How To Clean Fish

Sergio Smirnoff

Hello, my name is Sergio Smirnof, and my goal with FishReeler is to provide a valuable resource for anglers of all levels, from beginners to experienced veterans. I hope that my passion for fishing and dedication to the sport shines through in the content I create and inspires others to get out on the water and catch some fish!

How to Clean Fish Quickly

There’s nothing quite like the taste of fresh fish, but the process of cleaning and preparing it can seem daunting to some. Whether you’re an experienced angler or just looking to add more seafood to your diet, knowing how to properly clean and fillet a fish is an essential skill. Not only will it ensure that you’re getting the most out of your catch, but it can also help prevent foodborne illnesses.

In this blog post, we’ll guide you through the steps of cleaning a fish, including removing the scales, gutting, and filleting. We’ll also provide tips on selecting the right tools and equipment, as well as some additional cleaning techniques to keep your workspace and hands clean. So whether you’re planning a day out on the water or simply want to enjoy some fresh fish at home, read on to learn how to clean a fish like a pro.

How to Clean Fish Quickly and Easily Before Cooking

Cleaning and preparing fish for cooking can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. With the right tools and techniques, you can easily and efficiently clean any type of fish. In this post, we’ll share our top tips and tricks for cleaning fish like a pro. From creating a clean workspace to properly removing scales and guts, we’ll cover everything you need to know to make the process quick and painless.

A general guide on how to clean and fillet a fish for those who are new to the process

To start, make sure you have all the necessary equipment, including a sharp fillet knife, cutting board, fish scaler, gutting tool, and pliers. Begin by scaling the fish, holding it by the head, and scraping the scaler or back of the knife from tail to head to remove the scales. Rinse the fish thoroughly.

Next, make a cut along the belly of the fish and remove the internal organs using a gutting tool. Rinse the fish again and pat it dry with a paper towel.

With the fish now cleaned, it’s time to fillet it. Lay the fish on the cutting board with the head facing away from you. Make a cut behind the gills and down the length of the fish’s spine. Use the fillet knife to cut the flesh away from the bones, starting at the top and working your way down to the tail. Use the pliers to remove any remaining bones.

Repeat the process on the other side of the fish, and you should have two fillets ready for cooking. Rinse the fillets and pat them dry with a paper towel.

Now you’re ready to cook your fillets however you like, whether it’s pan-frying, grilling, or baking. Enjoy your delicious, freshly filleted fish!

By Step Description With Photos

Before you start cooking dishes from sea bass, you should learn how to clean them. This stage must be carried out correctly so as not to spoil the taste and aroma of the dish. Gutting such a fish should, paying maximum attention to the removal of all the insides and gills.

Peeled seabass

The first thing to do is to buy the necessary devices:

cleaning tools

Fish Scaler Cleaning Scaling – Strip it Down to the Basics

Here is such a catch of sea bass

A good and convenient fish scaler for many years will facilitate the process of removing scales. It is simple and safe for the hands. I advise you to immediately buy stainless steel. The best samples, in my opinion, are selected and presented in the table:

Choosing the Right Tools – Equip Yourself for Success Scissors for Fish

Scissors for cutting fish are also useful during fishing. Compact, with a cover, folding – any will do. Most importantly, they must be durable and corrosion-resistant.

The table above lists the main equipment needed for cleaning fish:

Equipment Explanation
Fillet Knife A sharp, flexible knife used to remove the skin and bones from the fish. The blade should be long enough to handle the size of the fish being cleaned.
Cutting Board A flat surface used to stabilize the fish while cleaning. The board should be large enough to accommodate the size of the fish being cleaned and should have a non-slip surface.
Fish Scaler A tool used to remove the scales from the fish. It can be a handheld tool or an attachment for an electric drill.
Gutting Tool A tool used to remove the internal organs from the fish. It can be a knife, scissors, or pliers designed specifically for gutting fish.
Fish Pliers A tool used to remove the hook from the fish’s mouth. It should have a long handle and a strong grip to make the process easier and safer.
Water Hose A source of clean water used to rinse the fish and the cleaning equipment. It can be a hose attached to a sink or a portable water source.
Container for Discarded Parts A container to hold the head, skin, and other parts of the fish that are not being used. It can be a plastic bag, a bucket, or a specialized container designed for fish cleaning.
Disposable Gloves Gloves worn to protect the hands from the fish’s slime, bacteria, and sharp edges. They should be disposable, non-latex, and powder-free.

