Warning: The following 101 on how to gut a fish includes information on, well, gutting a fish. Photos, too. Sensitive types might not want to scroll down. What, you’re still here? Cool. Let’s get cracking.
In the wake of a fishing trip a couple of years back, I was all set to take photos of my father-in-law gutting and cleaning our
enormous — OK, fine, our somewhat modest — haul of brook trout. I turned around to get my camera and by the time I had turned back, he was done. Yep, gutting a fish is that easy. You could go on to fillet the fish, a step I’d recommend if you’ve got, well, bigger fish to fry (think bluefish or cod), but for trout and small bass, you can simply lay these suckers on a butter-coated skillet and sauté for a few minutes per side. You have to stay ever vigilant for bones, but in a word? Delicious. On a subsequent fishing trip, I was faster on the draw taking pictures. Photos and details, such as they are, below.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
» fish (securing these from the wild is the hardest part)
» a sharp filleting knife like the one pictured below
» a board with a fish clamp (optional)
WHAT TO DO
1. Thoroughly wash your fish to get the slime off. Pat dry. (If you’re grossed out by fish slime, do not proceed.) Using your fillet knife, make an incision just behind the fish’s pectoral fin, or the side fin nearest the gills. Cut the head off. Lay aside.
2. Place your hand flat on top of the fish. Slide your knife into the body of the fish and cut all the way down the belly to the tail.
3. Butterfly the fish open and pull out all of the guts. Anything and everything loose needs to go.
4. Next you want to remove the scales. If you’re using a board with a clamp, secure the fish’s tail. Then, using your knife, grate the fish’s skin in the direction away from you. You can buy a fancy scaling knife, but a fillet knife works just fine.
5. Nature’s glitter.
6. Toward the left of the photo: two fish ready for the frying pan. Toward the right: fish guts. That white thing is the swim bladder of a bass, the piece of anatomy that lets him rise and sink in the water. All of that stuff is waste—or, if you’re a bear or a raccoon, a free snack.
7. Question: What happens when two trout and one bass walk into a campfire?
8. Answer: Dinner!
Got a gut-instinct tip to add? Or just want to swap fish tales? Post a comment below and keep the conversation rolling. You might also be interested in 101s on canning tuna, grass-fed and pasture-raised meat, and solar cooking, or in joining the Hunting, Gathering, and Foraging group. You can always find more things to cook, preserve, plant, grow, make, craft, and gut in the HOMEGROWN 101 library.