How to Gut a Fish

This weekend instead of fishing at the usual watering hole, we decided to try the big pier. The place where “real” fishermen go; the ones who actually know what they are doing…

When we first arrived at the pier lugging our Star Wars fishing poles there were a few chuckles. But we held our heads up high, cast our lines, and waited for the fish to bite. And waited. And waited. During this down time, the boys managed to befriend everyone on the pier, Brian dropped the filet knife and poked a hole in his ankle, and I checked my emails. It was actually quite relaxing, except for the knife incident.

After some time, our friendly neighbor took pity on us and gave us snapper bait to replace our night crawler worms. It did the trick, our luck turned around. Within minutes, Matthew hooked our first catch of the day and the whole pier cheered. We were finally in, accepted among our fellow fishermen as legit, Star Wars poles and all. The day continued with much success, we caught several small snappers and one large robin fish. Picture a fish with wings that barks like a dog. We threw that one back!

Once the boys learned that our fellow fishermen were actually eating the fish, they decided they wanted to as well. So we kept two for dinner and gave the remainder to our neighbor, to replace the bait he generously shared with us. I knew this day would soon come so I had already done a little research. All I had to do was scale the fish, chop off the head, gut the fish, and then fillet it. Simple, right?

Step 1: Clean fish under cold water and place on covered work surface. Outside if possible, it gets a little messy.


Step 2: Scale the fish by holding it firmly by the tail and brushing towards the head. Remove all scales. Repeat on other side. If you don’t have a scaler, you can use a butter knife.


Step 3: Cut off the head. Of course I was picturing a scene from a horror movie with blood spurting everywhere. But much to the boys’ disappointment, there was relatively little.


Step 4: Take out the guts – this was the grossest part and once I cleared this hurdle, it was smooth sailing. After removing the entrails of the fish, rinse again in cold water.

Step 5: Hold the tail and cut off the fillets on either side of the spine. Rinse fillets in cold water. And you are ready to start cooking!


Snapper w/Garlic Butter


4 miniscule fillets of snapper

Salt & Pepper

1 Tbsp butter

2 cloves garlic, minced

Lemon, cut into wedges



Season the fillets with salt and pepper. Heat a sauté pan on medium heat and add the butter and minced garlic. Cook the garlic until fragrant, about two minutes. Add the fish to the pan and cook about 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove fish from the pan and spoon the garlic and butter over the top. Add a squeeze of lemon, if desired.


And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 6): “Awesome! The best fish I ever had”

Liam (age 4): “We have to catch more of these, but bigger”

Dylan (age 4): “Is this fish? I really like this…”

A lot of effort for one bite of food, but our amuse-bouche was delicious. I followed up the appetizer with rosemary chicken, which was also delicious.

Stay tuned, recipe to follow.

7 thoughts on “How to Gut a Fish

  1. Love the story and the fact the the boys are now real fishermen! You can teach a man to fish and he will eat forever, as long as his mother doesn’t mind cleaning and scaling the fish and the water stays fresh!

    i caught my first fish when I was about 42. The fish was the same size but to me it looked like a whale! i was so excited. I just hate putting the bait on the hooks!

    keep on fishing, next is to teach them to clean it and cook it.

    Love, Judy

    • It is true that no matter how small a fish you catch it is still very exciting.
      We had fun cleaning these. The boys turned out to be experts scalers.
      And I always make Brian do the bait. I refuse to touch the worms! Yuck.

  2. Great post. I laughed when I read the sentence that began ” But much to the boys’ disappointment … ” Too funny! Your boys will never forget that outing. Hats off to you for cleaning them. I’ve cleaned plenty of fish in my time but now I let the fishmonger do it for me. That’s one mess I’ll gladly pay for another to handle. 🙂

    • I think now that I have crossed cleaning fish off my bucket list I might let the fishmonger do it for me too. I have a feeling that if we actually do catch a sizable fish one of these days, it might not be as much fun to clean. Maybe by the time that happens I can let the boys handle it!

  3. Pingback: Fishing Related News » My Fishing Blog

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