How To Gut a Fish

There is more involved to fishing than just baiting a hook and waiting. If you catch a fish and decide to eat it, do you know how to gut it? Gutting a fish is a technique that is getting left behind as more people practice "Catch and Release." If you decide to put freshly caught fish on your menu, you probably have several questions: Where do you start? What special tools do you need? This is really a very simple procedure; however, it can be pretty nasty. The good news is that gutting a fish doesn't take long. Follow the steps outlined in this article so no mistakes are made that could harm the fish meat that you worked so hard to catch.

Step 1

Using the fillet knife, insert the tip into the fish's vent and begin moving the knife toward the head, being careful to stay away from the fish's guts. Cut through the bony part of the fish between the pelvic fins, which are located in pairs on the fish's belly, and continue the cut up to the base of the fish's lower jaw. 

Step 2

Remove the guts by running your hand into the fish where you ended the cut, right under the fish's lower jaw. Continue moving your hand upward toward the fish's back to the base of its head. You should be able to feel where the guts connect. Grab a hold right there and pull all of them out of the cut in the belly area. If the fish is large, the guts may have to be cut out instead of pulled out.

Step 3

Now remove the fish's liver and swim bladder. The liver is connected to the fish's backbone and can usually just be pulled loose. The swim bladder is the whitish sac inside the fish, it can usually be pulled loose also, but either can be cut loose with a fillet knife if they need to be.

Step 4

Remove the gills by cutting them loose from where they attach to the fish. The fillet knife or a pair of kitchen shears works for this.

The last step is washing the gutted fish with cold water. Now you have a nice, gutted fish ready to be seasoned and cooked!


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Ken, you are correct. I will see if I can write an article about cleaning flat sea fish such as flounder.

By Deborah Anderson