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Skinning Catfish | Learn How To Skin a Catfish (3 Easy Steps!)

How To Skin A Catfish (3 Super Easy Steps!)

Catfish can definitely put up one heck of a fight when you’re fishing for them. But they can also put up one heck of a fight on the cleaning table too.

These aggressive fish will strike at almost anything that dares to enter its territory. It’s a combo of these aggressive characteristics, as well as how delicious catfish are to eat, that make catfish a very popular fish.

But what do you do with your catfish once you get home?  One of my least favorite things with with eating catfish is removing its firm skin. But if you know what you’re doing, skinning a catfish doesn’t have to be a difficult chore.

As a matter of fact, once you get a little practice at skinning cats, you’ll be able to knock out the job in just a matter of minutes.

So how do you skin a catfish?

Keep reading.

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How To Kill A Catfish

First off, before I get started cleaning catfish, I like to make sure they’re dead.  This isn’t always necessary to do. But it’s just my personal preference. Not just catfish either. I always like to make sure that the fish I’m cleaning, filleting or skinning is no longer alive.  Again…just my personal preference.

If you’re new to skinning catfish, this whole process might seem a bit crazy. But please know that it’s the fastest and the best way to kill a catfish.  

To quickly kill the catfish so you can skin it, all you need to do is hit the catfish in the head with a hammer until it stops moving. Be sure to aim between its eyes, as that’s where the fish’s brain is located.

Wait until the catfish no longer makes any movements. But pay close attention to the gill plates.  That is generally the last place a living catfish will make movement. If the catfish isn’t moving, and the gills aren’t moving, then you’ve successfully killed the catfish.  

Now you can proceed with cleaning the catfish.

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Best Way To Skin A Catfish

(Credit to Field & Stream for the below catfish skinning method)

1. Score The Catfish Skin

Start by Placing a board on a flat level surface. A 3 foot long 2×6 at waist height works perfect for this, as does the tailgate of a truck.

With a sharp knife, cut or score the catfish skin all the way around the fish’s head.  This scoring will be just in front of the catfish’s gill plates.

The second score you make will be straight down the back of the catfish all the way to the tail.

2. Secure The Catfish

Next, you want to make sure the catfish is secured to the board that it’s lying on.  To do this, you can drive a large nail all the way through the head of the catfish.

Now cut off catfish’s dorsal fin (the large fin on the back).  After the dorsal fin’s been removed, brace the board against your waist or thigh with the tail of the catfish facing you.

And with a pair of good catfish skinning pliers, grab onto the skin near the head and pull the catfish skin down all the way to the tail. Once at the tail, keep going and the skin will come all the way off.

3. Gut The Catfish

Now that you’ve successfully skinned the catfish, you’ll want to remove all the guts to finish cleaning it.

Remove the catfish from the board so you can hold the head in one hand and the body of the fish in the other hand.

Bend the catfish’s head sharply downward, breaking the spine. Then bend the body up and twist to separate head from body.

Cut open the fish’s belly with your sharp knife and remove any remaining guts from the body fish.

Once you’ve removed all the guts, make sure you rinse the entire fish well.

Final Thoughts

how to skin a catfish

And that’s all there is to cleaning a catfish. Just remember to always use a sharp knife. A knife I like to recommend is the KastKing Fillet Knife.  It’s a high quality fillet knife that’s flexible, features a non-slip handle, is made out of German stainless steel which means it’ll keep its sharp edge.  You can ​check it out here for more information on the knife.

Do you have an easier way of skinning and cleaning catfish? Let me hear about it. Send me an email or leave a comment below and I’ll feature it on this post. 

Related Posts:

1. The Best Rod And Reel Combo For Catfish

2. Fishing For Beginners: The Basic Gear And Tips To Get Started

3. The Best Catfish Skinning Pliers (Top Skinning Pliers Reviews)

How To Skin And Fillet A Catfish (VIDEO)

catfish skinning instructions

Written by Don

When I'm not bass fishing or looking for steelhead in my home state of Oregon I can be found working on house projects dreaming of my next fishing adventure.

I started this website to share just some of the things I've learned along my fishing journey, and the many things I'm still learning. Enjoy!

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