How To Scale A Fish Without A Scaler How to Gut and Scale a Whole Fish in 9 Simple Steps

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  • 01
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    Start Scaling Your Fish

    Scaling near the tail of a fish

    Holly Heyser

    Many people like to fish for themselves and their family for economical or leisure purposes. In fact, there are plenty of individuals that use fishing to provide food for their families, allowing them to be frugal. Whether you’re camping or fishing nearby, cleaning, gutting, and scaling a fish isn’t as complicated as it might seem.

    After you’ve caught your fish, make sure to let your fish hang on the stringer in the water and then put it in a cooler full of ice water. This will keep your fish fresh and flavorful. You want to either freeze it for dinner later or start preparing it immediately so you can eat it fast. Try to aim for cleaning your fish within 1 to 2 hours so it doesn’t spoil. Plus, dried out fish will make the scales harder to remove come clean time.

    Start Scaling

    Find a spot outside or in a place where you can clean up easily, as the scales will go flying. Then grab the easiest tool to scale a fish with: a butter knife. You can purchase a special scaler, but you don’t need one. Start scaling your fish by holding it firmly with one hand and scraping from tail to head with the knife.

    Continue to 2 of 9 below.


  • 02
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    Scale up to the Edges

    Make sure you get near the fins when scaling a fish

    Holly Heyser

    Make sure you get the scales on the top of the fish and near the fins, remembering to clean the tail. Try not to press too hard or gash the fish, and be careful around the fins as they can prick the skin.

    Continue to 3 of 9 below.


  • 03
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    Scale the Collar

    Don't forget to scale the collar of a fish

    Holly Heyser

    Don’t forget about the collar of the fish. This is often the tastiest part but often skipped over entirely.

    Continue to 4 of 9 below.


  • 04
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    Start the Cut

    Starting to cut the fish to gut it

    Holly Heyser

    Start the gutting process by slipping the tip of your fillet knife into the vent. Slice upwards, away from the fish and the guts, and toward the head.

    Continue to 5 of 9 below.


  • 05
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    Cut to the Gills

    Completing the cut in gutting a fish

    Holly Heyser

    Complete the cut by forcing the knife through the bony portion. This part lies between the pelvic fins (that are paired up on the belly of the fish) and the base of the lower jaw.

    Continue to 6 of 9 below.


  • 06
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    Remove the Guts

    Removing fish guts

    Holly Heyser

    Remove the guts by reaching in and grabbing them right at the base of the head, where you feel everything connect. Pinch that spot and pull the whole lot out. On large fish, you will have to carefully cut this with your knife.

    Continue to 7 of 9 below.


  • 07
    of 09

    Scrape the Liver

    A cleanly gutted fish

    Holly Heyser

    Scrape out the liver attached to the backbone of the fish. Then cut out what remains of the swim bladder, which is a white sack that attaches itself to the cavity.

    Continue to 8 of 9 below.


  • 08
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    Snip the Gills

    Cutting the gills

    Holly Heyser

    The gills will impart a bitter flavor to your fish and will make it spoil faster. Remove the gills by cutting them where they attach at either end of the arc that they form. You can use kitchen shears or a knife. On small fish, you can even just rip them out.

    Continue to 9 of 9 below.


  • 09
    of 09

    Remove the Gills

    Removing the gills

    Holly Heyser

    Once the attachments are cut, you can remove the gills. Then wash the scaled and gutted fish well in ice-cold water. Pack it on a bed of crushed ice until you’re ready to cook it.

Video about How To Scale A Fish Without A Scaler

How to Remove Fish Scales without using a Scaler

Fish scale art is a traditional art form for Indigenous People. It is important to not damage the scales so they can be preserved for the artwork.

This video demonstrates a way to remove the scales using a spoon to minimize damage to the scales.

Check out our Fish scale Art and How to Gut a Fish video :

https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=NAR-y-4OLm4

For more information check out:
http://www.portagecollege.ca/Programs/Native-Arts-and-Culture

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