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How to eviscerate a catfish – and skin it at the same time

A friend called recently and when he said he had a fishing question I thought it was how to fish for something else or where to get a fishing license. No

My daughter caught a catfish today, “he said,” and she wanted to keep it. I’ve never cleaned one of these before so I wonder how to eviscerate a catfish.

It turned out that his daughter had actually caught a bullhead, one of the smaller species in the catfish family, and a good tasting one, especially when taken from cold water in the spring.

I told him that you don’t exactly gouge a catfish like a perch, bluegill, or small trout that is pan-fried. That said, you’re not just putting a knife in a catfish’s belly and removing the entrails (that would be gutting catfish), as this makes it much more difficult (almost impossible) to effectively remove the cat’s thin and slippery skin. You will need to remove this skin, as well as the head, the first time you cleanse, and you cannot simply cut the skin of a catfish off a fillet later. If you try this once you will never do it again. Or you will never hold a catfish again and that would be a shame as they are delicious.

Hence the question of how to eviscerate a catfish becomes a question of how to properly clean a catfish. The solution is pretty simple and starts with a whole fish that has not been cut in any way. Before you begin, keep in mind that a catfish has sharp pectoral fins that you don’t want to prick your skin. So wear a glove on the hand that is holding your catfish.

Here is the process for neatly skinning and eviscerating bullheads and small catfish (assuming you are right-handed):

  1. Use the thumb, forefinger, and middle finger of your left hand holding the pectoral fins to hold the fish up and down again.
  2. With a sharp knife, make a shallow cut of the skin around the entire head of the fish, as well as along the spine from the dorsal fin to the adipose fin.
  3. Use a pair of pliers (or catfish skin gripper) to grab the skin behind the head and pull it up to the tail. Do this on both sides.
  4. Still holding your head in your left hand, reach for the body just behind your head with your right hand. Bend your head down to break the spine.
  5. Pull the head away from the fish and pull it down and back towards the tail. This removes the skin and viscera in one process.
  6. If desired, cut off the tail and rinse the fish in clean water.

You can gutt a catfish and remove the skin in one go. Once you’ve done a few it becomes quick and easy. And after you’ve eaten them, you’ll want to catch and keep more. Don’t forget to get a fishing license before you set off!

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