How to Clean a Fish

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Introduction: How to Clean a Fish

As a beginner fisherman or fisherwoman, it is easy to get into the excitement of reeling in an 8 pound wallet, or fighting back and forth with a Northern. What happens after you make the catch? The following instructions will give you a basic look at how to fillet and prepare a fish for cooking. No matter the method you choose for cooking the fish, freshly caught fish are a delicious treat while camping or even in the comfort of your own home. Due to the use of knives and cutting into live animals, I suggest that any user be at least 13 years old. This is also intended for beginners; it is a simple, basic guide, taking about 15 minutes to complete.

Note: Because of my geographic region and time of year, I will be using a Tilapia. The cleaning of other fish may be more difficult or incur specific changes. For example, cleaning a Northern is much more difficult due to the amount and placement of their bones.

Step 1: Gather Materials

MATERIALS:

* Fillet Knife

* Cutting board (at least the length of the fish; double the length will work best)

* Fish

* Bowl of Cold water


WARNING: The use of a sharp knife is dangerous, but a dull knife is even more dangerous. Make sure your knife is sharp and follow proper knife safety (http://busycooks.about.com/od/howtocook/a/kitchenknife_2.htm); always keep fingers out of the projection of the knife.

Step 2: Separate the Spine From the Fillet

Separate the Spine from the Fillet:


a. Lay the fish on its side with the spine facing you.

b. Place your knife at a 45 degree angle, under the fin, at the point where the gills meet the body of the fish.

c. Make a downward cut that is about 1/2 of an inch deep or half the width of the fish. This cut should reach from the spine to the belly.

Step 3: Separate the Spine and Ribcage From the Fillet

Separate the Spine from the Fillet:


a. Place your knife at the point that your first cut meets the spine of the fish.

b. Make a horizontal cut as close as you can get to the spine while still ensuring there are no bones in the fillet. The cut should go from the gills until just before the tail and only go through half the height of the fish.
**Note that this might not be one fluid cut. You will need to pay attention to where the bones are and move slowly.
**Make sure that you do not cut the fillet off the tail yet.

c. After you separate the spine you will spread the cut open so that you can see the spine.

d. Now that you can see into the center of the fish, you can locate the ribcage and separate it from the fillet.

Step 4: Separate the Stomach From the Fillet

Separate the Stomach from the Fillet:


a. Flip the fish so that the cut side is still facing up, but the stomach is now facing you, instead of the spine.

b. Cut through the fish in the same manner as Step 3, avoiding the stomach and guts.
**Use your first cut as a guide to wear the spine and rib cage are located.
**Make sure you still cut above the spine and ribs.
**When you get to the bottom of the fish, be careful not to cut through the tail just like in Step 3.

c. Peal the fillet away from the gills like you are opening a book, with the tail acting as the binding. The head and body should be on your left side and the fillet should be on your right.

Step 5: Separate the Fillet From the Skin

Separating the Fillet from the Skin:


a. Before you cut anything yet, carefully place your knife at the tail of the fish so that you will be able to make a horizontal cut the fish from the tail to the end of the fillet.

b. Without cutting through the skin of the fish, make a horizontal cut as close to the skin as possible.
**This may take more than one fluid cut depending on your skill level, but when finished you should have the fillet completely separated from the fish, with no bones or skins attached.

CAUTION: Sometimes you might have bits of skin attached. If this occurs, simply cut or peel the bits of skin off.

Step 6: Repeat

Repeat:


a. Flip the fish over and repeat all steps in order to separate the second fillet from the fish.

b. Repeat all steps again for any additional fish.

DANGER: If camping, make sure to follow campground regulations when disposing of fish remains. Failure to due so could attract animals, such as bears, and result in injury or death.

The more practice you get, the better feel you will get for the anatomy of a fish. This will allow you to make more precise cuts, attain more meat from the fish, and go through the process quicker. No matter how long it takes you or how "pretty" your fillet looks however, freshly caught and cooked fish is a taste that is incomparable to buying fillets from the market.

1 Person Made This Project!

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27 Comments

0
JakeAS
JakeAS

7 months ago

This doesn't look as gross as I thought it would be. I'll give it a try!

0
quentin04025
quentin04025

1 year ago

Is s tooth brush good for cleaning fish?

0
chokapi
chokapi

7 years ago on Introduction

I feel that this 'ible should be titled, 'How to Filet a Fish.' I was actually looking for one to clean a fish, or gut one and prepare it for cooking whole.

I don't filet fish.

0
Pfarmkid
Pfarmkid

9 years ago on Introduction

no no no this is all wrong


step one catch fish

step two get hot clean water and add soap

just kidding nice 'ible

0
9w2xyz
9w2xyz

9 years ago on Step 5

what happened to your thumb? Ow.

