Cleaning and Prepping Fish

Removing Fish scales

Cleaning fish is easy with the right tools and a little practice. You can clean fish on a dock, paddle, cooler lid or flat rock. Many fishing accesses and parks provide fish cleaning stations with water for rinsing fish.

Most anglers choose to fillet and skin crappie, bass, walleye, and carp. Some fish, such as white bass and largemouth bass, have a strong-tasting dark layer of flesh along their lateral lines that should be cut away before cooking or storage.


  • Sharp knife (preferably a filet knife)
  • Scaler, dull knife, or spoon
  • Glove to protect your hand and help grip the fish
  • Newspaper (cleaning fish on newspaper will make clean-up easy)
Pan Dressing a fish

Pan-dressing fish

Remove the scales by scraping the skin with a dull knife, a spoon or an inexpensive scaling tool.
Pan-dress fish by cutting along the sides of the fins on the back and behind the stomach and pulling them out. Cut off the head, then slit the belly and scrape out the entrails.

Fillet a fish

Filleting fish

Fillet larger fish by cutting down to the backbone behind the head and sliding the knife blade with a sawing motion toward the tail.
Slice out the rib bones from top to bottom.

Skin Fillets

Skin fillets by cutting down to the skin near the tail, turning the knife blade and, pulling firmly on the tail section, sliding and sawing the knife between the skin and the flesh.



Helpful tips on how to fillet a fish.