graphic pictures of the inside of a fish. If the sight of blood and guts makes you queezy then you might want to pass on this post.

Dispatching the Fish:

First things first … do the kind thing and kill your fish with a knock in the head as soon as possible. There’s no sense in letting any creature suffer needlessly – a sharp blow on top of the head between the eyes with a heavy object is all that is required to do the job. We strongly recommend carrying a fish bonker as part of your tackle if you know you are going to be keeping a few fish.


For this step, simply hold the fish by the tail and use use the un sharpened side of a good sturdy knife (short blade is best) to scrape off the scales. Working from tail to gills, a few firm scrapes on each side of the fish is usually all it takes.

OK it’s dead & scaled … let’s clean it:

Hold the trout around the  middle with its underbelly facing towards you. Now looking at the bottom jaw of the trout you will see an upside horseshoe like tab with two lines running along each side of it.

... just follow the lines!

... cut along lines to detach gill plate from jaw.

... cut all the way through.

... if done right the gill plate will separate easily.

And once both sides are done slip the knife under the “U” of the horseshoe tab and cut it loose.

... and voila ... the jaw is free!

... cut through the "U" to free the jaw.

OK now moving to the other end of the fish, slip your knife blade into the anal orifice and cut forward, knife point upward, all the way up to the gill cavity . . .

... it's as easy as one



OK now gripping the head with one hand, use the other hand to remove the gill cavity along with entrails in one downward motion….

grab .......

... come on tough guy pull!

....... and pull!

With the entrails gone, all that will be left is the head, skin and blood vein. Use your knife to cut through the thin membrane of the blood vein and then using your thumb, or a small spoon, remove it . . . . . .

... almost done!

cut through the vein & scrape out the blood.

Once you’ve got most of it out, rinse it under running water or in the lake or river water and voila!

... looking good now!

... all nice and clean!

To behead or not to behead:

Well in BC you can’t transport fish without the head attached so this is the way we leave them until we get home. Once home however, the decision is yours as to whether or not to remove it. Some people like to leave it on …  personally, I don’t like my food looking back at me so the final step for me is to cut it off!

To remove the head you will need a good sturdy knife – the same one you used to cut the belly open will work –  just be sure to wash it first.

To cut the head off:

  1. Grasp the trout firmly in the middle with your thumb in the   gut cavity and the rest of your hand wrapped around it.
  2. Hold the trout so that the head is pushed down on your cutting surface.
  3. With your knife, make a firm slicing motion through the spine at gill level, preferably with the gut cavity up.

That’s it … now rinse the trout and you are done!

BONUS INFORMATION:   How to skin a fish!

Skinning is easy as long as the trout is fresh. Grab the head and bend it back breaking the back bone, while leaving the skin in tact. Gripping the bottom half of the trout, pull the head and skin downward, striping the skin inside out . . .

... snap the neck!

... one

... peel the skin back!

... two

... and voila!

... and done!










And there you have it … a nice cleaned and skinned fresh trout ready for baking, frying, broiling or smoking . .


* flyguy tip:  get rid of that fishy smell on your hands!

The fishy smell left on your fingers from the cleaning process can be hard to banish.  To get rid of it for good:

  1. Wash your hands with the juice from a lemon and/or …
  2. Rub your wet hands vigorously against the inside of a stainless steel kitchen sink! Sounds crazy but try it and you’ll see that it works!

That’s all folks!

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About BCFlyguys

... flyguys chief webhead, when not fishing ;)
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