How To Scale Fish without the mess| 7 Easy Steps

If you enjoy fishing, or fish is one of your favorite meals. Then learning how to scale fish will be a very beneficial skill. It is an easy process and will not require too many tools.

A Lot of fish markets sell a whole fish that you have to scale on your own. Removing the scales from your fish can cause a mess. But eating the fish with the scales will make the taste of the fish very weird.

You may be wondering why you need to learn how to scale fish when you can easily go for fishmongers. When you are on a fishing trip or camping and catch fish, you can not reach a fishmonger. 

Besides doing this on your own from the start to the end for your family or friend, you will impress them. In this article, you will know to scale, clean, gut, and fillet fish professionally.  

how to scale a fish without a scaler?

How to scale fish

Scaling a fish is an easy task. To learn how to scale fish properly, adhere to those simple steps.

Required Tools

  • Parchment paper or a newspaper (protective layer) 
  • Running water
  • Disposable gloves
  • A knife


Step 1-Use Cold Water For Rinsing The Slime Off The Fish. 

  • How to scale fish first step is washing it with water. After rinsing the fish well with cold water, continue scaling it.
  • This step of how to scale fish method will help you take off the fish scales’ slime. A slimy fish will be slippery and hard to grip.
  • To hold the fish firmly, you need to take the slim off or grip the fish using a dry rag or towel.
  • This step of how to scale fish will decrease the slippage chances. Preventing slippage is essential, especially if you are working with a sharp knife.

Step 2- Keep Rinsing To Loosen The Fish Scales 

  • After you are done with removing the slime, keep washing the fish. This step of how to scale fish helps loosen the fish scales. You have to make sure to rinse both sides well.

Step 3-Place The Fish On The Protective Covering 

  • The next step of how to scale fish is to protect your working area. Scales can cause a mess. Therefore during how to scale fish process, you will not want to speed them everywhere.
  • Laying down a protective layer during how to scale fish process will keep the place neat. It will catch the scales while you remove them.
  • Select anything you will discard in the trash directly. In this way, cleanup is going to be fast and easy. You can use newspaper or parchment papers as a protective covering.

Step 4-With Your Non-dominant Hand Grip The Fish Tightly From The Tail 

  • Lay your fish above the protective cover.
  • Grasp the tail firmly while you are removing the scales. This step will prevent it from slipping around.
  • Fines and scales can be sharp. So wearing gloves during how to scale fish process helps you to provide more protection to your hands.

Step 5-Hold The Knife With The Dominant Hand And Spin It To It is Dull Side. 

  • Next, use the blunt edge to take off the scales instead of the sharp one. 
  • Grip the blunt edge at 45 degrees angle.
  • Place the knife-edge right up against the skin of the fish close to the tail fins.

Step 6-Scraping The Fish. 

  • Rake the knife backside over the fish side. You have to move from the tail to the head. Do even, long strokes.
  • During scraping applies a little pressure, do not apply too much. While you scrape, the scales will pop off. The place will be a little messy.
  • Keep working till you remove all the scales from this fish side.
  • Turn the fish over, then repeat those steps on the opposite side.

Step 7-With Cold Water Rinses The Scales Residue. 

  • After taking off the scales with the knife as you can, grip the fish under running water. This step of how to scale fish helps to completely remove the scales.
  • Keep washing till you remove all the scales that remain. This is how to scale fish with this method.
  • For those with tough-skin, you can work with the knife’s sharpened edge during how to scale fish process. But you need to be aware and assure your blade will scrape over the scale’s top and not within the fish flesh.

How To Scale Fish With Other Methods?

1-Take off the skin before cooking 

Take off the skin before cooking

To know how to scale fish with this method, follow those steps

Required Tools

  • Cutting board
  • A knife


  • Step 1-Flat the fish on the cutting board
  • Step 2-With your knife, take off all the skin involving the scales. This is how to scale fish with this method.

During how to scale fish method, Try to cut near to the skin as you can to avoid wasting any fish. In this way, you will bypass the method of how to scale fish entirely.

2-Cook The Fish Before You Remove The Skin. 

To know how to scale fish with this method, follow those steps.


  • Step 1-Start cooking the fish while the scales and skin are still linked. 
  • Step 2-When the fish is done, take off the skin. The heat will loosen it, so you will easily cut it off. You will take off the scales with the skin. This method of how to scale fish can work for all cooking methods.

3-Using The Fish Scalers Instead Of The Knife 

Using The Fish Scalers Instead Of The Knife

The last how to scale fish method is using fish scalers. Scalers are special tools designed for scaling fish. They have jagged metal edges. Besides, they look like extreme hair brushes.

Knowing how to scale fish with a knife scaler is an alternative to the knife technique. Just scrap over each fish side from tail to head, and the job is done. To know how to scale fish with this method, follow these steps.

Required Tools

  • Fish scaler tool
  • Running water
  • A protective layer ( parchment paper)


  • Step 1– Grip your fish firmly by the tail.
  • Step 2-Next, with the fish scaler, Continue scraping the entire fish. 
  • Step 3-After that, rinse the fish well.

