How to Clean a Catfish – Fast and Fool-Proof!

No one can deny that there’s nothing quite like the taste of fresh-caught catfish. Whether you’re frying it up, grilling it, or baking it, this delicious fish always hits the spot. But before you can enjoy your hard-earned catch, you’ve got to clean it. But how do you clean a catfish anyway? 

And let’s be honest, cleaning fish is not most people’s idea of a good time. But it doesn’t have to be a dreaded chore! With our how to clean a catfish method, you’ll have those catfish cleaned in no time – and you might even enjoy it. We’ve also included a fool-proof step on how to skin a catfish!

Read on to learn how to clean a catfish the easy way.

What You’ll Need 

Before you start cleaning your catfish, you’ll need to gather a few supplies. For this process, you’ll need:

1. Get the Right Tools 

Cleaning catfish doesn’t have to be a pain. Just like with any job, having the proper tools will make the task simpler and more enjoyable.

What do you need to clean catfish? A sharp knife, cutting board, and gloves. You’ll be ready to tackle those fish. Some cleaning catfish guides suggest using an electric knife, but it’s not the best choice for beginners. 

A non-electric standard fillet knife offers more control with every slice. As a matter of fact, a thin fillet knife with a sharp, flexible blade will enable you to make clean cuts without damaging the fish. 

2. Clean the Work Surface Area 

Take a few minutes to clean and disinfect your work surface. Wipe it down with a disinfectant wipe or spray it with a household cleaner. You can also use antibacterial soap and hot water mix. Let the surface air-dry completely before you start cleaning the fish.

3. Make a Shallow Slanted Slit

The next step is to make a shallow slanted 45-degree slit from the dorsal fin to the pelvic fin. Where are the dorsal fin and pelvic fin, you ask? You can find the dorsal on the fish’s back and the pelvic fin on the underside.

Do not cut all the way through. 

Expert Tip: Start at the top of the fish near the dorsal fin and make a slicing motion towards the pelvic fin. 

4. Cut Down From the Spine 

A person holding a knife to cut a catfish

Now it’s time to open up the fish. To do this, you’ll need to cut down your catfish from the spine to the belly.

First, find the fish’s spine. You can feel it running along the top of the fish from the head to the tail. Then, place the knife just behind the spine and make a slicing motion towards the belly. 

Use the spine as a guide, and keep your knife as close as possible to avoid damaging the internal parts of the fish like the stomach innards. 

Do not cut all the way to the tail just yet.

Caution: If it’s your first time filleting catfish, we suggest wearing a cut-resistant gloves.  

5. Secure the Fish for Skinning 

When you cut the spine to the belly button, you’ll notice that the fish starts to open up. At this point, you’ll need to secure the fish in place. There are a few different ways that you can do this. You can hold the fish’s head down on a cutting board or use a pair of tongs. But we suggest nailing the head down on a wooden plank.  

6. Skin the Fish

The next step is to skin the fish, and it’s not as difficult as it may seem. 

Grab a catfish skinner  and go back to the slanted cut from the dorsal and pelvic fin. Pull down the skin from the dorsal fin all the way to the tail. And, that’s it. You have successfully skinned a catfish! 

Expert Tip: Don’t want to spend money on a skinner? Pliers will work just fine.

7. Cut the Meat off the Fish

A person slicing a catfish meat from the spine.

With the skin removed on each side of the catfish, all you have to do next is grab a knife and cut the meat off the fish. 

Cut the end from the tail and then move upwards to the head. Stay as close to the spine and make sure to cut around the rib area of the fish. Once you’ve removed all of the meat, you should put the meat in a bowl of cold water or a cooler. 

8. Remove the Slime 

The last step of the cleaning process is removing the slime. There are different ways you de-slime a catfish. Our favorite is giving the meat a water-vinegar bath. Not only does this mixture remove the slime, but it also reduces the fishy taste and odor. Then, wipe the fillet down with a clean cloth or kitchen towel.

Cleaning Catfish Is Easy

Cleaning catfish is easy, and it’s a process that every angler should know how to do. You can easily clean your catch by following the steps outlined above. And once you’ve mastered the art of cleaning catfish, you’ll be able to enjoy this delicious fish any way you like.