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How to Gut a Fish

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How to Gut a Fish

  1. Find a suitable place to gut your fish. 
  2. Scale the fish first.
  3. Remove the head.
  4. Slit from the anus up to the head. 
  5. Rinse out the fish with fresh water and dab off using a paper towel before storing in a sealed bag in the fridge. 


If catching the fish yourself, be it through spearing, netting, trapping or simply having used a rod and line, a decent diving knife is the best all round tool to keep for the job. Due to the pointed, rust free tip, it is the most efficient tool for swiftly and humanely paralysing and then killing your catch. The other added bonus is that it can then be used to gut and scale your catch, as well as free any tangles in heavy weed or discarded man made obstacles.
Diving knife

A good filleting knife is the difference between a scraggly edge, hacked up chunk of flesh, and an efficient and non-hateful, pristine fillet.
Fish filleting knife


How to Gut a Fish

Knowing how to gut a fish properly can keep a potentially delicious meal from either being spoilt or potentially not happening whatsoever. Although all fish differ slightly, this ‘how to’ will explain how to prepare a whole fish ready for the bbq or grilling (filleting a fish is a different skill that is much more species specific.)

Photo Credit: Designlazy.com


1- Find a suitable place to gut your fish. It is best to not have to do this inside as things can get rather messy especially if you’re new to the experience. I always process my catch at the water’s edge to avoid having to clean up after myself (the seabirds and other fish will do that for you).

2- Scale the fish first. Unless you’re dealing with a particularly spinney species or flat fish, the fins can be left on (as you’re cooking it whole), so the first task is to de-scale. This can be a very messy process if not done properly. Holding the fish underwater (at the water’s edge or in a basin), use the back of a knife held slightly at an angle (to scrape against the skin rather than to cut it), remove the scales by scraping from tail to head.

3- Remove the head. For presentation purposes it’s often nice to leave the head on (if serving a large fish to a group of people for example), however this leaves you with the minor complication of freeing the guts from the gullet- this just requires a bit of force or a slit using a sharp blade.

4- Slit from the anus up to the head. Once open, all of the guts can very easily be removed and discarded simply by using your fingers to pull them out. 

5- Rinse out the fish with fresh water and dab off using a paper towel before storing in a sealed bag in the fridge. 


Abide by fishing regulations! Fines can be costly and ignoring regulations may mean less fish available in seasons to come.

Learn the dangers of the water you’ll be using.

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