How I Dress Large Catfish

Discussion in 'Catfishing Library' started by cuttingout69, Jun 12, 2006.

  1. cuttingout69

    cuttingout69 New Member

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    Louisiana
    I have had several people ask me how to clean a big fish. Cleaning big fish with in itself is not controversial, but keeping big fish is. With so many people on the CPR kick these days, I am sure this thread will draw some unwanted posts, but I am just trying to show how I clean a large fish and trim the fat away to make it very tasty. With the invention of the digital camera, I can now have my 13 old son take pictures at every stage and show you. So the following thread will be posted just to show how I clean big fish.

    First, I cut a V shape from the back center of the gills to the center of the head as shown in picture #1. You do not have to cut deep, just through the skin. Then I cut from the center of the head from the V down both sides of the dorsal fin. Gooboy showed me to make this extract cut on the dorsal fin to make it easier to skin around this area. Once these cuts are made, you can hang the fish up if you have not already done so. Some times, I will hang the fish then make the cuts. Either way works, it is just what you get use to and what works best for you. I use a set up a gentleman showed me a few years ago. I have some custom made gaffs that hang in the holder as you can see from the pictures. This allows me to take the gaff to the fish and then just set the gaff handle back in the holder on the skinning pole. On ops, I will make the same V cut on the belly side also with the V cut going almost all the way to the the fishes throat. This is not pictured as I was cleaning a blue. In the thrid picture you can see the diamond shape that will pull out of the fishes hide.

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    Next I start pulling the hide just like on any other fish, except I will have the larger ones hanging. When you hang the fish, you can use both hands to pull with. My hands are in such bad shape, I have to use both hands most of the time. I will note, freshly caught fish skin much better than one caught and put on ice, or allowed to dry out. Keep your fish as fresh a possible and wet. You can see in the pictures that it takes some ump to pull the hide off larger fish.

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    Once the hide is removed, I will take the big layer of fat off the back while the fish is still hanging. I hold the fish with my left hand, pull him to me, and then cut the fat down off. I will pull the fish to about a 45* angle while making this cut. This will save time when you are doing your finally trimming of the meat.

    Now I take the my 5” blade knife and start just below the head and cut down beside the back bone and around the dorsal fin. I push the knife up against the back bone as close as I can get it and cut down to the tail. Once you clear the ribs, you can most of the time push the knife all the way through the fish and carry on cutting against the back bone to the end of the tail. It is just like removing a back strap from a deer for those of you who are deer hunters. Then I will cut all the way around the ribs to the rib ends and you have one side filleted. You do the other side the same way. On ops, I will remove the diamond shape from the belly by pulling from the sides to the middle then from the bottom to the top. If you pull from the top to the bottom you will rip the belly lose from the top most times and it just makes it harder to gut. To gut one while hanging, start at the bottom and cut up this will alone the insides to fall below your cutting edge and you want cut the gut. Once you have opened the belly, you can pull the inside out making sure you don’t cut or rupture the gall. The gall will stain the meat and make it taste bad. Once you have removed the insides, take your skinning pliers, remove the rest of the fat, blood, and float bag from the fish. Then you can trim the ops belly off for some of the best eating in the world. I personal do not eat blue bellies as they always have fishy taste to me. After all this you are ready to trim the meat.

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    I start my trimming by cutting the fillet in half long ways with center line on every catfish. You will see it, it is a crease right down the middle of the fillet running long ways. After you have it in half, take the fillet, lay it on its side and start with your knife at the point the red fat and the white meat come together. Start with you knife on and upward angle as the red fat rolls around the white meat at this point. Start slicing the fat off getting as close to the fat line as possible. Once have removed the fat, I then take the fillet and cut it cross grain into 3/8” thick slices.(not pictured) Just a note I made today, I trimmed 5.5 lbs of fat to get 8 lbs of white meat. There is some clear white fat at the ends that also need to be trimmed off and from the inside of the op bellies.


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    I hope the pictures and this story help anyone who wishes to try some of the larger fish for a meal. I don’t keep every large fish I catch, but when I need a large a mount of fish in a hurry or for a large fish fry, one fish is some times all I need. And when all the red fat is trimmed away, there is no better eating than a large high fin blue or op.

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