Tools for Cleaning Fish

Tools for Cleaning Fish
Catching the fish is only the first step toward your fish dinner. Your next step is to clean the fish. Cleaning the fish involves a number of tools that work to help gut, skin, scale and debone it. You can improvise on some of the tools, or use the same knife for more than one procedure.

Screwdriver or Knife

Use any sharp screwdriver or very pointy knife to kill the fish once it's caught to ensure the best taste, according to Paul's Fishing Kites website. If you let a fish slowly suffocate, it's going to build up waste products that taint the taste. Stick the screwdriver into the fish head near the spine and angle it toward the brain.

Game Shears and Cleaver

Game shears cut through the fish to remove its entrails while a cleaver makes it easy to remove the fish head. Rather than shears, you can opt instead for a short, sharp knife to cut along the fish's underside and pull out the intestines. You can also use a knife instead of a clever for beheading a fish.


Scalers will scrape the scales off the fish. A wide variety of fish scalers are on the market. Some feature raised teeth on a brush-like head that easily collect the scales while others feature round metal pieces with teeth along the edges. Electric scalers also are available.

Fillet Knife

Fillet knives feature a non-serrated blade that easily and cleanly slices fish into thin fillets. Blades are usually stainless steel, a bit flexible and very thin and sharp. Their thin blades also insure you can reach narrow crevices and spots that are too small for other knives to reach. Fillet knives come in a variety of sizes, although the most common are around 7 inches in length. Some fillet knives fold up for easy storage in a tackle box or while traveling. Some are electric, either with a cord or batteries. You can use your fillet knife to also remove the fish bones.

Skinning Knife or Pliers

Use either a skinning knife or pliers to skin the fish. Insert a skinning knife beneath the skin and shave the skin from the fillets. Skinning knives are generally longer, pointier and thinner than fillet knives. Use pliers to skin a fish before its filleted by making a slit in the fish skin right below its head and pulling the skin off toward the tail.


Fish cleaning requires a few other necessities.

While an ice chest or cooler is not technically a tool for cleaning fish, you'll definitely need one. Fill the chest with a mixture of ice and water and chill the fish immediately after catching it. This will triple the time the fillets can keep before eating.

Other fish cleaning tools include a cutting board, to keep the fish flat and easy to maneuver, and a pair of gloves to protect your hands.

A knife sharpener or replacement blades will keep you knives in top shape.

Article Written By Ryn Gargulinski

Ryn Gargulinski is a writer, artist and performer whose journalism career began in 1991. Credits include two illustrated books, "Bony Yoga" and "Rats Incredible"; fitness, animal, crime, general news and features for various publications; and several awards. She holds a Master of Arts in English literature and folklore and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in creative writing with a French minor from Brooklyn College.

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