How To Clean and Fillet Catfish: The Fastest Method We’ve Ever Seen!

Catfish cleaning can be easy, quick, and relatively painless. Or it can be complicated, slow, and dirty.

The technique is everything.

We can help you quickly clean catfish with minimal fuss.

Keep the smaller cats and release the bigger ones

Catfishermen who have been around for a while will tell you that smaller cats taste better than their bigger brothers. I know this because I have eaten a lot of catfish. They become stronger after they reach five pounds. I have found that larger fillets are not worth the effort.

You have two reasons to release trophy catfish caught.

Contamination is another reason to let go of big cats. The danger to your health is high levels of PCBs in larger catfish. Respect local fish advisory laws, including cleaning and consumption guidelines.

You’re in the fortunate position to have a cooler full of cats, regardless of your decision.

To get you started, let’s first cover the basics.


Proper preparation will make for great fillets. If you follow these simple guidelines, your fish fries will turn out much better.

Baby, Ice!

Your cooler should be stocked with ice at least twice as much as fish. Don’t drain water that has been collected. Yeti experts insist that water helps to inculcate any remaining ice and keeps the temperature as low as possible.

For cats that you own, you want a bone-chilling, hand-numbing temperature. This will keep them healthy longer and slow down their metabolism.

Catfish can survive for hours in a bucket, but dangerous bacteria can also live there.

Use ice and be smart

Food safety

You should not only ice your fish but also make sure you wash your hands with warm soapy water.

This can be done by adding 1 cup bleach to 1-gallon water. Then, rinse the solution off everything before you begin. This bleach solution can kill any bugs on your knife or cutting board. It won’t burn your skin, but it may cause some damage to your clothes.

Cutting board

A large, high-quality cutting board made of plastic is highly recommended.

Do not skimp on the quality of your cutting board.

These are very affordable, large enough to allow you to work on your fish without feeling crowded, and extremely easy to clean. This all leads to a more enjoyable experience for you and a better final result.

Knife and glove

A good knife is essential for cleaning catfish. While opinions differ on the best choice, we have reviewed some of our favorite options before.

The Rapala4 Soft Grip Fillet is my recommendation. It is well-priced and perfectly designed for the job at hand.

It is important to have a good knife such as this Rapala.

A comfortable, grippy hand and a flexible, razor-sharp knife are the best. Flexibility is crucial. A stiff knife, no matter how sharp, will cause problems.

Rapala is a great choice for fillet knives. It’s very sharp and easy to use.

You can avoid a trip to the ER by using a cut-proof glove.

While a sharp knife is considered safe, accidents can happen.

A Kevlar glove that is cut-proof can be a good option for added safety. These gloves will be a lifesaver when you accidentally stab or slice your finger. It’s also much easier to use when you’re working with a slippery cat.

To Fillet or Skin? Which one is better?

Catfish anglers have skinned their catch for generations. This removes the tough, leathery layer that is necessary to prepare fillets and leaves smaller fish intact.

You can keep the whole catfish for frying. However, the vast majority of anglers prefer to fry them.

As someone who has had to skin catfish, I can tell you that it is very difficult. Skinning can be a time-consuming process that will significantly increase the amount of time it takes to clean your fish. This is something that no one wants.

Do yourself a favor, and go straight to the knife.

You’ll never go back again to skinning after you have done it once.

How to clean and filet a catfish

You have a cooler filled with well-iced catfish, a cutting board, knife, and glove. You’re now ready to go.

This task can be accomplished in many ways. We chose the most efficient and fastest.

Some people prefer to de-slim their cats before they clean. This makes it easier to clean up after your cat and leaves less mess.

You can do this by using a towel or other texture to rub the slime off. The slime should be gone.

Step 1

From the front end of the dorsal fin, cut along a diagonal line to the front end of the pelvic fin. This will place you behind the majority of the internal organs and reduce the possibility of a puncture.

As you cut through the ribs, you will need to use pressure.

Step 2

You’ll feel the knife hitting the backbone as you go deeper. Turn the edge towards the tail and then run the knife along its backbone towards the rear. Keep the knife about an inch away from the tail.

Step 3

Turn the fillet upside down and, using your flexibility with the knife, move the edge of the knife along the flap of skin close to the tail toward the fat end. It’s simple to separate the meat and skin by using a knife.

Flip the fish and do the same on the other side.

Step 4

This leaves some ribs on the inside of each filet. These should be removed with a knife.

Step 5

You can still see some meat on the top. This can be removed in the same manner as before and these smaller fillets can also be retained.

This step is often skipped by some people, but I don’t like to waste meat.

Step 6

To remove blood and slime, wash the fillets with cold water.

You’re done!

Lewis Mark is a vastly experienced fly fisher. His encyclopedic knowledge of fly tying has led to start blog on fishing. He also review Fishing equipment based on his knowledge and experience.