Cleaning your catch

For anglers, the taste of fresh-caught fish is one of the best ways to savor a successful outdoor adventure. But before the savoring begins, the fish must be cleaned and prepared.

Cleaning and preparing gamefish : step-by-step instructions from water to table
Monte Burch.
Guilford, Conn. : Lyons Press, c2002.
For an angler, it's tough to beat the fresh-caught flavor and satisfaction of a delicious fish dinner savored after a successful day on the water. But to get the most from your catch, it must be handled, cleaned, and prepared properly from the moment of capture. In this long-awaited guide, outdoorsman Monte Burch, with the help of step-by-step instructions and detailed illustrations, explains how to handle all types of gamefish caught in both fresh and salt water, including trout, salmon, bass, walleye, perch, catfish, northern pike, bluefish, redfish, striped bass, and many others. This handbook covers the skills needed for gutting, scaling, skinning, steaking, and filleting all popular gamefish, as well as the knives, tools, and other equipment needed, and illustrates basic cooking methods. Burch also describes the best techniques for preserving fish, including freezing, drying, pickling, canning, and smoking. Then he shares many of his favorite recipes for frying, baking, poaching, and broiling your fish. Cleaning and Preparing Gamefish is a book all anglers will want to keep close at hand and refer to often. Its usefulness will last a lifetime. Book jacket.

Fish that will be baked or grilled in foil can be left whole.  Clean out the stomach cavity, remove the gills and tail, and scale each fish. Some recipes (and personal preferance) call for leaving the head on; others suggest removing it.

Don't forget the salt

Anglers can get rid of the 'fishy' smell on their hands by washing them in a mixture of soap and a handful of table salt.

(Sports Afield, 2001)

Larger fish can be sliced vertically behind the gill plate for steaks that are delicious when grilled, broiled, or smoked.

With a few additional steps fish can be filleted. Filleting results in boneless meat--perfect for fish you want to grill, fry, or use in stew and soup recipes. Learning to fillet a fish takes time and practice, but is well worth the effort.


For top flavor and food safety, attempt to clean and cook fish within two hours after catching it. Fish stored on crushed ice will remain fresh for 2 to 3 days, but must be drained often. The colder the storage temperature, the longer the fish can be held.

The story of sushi : an unlikely saga of raw fish and rice
Trevor Corson.
New York : Harper Perennial, 2008.
In this richly reported documentary Corson, journalist and author of "The Secret Life of Lobsters," shadows several American sushi novices as well as a master Japanese chef to give readers an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at the elusive art of cooking without cooking.
The big book of fish & shellfish : more than 250 terrific recipes
Fred Thompson.
San Francisco : Chronicle Books, c2006.
For those who love fish or clams, lobster, scallops, mussels, octopus, oysters, crab, or shrimp but are in need of a definitive guide to making it at home, here's a "Big Book" that's a whale of catch. This tell-all volume helps the home cook not only select the fish or shellfish from the market, but also then turn it into a delicious meal in a few easy-to-follow steps. The book is organized by type of seafood, so if, say, snapper is not available that day, a quick substitution can be made with catfish, flounder, or whatever similar fish is freshest. The author's tips for selection, preparation, and cooking techniques (including poaching, steaming, baking, grilling, frying, and roasting) allow the reader to cook with confidence. With more than 250 outstanding recipes, from appetizers and main courses to great classic side dishes, this latest addition to the "Big Book" series means nobody has to be chicken of the sea.

Cleaning your fish is always easier if you have the right tools. Be sure knives are sharp. It only takes cleaning a few fish to make knives dull. Keep a steel or knife sharpener handy. Fish scalers, pliers, and scissors help speed the cleaning process. Have a supply of paper towels handy.

No matter what type of fish you catch or how you prepare it, the #1 rule is the same--clean the fish as soon as possible so it stays fresh and does not spoil. If not to be eaten immediately, fish must be frozen.

But the best scenario is to take the newly caught fish and fire up the grill or oven.  Then select your favorite recipe and make the dining experience the best!

Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff