You may be less than thrilled when you reel in your fishing line and find a “sea monster” on the end, but if you learn how to clean catfish, it actually makes for delicious eats. Cleaning a catfish is an easy process that takes just a few minutes and a few basic knife skills. Of course, whenever you work with raw fish, it’s important to follow a few food safety rules. If you catch your catfish, the FDA advises that you check local advisories to make sure the fish in your area is safe to eat, and keep fish on ice both while fishing and while bringing it home. If you buy catfish, the FDA suggests purchasing fish with a fresh, mild smell, as well as clear eyes and firm, shiny flesh that springs back when pressed. Once you have your fish, just follow the steps below, and you’ll be feasting in no time!
To clean a catfish, you'll need:
- A catfish
- A sharp knife
- A cutting board
- Start cleaning your catfish by putting your knife behind the adipose fin, which is on the top of the catfish near the rear. Cut the skin in a straight line until you reach the dorsal fin, which is just behind the catfish’s head. Then slice downward, make a cut behind the head that is deep enough to reach the backbone.
- Grab the catfish’s body securely in one hand. Use the other hand to carefully bend the head down and break the backbone, taking care not to rip the head off.
- Place your forefinger into your incision, reaching over the end of the backbone into the rib cage, creating a firm grip on the fish. Use your other hand to slowly pull the head toward the tail in a “peeling” motion. As you move the head, the skin should come along with it. Move slowly, and you can clean your catfish in one long peeling movement, pulling the skin, viscera, and head free.
- Continue cleaning your catfish by making fillets. Lay your fish on its side and cut it from the top down to the backbone. Placing your knife at an angle, slice the meat to separate it from the bones in one long motion. You should have one fillet, created from one-half of the catfish. Flip the fish and repeat this process on the other side to create a second fillet.
- Check both fillets to make sure that no bones have gotten stuck in the fish meat. Catfish bones are thin and sharp and may be hard to see, so check carefully to make sure that your catfish is clean.
- Discard the guts and bones after cleaning your catfish. If you’re still by the water, throw them in for another fish to feast on. At home, toss them in the garbage – though you’ll probably want to take it out so you don’t stink up the house. Your catfish is now clean and ready to cook.