Special Knife for Cutting – Removing the Innards

First step. To begin, trim with scissors two fins on the top, two on the bottom, two sides, and one spike at the bottom of the tail. They are strong, sharp, and can cut hands.

First step

The next step is to clean the fish from the scales. Scales from the sea bass are removed quite easily. Take the fish by the tail and with a large sharp knife against the scales from tail to head, clean the fish. In order not to stain everything around, you can clean the fish in a filled sink underwater. To do this, insert the dummy valve and fill the sink with water by about one third so that the fish is completely covered with liquid. This is necessary so that the kitchen is not dirty during cleaning.

First step

The third operation is the removal of dark mucus from fish skin with a knife and the final removal of the scales. The skin of the sea bass is very strong and there is no problem to clean it. Fourth. Then you need to gut the fish. To get all the insides, it is necessary to cut the carcass of the sea bass to the middle from the very beginning of the lips.

third stage

Already on the prepared fish, we make an incision on the stomach from the side of the hole through which the fish is emptied. Here you need a sharp knife since the skin on the tummy is also strong. With a thin, sharp knife, spread the fish’s belly from the head to the lower fin.

We take scissors for cutting fish and make a continuation of this incision to the lower lip. With our left hand, we hold the upper part of the fish head (see photo) and with our right hand, we use a pair of scissors to make a curved cut along the gills.

fourth stage

This action will help to remove the inside of the fish in one motion. To do this, take the fish by the gills and begin to gently pull down. The intestines leave the inside of the fish along with the gills and gall bladder.

In the process of removing the intestines, make sure that the gall bladder does not burst. From the entrails, you can leave unique fat (on which you can then fry the fish), the heart, and the liver of the fish. What remains must be thrown into a bucket for food waste.

Rinse the fish’s tummy under running water and remove all blood vessels and organs. Removing excess moisture – blot dry with a kitchen towel. We put the fish ready for cooking on a dry paper towel. 

The table shows some of the best models of fishing knives to get a fillet:

Model of Fishing Knife Explanation
Morakniv Companion Heavy Duty Knife A versatile knife with a durable stainless steel blade that is excellent for both filleting and general cutting tasks. Its ergonomic handle provides a comfortable grip even in wet conditions.
Rapala Fish ‘n Fillet Knife A classic fillet knife with a flexible blade that makes it easy to maneuver around bones and other obstacles. Its birch handle provides a comfortable grip, and it comes with a durable leather sheath for safe storage.
Buck Knives Silver Creek Folding Fillet Knife A compact and lightweight knife that is perfect for anglers on the go. Its flexible blade is made of corrosion-resistant stainless steel, and it folds into the handle for easy storage.
Kershaw Clearwater Fillet Knife An affordable fillet knife with a strong and flexible blade made of high-quality stainless steel. Its co-polymer handle provides a comfortable and secure grip even in wet conditions.
Gerber Controller Fillet Knife A premium fillet knife with a durable and corrosion-resistant blade made of high-quality steel. Its textured rubber handle provides a secure and comfortable grip, and it comes with a molded plastic sheath for safe storage.

Filleting – Mastering the Art of the Cut Cooking Sea Bass

seabass for grill

To separate the fillet, you must first make an incision to the bone at the head behind the fin. Then we make two deep cuts along the back ridge from the head to the tail of the fish. Then we pierce with a sharp sirloin knife from above at the beginning of the tail. In the area of ​​the belly, draw a knife across the spine and separate the fish meat along the ridge from the belly to the tail. From the fish head with a knife, make a movement in the opposite direction to the base of the tail. We get the finished filet, from which it is necessary to get only the bones.

standard fish size

Practice Makes Perfect – Honing Your Fish-Cleaning Skills

Last – you need to separate the fillet from the ribs. Open the incision from the back and carefully cut the fillet from the ribs. Repeat the same on the other side. Gorgeous sea bass filet is ready!

