How to Skin and Clean Catfish

Catfish are hardy creatures, and the toughness of their skin reflects that. But the meat cooks up nicely, and is well worth the effort. There are several ways of cleaning a catfish, but the method outlined here is the easiest.


  1. Image titled Skin and Clean Catfish Step 1
    Assemble the items needed. Locate a length of rope, a pair of pliers (regular, not needlenose), a fillet knife, and some kind of large knife, such as a butcher's knife.
  2. Image titled Skin and Clean Catfish Step 2
    Make certain that the fish is dead. Not only is it humane to ensure this, but this will help prevent injury. If in doubt, cut the tail off to bleed the fish.
  3. Image titled Skin and Clean Catfish Step 3
    Carefully cut through just the skin around the body behind the gills. Next, gut the fish, being careful not to puncture any of the organs. Then remove all the fins at the base (use the pliers to hold the fins while you cut).
  4. Image titled Skin and Clean Catfish Step 4
    Hang the fish by the gills from a tree branch, or anything else suitable. Cut the skin down the center of the back.
  5. Image titled Skin and Clean Catfish Step 5
    Pull the skin off from the head down, using the pliers. This may take a while to perfect but practice will help you to improve.
  6. Image titled Skin and Clean Catfish Step 6
    Remove the skin down to the tail. Cut the tail off if it has not already been removed, and cut the head off using the large knife.
  7. Image titled Skin and Clean Catfish Step 7
    Fillet the fish from the tail up. Cut along the backbone, until you reach the ribs, and then cut from the top of the fish down, beside the spine, and let the edge follow the ribs.
  8. Image titled Skin and Clean Catfish Step 8
    Prepare the catfish for eating. When both sides of the fish are filleted, the sky is the limit on the number of recipes and dishes you can make, or create.


  • Keep your knives sharp; a dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp knife.
  • Special catfish skinning pliers make this job easier. They can be purchased from fishing stores for a very low price.
  • Catfish taste better when caught out of clear water.
  • Catfish do not have scales, and can be eaten with the skin intact.
  • To help avoid irritating puncture wounds from handling catfish, the fins can be removed first. Medical shears work great for this purpose and will cut down on the dulling of your knife.
  • If you are skilled at filleting the rib section, catfish can be filleted without gutting them first.


  • Some catfish species can deliver a venom from their spines that can cause serious harm[1]; be sure you know which type of catfish you are trying to catch so that you can take proper precautions.
  • Also watch the spurs on the catfish; these are located on the fins on either side of the fish, behind the gills. They are sharper in younger fish, and if they break the skin, they can cause a painful puncture wound or infection.
  • Be careful when using knives – always cut away from yourself, and use the pliers to hold the fish when necessary.

Things You'll Need

  • Gloves(Preferably leather, protect you from catfish spines)
  • Pliers
  • Knife
  • Rope
  • Catfish

Article Info

Featured Article

Categories: Featured Articles | Fishing