Cleaning Catfish

A Quick Guide to Cleaning Catfish

It’s not hard to find people who want to go catfish fishing, but when the time comes for cleaning catfish, you can bet that there will be no volunteers. Catfish cook up great and are very tasty, but getting them into a form to cook is the hard part. Cleaning catfish is a tough job and no one wants to do it. But, knowing how to clean a catfish the right way can make all the difference.

The first two tips for cleaning catfish are to wear gloves (both sanitary and practical) and to have a very sharp knife. When you are cleaning a fish, a dull knife can be a very dangerous tool. You are more apt to get cut with a dull knife than a sharp one. Start by washing off the catfish in clean, cold water, and then dry it off with a paper towel. Dispose of the paper towel to prevent any bacteria from spreading around the kitchen.

Make sure that the fish is dead! This might sound like dumb advice but fish can live for a very long time out of water, and many people arrive home to clean their fish before it has died. If its death is in doubt, hit the fish in the head with any hard object like a hammer or a rock. Then you can start the fish-cleaning process.

Be sure to do your catfish cleaning on a cutting board. It is a lot safer than on a counter, plus it won’t damage your countertop. Begin by making a cut right behind the gills and gutting the fish.

Take your sharp knife in hand and cut off the pectoral fins and dorsal adipose (fin). Remember to always cut away from yourself and not toward yourself.  Leaving the skin on the fish, fillet both sides of the fish with your knife. You will have two fillets.

Place one fillet with the skin side down on your cutting board. About a quarter-inch up from the tail, make a cut through the catfish meat. Do not cut through the skin, just the meat. If you are right-handed, push down on the fillet with your left hand, right in back of the cut you have just made. With your right hand, slide the knife into the cut at a 45-degree angle against the skin. This is in the direction of the head of the fish.

The next part of cleaning catfish is to slide the knife forward, still keeping it against the skin. This will separate the meat from the skin. Repeat the exact process with the other fillet. Now the two fillets are ready to cook.

Another method of cleaning catfish takes the process in another direction after you have gutted the fish. Hang the fish by the gills at eye level either on a tree or other structure. Then, use your knife to cut the skin down the middle of the back of the fish. In this method, you skin the fish next by taking a pair of pliers and pulling on the skin downward from the head. You will have to pull very hard.

Remove all of the skin down to the tail. Don’t be upset if there is a tiny piece of skin here or there that you just can’t remove. That is normal and happens to everyone. Next, cut off the tail first and then the head of the catfish. Start filleting the fish from the tail towards the head, making your slit along the backbone. Upon reaching the ribs, start in from the other direction and cut from the head downward, along the spine and the ribs. When you have filleted both sides of the fish in this manner, you are done.

All that is left to do is to find a great recipe, cook and enjoy eating your catfish.