Keeping it Clean – Tips for a Tidy Workspace

Cleaning fish can be a messy business, but it’s important to maintain a clean workspace to avoid cross-contamination and potential health hazards. Here are some tips to help you keep your workspace tidy while cleaning fish:

Tips for Creating a Tidy Workspace while Cleaning Fish Explanation
Use a dedicated cutting board Using a cutting board that is designated only for fish cleaning helps prevent cross-contamination from other foods.
Keep cleaning supplies close Having a bucket of soapy water and sponge nearby helps clean up spills or messes as soon as they happen.
Work near a sink Position your workspace near a sink so you can easily rinse off any excess debris.
Wear gloves Gloves help protect your hands from bacteria and other contaminants, and also make it easier to clean up once you’re finished.
Dispose of waste properly Have a designated container for fish scraps and dispose of it promptly to avoid any unpleasant smells or attracting animals.
Use a plastic bag To make cleaning up even easier, line your workspace with a plastic bag that can be easily removed and thrown away after you’re finished.

By following these tips, you can create a clean and organized workspace to make fish cleaning a breeze.

Waste Not, Want Not – Creative Uses for Fish Scraps

When cleaning fish, it’s common to end up with scraps such as the head, bones, and other small pieces that may seem like waste. However, these scraps can actually be used in a variety of creative ways to minimize waste and add extra flavor to your meals. Here are some ideas for making the most out of your fish scraps:

Creative Uses for Fish Scraps Explanation
Make fish stock Simmering fish scraps with vegetables and herbs can create a flavorful stock that can be used as a base for soups, stews, and sauces.
Compost Fish scraps can be added to a garden or compost pile to create nutrient-rich compost.
Feed pets Fish scraps can be a nutritious treat for pets, such as cats or dogs.
Fried fish bits Small bits of fried fish scraps can be a delicious addition to salads, tacos, or as a crunchy topping for soups.
Fish fritters Using the scraps to make fish fritters or croquettes is another tasty way to use up the leftover bits.
Fish patties Combine the fish scraps with breadcrumbs, eggs, and seasonings to make tasty fish patties that can be fried or baked.

By using these creative ideas, you can reduce waste and make the most out of your fish scraps while adding extra flavor and nutrition to your meals.

By getting creative with your fish scraps, you can not only minimize waste but also add extra flavor and nutrition to your meals. So next time you clean a fish, don’t throw away those scraps, put them to good use instead!

Safety First – Protecting Yourself from Harm

When it comes to cleaning fish and filleting, safety should always be a top priority. Handling sharp knives and potentially harmful fish can be dangerous if proper precautions are not taken. Here are some tips for protecting yourself from harm:

  • Use a sharp knife – A dull knife is more likely to slip and cause injury. Always use a sharp knife when cleaning fish and filleting.
  • Cut away from your body – When filleting, make sure to cut away from your body to avoid accidentally cutting yourself.
  • Wear gloves – Wearing gloves can protect your hands from sharp knives and any potential bacteria or contaminants on the fish.
  • Keep your workspace clean – A cluttered workspace can lead to accidents. Keep your workspace clean and free of any unnecessary items.
  • Use a cutting board – A sturdy cutting board can prevent your knife from slipping and also protect your counters from scratches and damage.
  • Watch for bones – When filleting, be careful to watch for bones that can be sharp and potentially dangerous.

By following these safety tips, you can protect yourself from harm while cleaning fish and filleting. Remember, it’s always better to be safe than sorry!