0
dawankler
dawankler

10 years ago on Introduction

This isn't "cleaning" a fish, it's a method of boneless fileting a whole fish. I prefer actually cleaning the fish before I filet it in order to avoid the chance of puncturing the guts and contaminating the meat. I also recommend whole roasting fresh caught fish, as I think you're cutting and throwing away half the fish and flavor using this method.

0
ckoellein
ckoellein

Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

inDEED.

Gutting and whole roasting or baking or coal searing is much better... fish meat changes phenomenally when it transistions to "cooked". VERY easy to pull off the bones when cooked. I HATE wasting all that meat when I filet a fish. been baking the whole thing more and more lately.

And no, I am nowhere near the spiritual green-freak fellow who posted before me about kindness to the fish. I just see no point in being painful to the fish, plus, it's a waste of tasty meat! Six of one, half-dozen of the other.

0
Scanner2
Scanner2

Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

Sir,
I agree with you regarding the best use of the fish or any animal and not wasting when it can be avoided.

I would also like to add that I ride dirt bikes (well over 100 mph off road), shoot high powered weapons, and have hunted big game from primitive camps up in the Rocky Mountains. Therefore, I would not want to be taken as a spiritual green-freak. Having said that, I also strongly advocate killing my game as quickly and cleanly as possible. That is out of respect for animals, and out of self respect as well.

Part of a man's character may be judged by how he treats living creatures over whom he has absolute power.....

All the best to you!

What is that a Blue Gill?
I have a two cut technique I use on Pike.
If the knife slips at the tail and cuts the fillet with the skin on I use a fork to hold the skin as I separate the meat from the skin.
Joe

0
kategarfin
kategarfin

Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

Its actually just a tilapia. I did this for a class so I didn't have the time to go out and catch a fish myself.

Normally I would use this technique with a wallet. Its probably not the fastest or most efficient, but it works well with limited resources when you want to bread and fry your fish while camping.

0
Josehf Murchison
Josehf Murchison

Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

In Canada Tilapia is a tropical fish we buy at the pet store for our aquarium. I have never seen one that large. It is very similar to a fish here in Canada called a Blue Gill Sun Fish a great fish to take the kids fishing for the first time.
Joe

0
9w2xyz
9w2xyz

Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

IN the tropics a tilapia can get 14 inches long and be as thick across the ribcage as much as 3 inches.

0
maurice1993
maurice1993

Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

once I catch a tilapia that weighted almost 3 Kilograms... this fish can get pretty big if the water is warm anough and there is enough food around, and it's pretty tasty

0
gcai_fwb
gcai_fwb

10 years ago on Introduction

I'd like to catch and 8 lb. wallet too :-)
shouldn't be too hard to fillet but cooking could pressent a problem

0
kategarfin
kategarfin

Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

My family and I usually just bread and fry the fish while we're camping. Its actually very simple!

0
cenglish4
cenglish4

10 years ago on Step 4

Cool, this is good for beggining fisherman.

0
submark
submark

10 years ago on Introduction

Great 'bile.
It is good to see anything that will help folks get into, understand, enjoy, and profit from fishing.
I would like to put in a word for dispatching fish humanely as well as barbless hooks and catch and release fishing,
A blow to the back of the fish's skull above the gills with a club or rock is usually best for larger (1 lb and larger) fish. With many fish the eyes will stop moving and be 'centered' and the fish will quiver and stop thrashing. Repeat as necessary to ensure a quick death. Smaller fish are best killed with a knife point into the top of the skull between the eyes.
Remember you are killing a living thing and it should be done swiftly and well and with respect to the animal and resource.
Place the fish (filleted, whole or gutted) in a cooler on top of ice and out of any water, which will degrade the meat. You can also slide the fish into sealable plastic bags to ensure freshness and no contamination in the cooler. Keeps the cooler fresher, too.
Barbless hooks do less damage to fish you will release alive and they are much easier to remove from the fish as well as fingers, neck and Rottweiler's ears (ask me how I know that!) They often work better than barbed hooks and are much safer around pets and kids.
Keep only fish that you or others will use fresh. It is the best tasting and too many fish get left in the freezer and get freezer burned and end up being discarded later. What a waste!

0
hrodriguez7
hrodriguez7

10 years ago on Introduction

Judging by the title, I thought the pictures of this instructable vvould be bloody


moral to the story, kids.......
''dont judge a book by its cover''

0
dsisk
dsisk

10 years ago on Introduction

I love how this article is put in the email just 2 days after Glenn Beck horribly cleans a fish on his show. It was a good segment though and the point well said but it took awhile for him to get there. It was funny.