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8 Steps to Clean Catfish

Texas Pioneer WomanIn my opinion fishing is a beneficial self-reliant skill that all people must have. There is a lot of pride that comes from standing on a river bank or sitting out in a boat on the lake fishing for my supper. I try to catch enough fish for my supper and a bit extra to put in the freezer for another day.

Catfish that needs to be cleaned
Catfish that needs to be cleaned. 

Once we have caught the fish we head home to clean them for supper. Preparing caught fish can sometimes be a little intimidating because you have to do a quite a bit to get the live fish from the fishing hook to the skillet. To be honest my husband prepares the fish for me and then it is my job to cook them for supper. But as a self-reliant woman I need to learn how to do it myself, so I took lessons from my husband one evening after an afternoon of fishing.

I grew up hearing the saying, “There is more than one way to skin a cat.” I can’t imagine how that saying came about; it seems diabolical to skin a cat.  But the meaning of that saying is what is important here. That saying means that there is more than one way to do something. With that in mind, I’m going to explain how my husband taught me to clean fish.

A Few Basic Tips  

  1. Always cut away from you. If the knife slips, then it is less likely to cut you.
  2. Be aware of the sharp fins and bones when cleaning fish. They can cause puncture wounds.
  3. Use a sharp knife. The less you have to struggle with a knife, the less likely the chance of an accident.

The Eight Steps to Clean a Catfish 

  1. Rinse fish thoroughly with clean water.
  2. Fish can either be cleaned on a cutting board or hung by its mouth.

Fish can be cleaned on a cutting board
Fish can be cleaned on a cutting board. 

hang our fish for cleaning
We use a simple 2 by 4 lumber with a chain and hook on one end to hang our fish for cleaning. 

  1. With catfish in hand cut under the gills and all around the head.

Make an incision under catfish gills
Make an incision under catfish gills. 

  1. Remove the fins by using pliers or skinning pliers.

Remove catfish fins
Remove catfish fins. 

  1. Grasp the skin with pliers or skinning pliers and peel it straight down towards the tail. Repeat this until all skin is removed.

Remove catfish skin
Remove catfish skin. 

  1. Insert the knife under the gills and slice down the belly. Open up the belly to remove the entrails.

Remove catfish entrails
Remove catfish entrails. 

  1. Make a cut under the bone of the head.

Cut catfish head
Cut catfish head. 

  1. Grab the catfish and bend the head until the backbone snaps.

Remove catfish head
Remove catfish head. 

  1. Rinse thoroughly inside and out with clean water.

Cleaned Catfish
Cleaned Catfish 

Once I learned the basics of dressing the fish, serving a hearty fish supper from start to finish can be quite easy. Preparing a delicious fish dinner can also be very healthy, economical and self-sustaining. I hope you will challenge yourself to catch and clean your own fish supper this weekend!

To learn more information about self-reliant skills see my blog. 

nebraska dave
12/2/2012 3:21:57 PM

Pioneer Woman, welcome to the GRIT blogging community. My fishing skills started with my Grandfather. He was the first one to take me fishing. It flamed a desire that still burns today. I still remember that first fish I reeled in when I was only five. It was a catfish. Over the course of the years since then, hundreds of catfish have succumbed to my frying pan. My fishing was mostly in Minnesota. Part of the complete fishing experience was cleaning the fish after the great catch. We would sometimes have up to 100 catfish to clean. None would go to waste. Cleaning fish and telling fish stories always held my interest. The one thing I learned quickly was not to get stuck by the catfish horns. I liken it unto a bee sting. My method of holding became from the front with my left hand. The top horn was between my thumb and index finger. The right side horn went under the thumb and the left side horn went between the index and middle finger. Then a firm grip made skinning the fish easier and no getting stuck with the horns. Other kinds of fish get flayed. One problem I have with eating fish in Nebraska is the run off chemicals from all farm land. It's still fun to catch them but I just catch and release in Nebraska. Have a great fish fry day.