How to Clean a Trout? Let’s Count the Ways

If new to cleaning a fish, remember this: No matter what type of fish you are cleaning, size matters. This holds true for trout as much as any other species.

If you are a high-lake angler who likes to fry up pan sized morsels at camp or a parent taking your child out on their first trout-angling adventure in a stocked lake, cleaning these usually smaller trout proves quite easy and simple.

Also read: How to catch a trout

How to Clean a Trout

On the other hand, if you catch steelhead or lunkers from deep lakes, the larger girth and length of these fish present more cleaning options. Whether it is large or small, you need to make sure all excretory organs and creamy, viscous skeins inside the gut cavity are removed.

From there, you can either throw the entire fish in the pan, cut a larger fish into steak-size chunks or filet it to avoid all bones. However, also know that there is more to this chore than just the cleaning.

Cleaning a trout can be much less difficult than many other species. For one, a trout’s skin and scales do not provide as much resilience or stubborness as a bass, walleye, crappie, perch or catfish.

You need not scale a trout or otherwise peel its skin. You can throw it in the pan or oven with skin attached, or even the head and tail if you or your dining mates are not light of stomach.

Also, a trout does not host as many needling, potentially blood-drawing fins along the spine or pectoral area. A trout can be handled without protective gloves.

Once you get a handle on cleaning these morsels, you can actually become good enough to remove gill rakers, entrails and veins all in one sweeping tug—at least for those trout of ranging from roughly 6-13 inches.

Of course, the ease of cleaning any fish ultimately comes down to the sharpness of your fish or fillet knife. Keep it sharpened between each fishing trip.

Getting back to size, let’s examine how a novice angler approaches trout of sizes A, B and C.

Gut and filet a trout before cooking

How to Gut and Clean Trout depending on Size

It’s not just the cleaning that counts

No matter how painstakingly you clean your trout, it all goes for naught if you fail to keep it cold. Ice is best. Keep ice and cooler handy when catching them and after cleaning them.

Bacteria that compromises flavor flourishes in moisture, especially warm moisture. Therefore, don’t leave your fish dangling in lake water on a stringer after catching them.

  • To truly treat your taste buds, place your freshly caught fish on ice and preferably not submerged in melted ice.
  • Eventually, even ice in a cooler melts as your fishing day progresses, but start out with pure ice.
  • Take fish off of the ice when starting to clean them and immediately throw each fish back onto new ice after cleaning.
  • If you ever run out of ice, you should simply drop your catch into a dry cooler as a stopgap. Then, try to buy or obtain ice as soon as possible.

When storing your fish in the freezer, always try to wrap them tightly in freezer paper rather than plastic, which can result in air bubbles that invite bacteria.

Head on or off?

The saying, “a fish rots from the head down,” applies more to social, political and corporate worlds than it does to the fishing world.

A fish’s head rots faster than other parts of the body as evidenced by watching your dead trout in a creel of grass or on a stringer. You will notice discoloration first on and around the head, then along the body.

Really, when it comes to heads, it’s a matter of preference. If you otherwise can’t fit your trout in the pan, lob off the head. Same goes for the tail.

Trout, especially the red- or pink-meated kind, rate among the best flavored sportfish in freshwater. It is always best to treat them accordingly when it comes to freshness.

Sources: ODFW (PDF) – (with pictures)

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