Common Mistakes to Avoid – Learning from Others’ Errors

Title Common Fish Filleting Mistakes to Avoid: Learning from Others’ Mistakes
Main Idea Discussing common mistakes made while filleting fish and how to avoid them
Mistake 1 Starting with a dull knife which can slip and cause injury. Always use a sharp knife.
Mistake 2 Failing to properly clean the fish before filleting, which can result in contamination and health risks. Always rinse the fish thoroughly before filleting.
Mistake 3 Cutting too close to the bone, which can make the fillet less appetizing and more difficult to eat. Make sure to leave some meat on the bone.
Mistake 4 Removing the skin incorrectly, which can result in a loss of meat and a less desirable texture. Use a sharp knife and make small cuts while removing the skin.
Mistake 5 Wasting meat by not filleting the fish properly. Make sure to remove all the edible meat and avoid leaving any behind.
Mistake 6 Rushing the process and not taking the time to properly fillet the fish, which can result in a less appetizing and less enjoyable meal. Take your time and make sure to do it right.

By avoiding these mistakes, readers can improve their fish filleting skills and create more appetizing and enjoyable meals.

I suggest also watching a useful video – how to easily and easily clean fish:


Q: What is the best way to scale a fish?

A: The best way to scale a fish is to use a fish scaler tool or the back of a knife. Hold the fish by the head and scrape the scaler or knife from the tail to the head to remove the scales. Make sure to rinse the fish thoroughly after scaling.

Q: How do I remove the internal organs from a fish?

A: To remove the internal organs from a fish, use a gutting tool such as a knife, scissors, or pliers designed for gutting fish. Make a cut along the belly of the fish and use the tool to gently remove the internal organs. Rinse the fish thoroughly after gutting.

Q: Can I clean fish without a fillet knife?

A: While a fillet knife is the best tool for cleaning fish, it is possible to use a regular kitchen knife or a specialized fish cleaning knife instead. The important thing is to ensure that the blade is sharp and flexible enough to handle the task.

Q: How do I clean my fish cleaning equipment?

A: To clean your fish cleaning equipment, wash it thoroughly with soap and hot water. Rinse it well and allow it to dry completely before storing it. If your equipment is dishwasher safe, you can also run it through the dishwasher.

Q: Do I need to wear gloves when cleaning fish?

A: Wearing gloves when cleaning fish is recommended to protect your hands from the fish’s slime, bacteria, and sharp edges. Disposable, non-latex, and powder-free gloves are the best option.

Q: How long can I wait to clean my fish after catching it?

A: It is recommended to clean your fish as soon as possible after catching it to ensure that it is fresh and safe to eat. However, if you need to wait, you should keep the fish on ice or in a cooler to prevent spoilage.


Cleaning fish is an essential skill for anyone who enjoys fishing. It involves removing the scales, skin, and internal organs from the fish to make it ready for cooking. To clean fish properly, you need the right equipment, including a fillet knife, cutting board, fish scaler, gutting tool, fish pliers, water hose, a container for discarded parts, and disposable gloves. It is also important to follow proper hygiene and safety procedures, such as washing your hands and cleaning your equipment thoroughly after use.

Tags: #how to clean a fish / #how to gut or clean a fish / #how to gut or clean fish before cooking / #how to clean fish quickly and easily before cooking

Sergio Smirnoff
Sergio Smirnoff
Professional fisherman with 40+ years of experience.
Fishing and the ocean is a passion of my life. I am passionate about all kinds of sea fishing: fishing from the shore (spinning, float, baitcasting), from a boat, and spearfishing day and night.

I live in Tenerife (Canary Islands) for the last 10+ years and share my daily fishing experiences on my website. Many years of personal experience as a fisherman and the vast experience of my friends allow me to write professionally on any fishing topics (from choosing a flashlight and equipment to deep-sea fishing).

All of my advice is based on practical real-world experience and will be useful to both novice anglers and professionals. Read more about the author.

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About the author: Each article is verified by the fishing expert Sergio Smirnoff. The articles are written by professional and amateur fishermen with 20+ years of fishing experience.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any agency. The articles are for informational purposes only, share your opinions in the comments and join the fishing discussions, let's share our fishing experiences together!

