How To Gut A Fish: Follow These Tips

Fisherman holding a knife and gutting the fish

If you love the great outdoors then you understand the thrill of going out and catching your own food. There's just nothing like catching and preparing your own food. Hunting requires more experience and equipment (not to mention you can only hunt for certain animals at specific times of the year), so fishing is a viable alternative. If you do fish, you will need to know how to gut a fish. While you take your fish to a professional that is an added task that will also take you out of the way. If you're at a camping site, it will be better if you know how to gut a fish and do it yourself.

Materials and Preparing Your Workstation

Fishermen gutting some fish

Image by Jackrooster from Pixabay

In terms of materials, you don't need much when it comes to how to gut a fish. You'll need to make sure and pack a few more items in your fishing kit, but these won't take much more in the way of space. Ideally, you'll gut and clean your fish on the spot (either in the boat or back at your camping spot). This will make things easier. However, if you're planning on fishing for a longer time and want to take the fish back with you than you'll also need a cooler and ice to keep the fish fresh.

Transporting Your Fish

Items for Prepping

Properly Cleaning the Fish

Before you start the process of how to gut a fish, you'll need to clean the fish. This makes sure you do not contaminate the meat of the fish with whatever might be on the scales of the fish.

Take the fish out of the cooler. If the fish is still alive, you must take care of this now with the mallet (or by smacking it against a rock or something hard and flat so you don't bludgeon and damage the meat of the fish).

Now, position the fish onto the newspaper. Only clean and gut one fish at a time. This will keep the other fish cold With the fish in place take out your knife and put on your gloves. You'll want to remove the scales of the fish. The scales of the fish will run from the head and go back toward the tail (similar to shingles on a roof). In order to remove the scales, you'll want to run the knife from the tail towards the head, catching right under the scale without cutting into the meat.

Remove the Scales

Rinsing Off the Fish

Cleaning a Fish with Skin

How to Gut a Fish

Now that the fish is ready it is time to continue with how to gut a fish. Take your knife and insert it on the rear of the fish, directly in front of the rear tail. Now, draw a line toward the head. This will split the fish to the base of where the gills are located.

With the fish cut, spread the cavity with your fingers, then reach in and pull out the innards. As you remove the innards, place them into a bucket or set aside (if you're fishing later using the entrails can be helpful for catching more fish).

Once the entrails have been removed you want to clean out the interior of the fish with water. You can use the hose or the cleaning station for this. You can also use bottles of water.

Preparing the Fish

Now that you have gutted the fish, you'll need to prepare it for cooking. Take your knife and remove the head (if you'd like) but cutting at the gills. Some fish are prepared with the heads on (such as a trout), although pan fish are prepared with the head off. Now that the head is gone you are ready to cook.

It is now up to you whether you cook the fish whole or if you cut it into sections. If it is a larger fish, you'll likely want to cut it into individual strips. Whatever you decide to do, now that you know how to gut a fish you'll be able to continue on and prepare the fish as you like it.


If you want the freshest tasting fish after you catch it you'll need to know how to gut a fish. Thankfully this is not a difficult task. Once you've done it once or twice you'll have it down and you'll only become faster at it. In fact, the longest part of the process is removing the scales or the skin. The actual gutting of the fish doesn't take long at all. So whatever kind of fish you have caught and wherever you live, you will be able to take these steps and use it to prepare, clean, and gut the fish. Just make sure to have all the necessary equipment on hand before starting as this will make it easier.

Featured Image: Image by CS Houghton from Pixabay


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