Set Your Hook

Fish Cleaning 101

The Easy Way To Clean Fish: ESP Boss’ 4 Step Process

Have you ever done a Google search for cleaning fish? You’ll come up with a million and one ways to clean a fish! Holy cow!

Some fish really do have a specific way that you have to clean them, like catfish. But for your garden variety, run-of-the-mill trout, I wanted to share with you ESP Boss’ 4 Step Process.

Before you begin, make sure the fish is clean of mud, bait, and other nasties. You’ll need a sharp knife and a cutting board. Running water is a help, but not required.

If any fish still have the hook in them, set them aside for last!

Here’s how we take care of a fish that has swallowed the hook and we can’t get it out: put TWO of the metal stringer hooks through it. That way, we can tell it apart from the others!

I prefer metal stringers to rope!

Step 1

Insert the tip of your knife at the anal fins. Cut the fish’s stomach area all the way until you reach the gill cover. You want to cut completely through the skin, but not into the spine.

You want a sharp knife and a stable surface.

Step 2

With your fingers, remove the insides of the fish. It’s best if you reach in toward the head, firmly grasp the entrails and pull them out working towards the anal fins. Run your finger firmly along the inside of the backbone to clean out the vein that runs along the bone.

Step 3

Rinse the cavity of the fish. If you have running water, great! If not, rinse out the cavity in a pan of clean, cool water.

ESP Boss rinsing a trout in camp. Don't dump that dirty water in camp or it'll attract all manner of beasties and bugs!

Step 4

With the fish laying on a firm surface (so you can see one eye), slide your knife up and under the gills. Firmly cut through the backbone so the gills stay attached to the head.

The gills stay attached to the head.

Discard guts and head. Or, save the head to use to catch crayfish!

And that’s it! Because trout don’t have extreme scales, there’s no need to remove the scales or skin. We typically cook them using the Fish Basket BBQ recipe.

Readers Weigh In:

  • How do you clean trout?
  • Any tips or tricks that I could share with newbies?
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