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Lothlynn Mazah
Lothlynn Mazah
2 months ago

Wow, I just had my first experience cleaning and filleting a fish! It was actually fairly simple. I started with a round fish since they are easier to work with than flat fish like Sole, Halibut, or Skate.

The first thing I did was to de-scale the fish using a bread knife by dragging it along the skin toward the head. This process can get messy, so I did it in a sink where I could easily wipe down the area afterward.

Next, I needed to remove the guts. Using a thin knife, I found the fish’s pee hole on the bottom near the tail and stuck the tip of the knife in before slicing through right up the belly to the head. Then I simply pulled the guts out and rinsed the fish under cold water.

I was already amazed at how easy it was to gut a fish, but I decided to go the extra mile and fillet it. To do this, I laid the fish on its side and cut a notch on each side behind the head all the way to the spine (being careful not to cut through the spine). Then, I took the knife parallel to the bone from the notch behind the head and sliced along all the way to the tail in a smooth sawing motion as close to the bone as possible. I repeated this process on the other side.

Now, I had two almost fillets, each with little bones that could be felt when running my fingers along the flesh. I used a pair of tweezers to remove them individually and voila – I had my very own fish fillets!

To cook the fillets, I simply seasoned them with some butter and herbs before grilling them for about 14 minutes. It was such a satisfying experience to go from cleaning and filleting a fish to enjoying a delicious meal. I can’t wait to try it again with different types of fish!

Aarling Lody
Aarling Lody
2 months ago

Hey there, thanks for sharing these simple steps for gutting a fish! As someone who enjoys camping and fishing, it’s always great to know how to prepare your catch properly.

First off, you’ll need a sharp knife and fresh fish. If you want to keep things tidy, bring along a bucket or some old newspaper/garbage bag, and make sure you have access to cold water (a hose, sink, or stream/lake will do).

Once you’ve confirmed that the fish is dead, lay it down on your preferred surface and start by grasping the tail firmly with your right hand. Using your knife, make a small cut just to the left of the tail muscles where the underbelly is softer. This is typically where the fish eliminates waste and lays eggs, so it should be easy to spot.

From there, gently and firmly move the knife towards the head in a seesaw pattern to make the initial cut. Hold the fish still with one hand on top and use the other hand to guide the knife, making sure it doesn’t go too deep (around 1-2 inches is enough).

The cut you make should follow the belly line from just in front of the tail up to the head end of the cavity. You’ll know when you hit the end of the cavity because it will get harder to cut.

Now it’s time to gut the fish. If you have a bucket handy, this is where it comes in useful. Using your hands or your knife, separate the tough bits from the flesh on top of the belly slit you made and empty what comes out easily onto your newspaper or into your bucket.

If there are any bits that stick, gently slice the connective tissue on the outer sides of the cavity with your knife. You can also use the point of your knife to scrape the arch of the space near the spine, just to be sure you’ve removed all the bits and blood. Rinse the fish out a few times with cold water, swishing it around with your hands to ensure it’s fully cleaned.

And that’s it! You now have a shiny, empty fish ready to be cooked and eaten. Thanks again for sharing these helpful tips.

Xonan Zunzi
Xonan Zunzi
2 months ago

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on gutting fish! I completely agree that having a good flexible knife and keeping it sharp is essential to the process. And yes, having a friend or mentor show you the ropes is invaluable, especially when it comes to learning the little tricks and nuances that can make all the difference.

When it comes to smaller fish like perch and crappie, filleting isn’t always necessary. Simply removing the head and guts can be enough to prepare them for cooking. And the great thing about these fish is that you can cook them whole in a variety of ways – fried, baked, or grilled. In fact, some people even enjoy eating the tail fin, which can be delicious when it’s nice and crispy.

Overall, gutting and preparing fish is a skill that takes practice, but with the right tools and guidance, it’s definitely achievable. So if you’re interested in learning, don’t be afraid to seek out resources and give it a try!

Diestran Rungling
Diestran Rungling
2 months ago

As someone who has filleted a fair amount of fish, I can attest to the fact that having a sharp, flexible fillet knife is absolutely essential. You simply can’t fillet a fish with just any old knife – it needs to be thin, sharp, and flexible.

Once you have your fillet knife, the first step is to make a slight vertical cut down the meaty side of the fish right behind the gills. Then, make a second slightly diagonal cut towards the tail. These two cuts are crucial in starting the fillet.

From there, you’ll want to work your knife into the desired thickness of the fillet and cut backward, either through or around the ribcage. It can take a bit of practice to get the hang of it, but there are plenty of videos on YouTube that can help you master the technique.

When it comes to practice, I highly recommend starting with panfish. They’re small enough to handle easily, but still, offer enough meat to work with. Just make sure the fish are big enough to get a decent fillet off.

Overall, filleting fish is a skill that takes time and practice to perfect. But with the right tools and guidance, anyone can learn to do it well. So don’t be afraid to give it a try – your taste buds will thank you!

Yorinston Toxaz
Yorinston Toxaz
2 months ago

Knowing the bone structure of the fish you want to fillet is crucial to avoid any unpleasant surprises when eating it. Once you know the family the fish belongs to, you can make an educated guess on how to clean it. For perch, the quickest way is to remove the scales first.

Start by cutting the fish from the pectoral fins to the pelvic fins and cleaning out the guts. Then, cut off the dorsal fin above the spine. Next, make shallow vertical and horizontal cuts on both sides of the fish. After that, you can batter and fry the whole fish for no more than 4 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. The meat will flake off easily without any bones.

If you’re new to filleting fish, it’s important to take your time and be cautious. You can also find many helpful videos and tutorials online to guide you through the process. Happy fishing and cooking!

Trostium Jacitum
Trostium Jacitum
2 months ago

When it comes to cleaning trout, scaling is not always necessary. One simple way to clean the fish is to remove the head and tail, then cut the belly open and remove the organs. 

Trout also have a visible bloodline along the spine, which should be removed by pushing it out with your thumb. Rinse the fish afterward and it’s ready to cook. I recommend watching a video on how to clean trout for a more detailed explanation. Slow cooking the trout will result in tender meat that easily falls off the bone.

Prefisto Vansolfo
Prefisto Vansolfo
2 months ago

If you’re fishing for trout, you don’t have to worry about scaling them since their skin is smooth and edible. Just be sure to wash them thoroughly to remove any slime.

For larger fish, filleting is an option, but for smaller fish, it’s easier to just gut them, remove the head, and season the cavity with your preferred herbs or citrus. Then, wrap them in foil and cook until the meat is flaky. This way, you can eat them like finger food and pick the bones clean, getting more meat off the small fish.

When fishing, I always carry a sealable plastic bag to keep my catch in. As I catch fish, I gut them and keep them in a bag, submerging them in the water to keep them cool on hot days. I hope this tip helps you on your next fishing trip!

Pietor Manzique
Pietor Manzique
2 months ago

Learning how to clean and cut fish is an important skill that can come in handy when you’re out in nature. When I first learned how to do it, I didn’t have access to a standard kitchen or cutting board, so I had to make do with what I had. Even now, as I cook in my apartment, I still use many of the habits I picked up in that village.

While I’m confident in my knife skills, I understand that not everyone has the same level of experience. That’s why I made sure to include a disclaimer in my video. If you happened to see me using my hands as a cutting board, then you should have also seen the disclaimer. If you missed it, please take note of it in the future.

Alaab Qubelle
Alaab Qubelle
2 months ago

Having a sharp, thin-bladed knife is essential when filleting a fish to avoid waste and get the best results. While a pocketknife or worked chert may suffice, a good fillet knife is highly recommended.

However, if you find yourself in a situation where you don’t have the necessary tools or experience, you can still enjoy your catch. Roasting the fish on a stick over an open flame or making a stew are great alternatives. Some people enjoy eating the head, but if you’re not very hungry, it’s not necessary.

Just remember to drink the fish broth after you’re done with the fish. It’s a delicious and nutritious addition to any meal.