How To Gut A Fish In 8 Easy Steps

Next time you are on a fishing trip, don’t practice catch and release, cook what you catch! Processing a trout (and most fish) is easy and is easily done in under 60 seconds. Smaller fish are easier to clean and they taste better!  Their shorter lifespans give them less time to accumulate mercury and other toxins. Their small size also allows them to fit inside camping stoves. Trout less than 15 inches long are most likely living on a diet of insects, which don’t contain mercury.

I recommend keeping trout between 8 and 15 inches. If the fish is too big to fit inside your pot, simply cut it in half after cleaning and cook each piece separately.

1. Use A Sharp Knife Without Serrated Edges

This is all you need.

2. Clean All Dirt Off The Fish

Protects your blade from dulling and makes cutting the fish easier

3.  Cut From The Anus To The Gill Plate

Insert blade .5 – 1” into the fish, starting near the anus, located on the fish’s stomach. You don’t want to cut the intestines, only cut deep enough to separate the flesh. Continue the cut along the belly and up to the gill plate on the fish’s underside.

4. Separate The Tongue

Take the blade and cut underneath the jawbone of the fish, severing the flesh near the base of the tongue. Pushing the lower jaw away from the head will reveal the skin that needs to be cut.

5. Grab the Tongue and Pull Out The Gills and Guts

Grip the fish’s tongue with your thumb firmly. Your thumb should be gripping the entire gill plate. Pull down hard enough to rip out the gills. Continue pulling with downward momentum – the intestines will stay attached to the gills – completely remove the guts and intestines.

6. Remove The Blood From The Spine

Along the inside of the spine is a membrane holding blood against the vertebrate. Run your thumb underneath the membrane to break it open. Scrape the bones clean of blood. I recommend submerging the fish for this step, it will make the blood easier to remove.  

7. Skin The Fish

Grab onto the head firmly. Bend it backward, breaking the spine but keeping the skull attached to the skin. With one hand, grip the body of the fish while the other hand pulls the head and skin toward the tail. The skin should peel off the fish in one piece.

8. Remove The Fins and Tail

Using a knife, cut off any remaining fins. Leave the tail on or remove it by cutting through the vertebrate.

Cooking Tips

This method of field cleaning allows for more meat than a fillet. I recommend boiling or frying the fish completely. After the flesh is cooked, the meat falls right off the bones. The skeleton stays in one piece letting you enjoy a bone-free fish meal.

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