How to Clean a Fish




This is an easy way to clean a fish without dulling your knife because you never cut through a bone. I have a spoon black-taped to the handle for easy cleaning of the blood line and I've cleaned up to a 100 in a day, so one has to be fast. You don't need a fillet knife, just one that is strong and sharp!

Step 1: Sockeye Salmon

Start with one sockeye salmon. Most fish we get are quite silver coloured but it's getting to the end of the season so we start to see a few red ones, this has no effect on the quality of the fish until much later in the season. In this picture you can also see marks from our gill net.

Step 2: Cut the Tail

Cut around the tail, ensuring all skin is cut, do not cut the bone! I like to use the tail as a "handle" after cutting, especially if I'm down at the river dipping the fish in the water.

Step 3: Cut the Head

Lift the fin and angle your knife to cut towards the head, stop cutting when you hit the bone.

Step 4: The Other Side

Flip the fish over and angle your knife to cut towards the head on the other side. Make sure all the skin is cut (this is important), you might have to flip the fish upright and cut down, but do not cut the bone itself.

Step 5: Along the Belly

Cut from the anal opening to the head of the fish.

Step 6: Snap the Neck

Firmly grasp the head, pull down towards you and along the belly. This is where you snap the neck bone.

Step 7: Guts and All

The guts will come out attached with the head in one swift pull, leaving everything clean inside. Doing it this way you never have to touch the guts.

Step 8: The Blood Line

Cut along the inside to reveal the blood line.

Step 9: Scoop

This is why I have the spoon taped to the end of my knife, you simply flip the knife and scoop out the blood.

Step 10: Snap the Tail

Firmly grasp the tail and it should easily snap off, as long as there is no skin attached.

Step 11: Hose It Off

Hose everything off.

Step 12: Bagged

Bagged and ready for the freezer :) Some people cut off all the fins but I don't, I prefer to cut them off later. If I don't plan on using the fish within a year I will wrap in freezer paper and then bag them, but I usually use most of them up before next fishing season.



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    11 Discussions


    1 year ago

    How big of a fish have used this method on? I'm just wondering if it'll work with Striped Bass.

    Thanks, very good Instructable.

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    I'm not sure, I've only done this on sockeye salmon and a couple times on small trout... I would imagine it would work on any fish.


    Reply 4 years ago

    I've never caught a catfish so I wouldn't know, sorry.


    5 years ago


    Grimmy Grim

    6 years ago on Introduction

    Outstanding! I like learning new ways of doing things and this is pretty darn good!. I also liked the spoon taped to the handle.

    Thanks much!

    I'm wondering if this will work with really, really big Kings. Cutting that spine is an SOB on them.

    1 reply
    kansasaGrimmy Grim

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    I've done it on Springs and they are fair size, mind you not as big as the Kings up in Alaska but I'd say it would probably work.


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    One time we had a small trout in our gill net and using the same principles it worked on it so I'd say yes if the fish were similar to a salmon in shape.