It would help if you worked against the scale’s direction. Using long even strokes during this method of how to scale fish makes the scales peel easily. Also, remember to take off the scales from the belly back completely. This is how to scale fish with a fish scaler.

Cleaning And Gutting The Fish

After you learn how to scale fish, gutting it well is the next step. Just follow this step-by-step technique to do this right.

Required Tools

  • Rubber gloves (optional)
  • Fillet knife
  • Cutting board
  • Spoon
  • Running water
  • A proper trash bin


Step 1- Slide The Knife Tip Within The Vent Of The Fish. 

  • Line the fish over a stable cutting surface with the belly faces you. 
  • Lean the fish at an angle of 45-degree, and the head faces far from you. 
  • Make the fillet knife-sharpened edge faces the head of the fish. Slide the fillet knife end within the fish anus. Counting on the fish size, you can Insert the knife end from 1–2 inches (2.5–5.1 cm) within the vent.
  • The vent is the lower part of the underside of the fish. In contrast, the anus is the tiny opening close to the tail’s bottom part. It always has various colors from the remaining vent of the fish.

Step 2-Cut The Way Up Toward The Neck. 

  • Hold your knife firmly and continue moving it up and down with a distance of 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) as you slide it along the fish opening.
  • Keep cutting until you reach 1–2 inches (2.5–5.1 cm) under the fish’s mouth.
  • You should avoid going deep within the belly of the fish while cutting it. If the intestines rupture, the fish inside will be messy. 
  • Cutting through the throat and the gills as you finish a cut is an option when you remove the head later.

Step 3-Open The Stomach And Take Off The Guts And Intestines. 

  • Without you rip the cut, slightly start spreading both fish sides at the vent with a 2–6 inch (5.1–15.2 cm). With your fingers, pinch the organs where they are linked to the head. 
  • Continue pulling the organs gently out at the root. Then take off the guts and intestines. Check the body cavity to see if there is any organ residue. If there are, take them off with your hand.
  • Throw them in a proper trash bin. Physically taking off the guts, gills, and intestines should be an easy task. There should be no much resistance, and the task will not require a knife to cut anything.

Step 4-Extract The Kidney Of The Fish Spine If There Is One 

  • Some fish come with a tiny kidney on the interior of the spine close to the middle part.
  • Search for a small organ that has a bean shape. If there is a kidney, extract it with a spoon.

Step 5-Rinsing The Fish Under Running Water And Clean The Stomach Cavity. 

  • Grip the fish in a big sink with the vent-side up. Turn on a cold water tap and open the fish stomach. 
  • Allow the water to run through the stomach cavity of the fish. Simultaneously, with a spoon or your hand, scrub the inside walls of the fish. This step will take off any organ residue and make the flesh clean.
  • Keep rinsing the fish for at least one minute. You do this to ensure reaching each portion of the fish’s stomach cavity.

Filleting a Fish

Filleting a Fish

Required Tools

  • A steak knife
  • A fillet knife
  • Cutting board


Step 1-Take Off The Head If You Will Not Need It 

  • Begin by flattening the fish over the cutting surface. Try to find the fish’s gills, then move the knife 1–2 inches (2.5–5.1 cm) at the back of them. With the blade faces downward, spin the knife a little toward the head. 
  • Hold the fish using the non-dominant hand while cutting at an angle of 15-degree down to the spine. Flip the fish over and repeat on the opposite part.
  • If these two cuts are not enough to take off the head completely, hold the head and twist it off completely to take it. Some fish, such as trout, are conventionally prepared while the head is linked to it.
  • Cutting downward behind the gills is an option if you want. But in this way, you will leave a good piece of flesh behind you. There is a lot of flesh beneath the gills. When cutting at an angle, you will ensure that it will be intact.

Step 2-Cutting Through The Spine Of The Fish To Make Fish Steaks. 

  • When you take off the head, hold the steak knife, then rest your blade over the fish. The edge has to be vertical to the spine.
  • Place the knife 2–3 inches (5.1–7.6 cm) from the neck vent. 
  • Continue sliding your knife up and down at the same line. Keep working till you go through the whole way of the body to make a steak.
  • Repeat those steps to steak the whole fish. Make sure to leave a flesh of 2–3 inches (5.1–7.6 cm) between the cuts.
  • The variation between the fillet and the steak is whether you cut through the bone or not. The stick means cutting through the bone. On the other hand, the fillet means cutting around the bone.

Step 3- Cutting Over The Backbone To Begin A Fillet. 

  • Set your finger on the fillet knife blunt part. Insert the knife through the fish back, right over the spine. 
  • Begin sliding the filet knife sideways through the fish bottom. Keep the filleting knife parallel to the spin. Maintain the blade 1⁄8–1⁄2 inches (0.32–1.27 cm) over the spine.
  • This depends on the fish side. To have a good angle, it may require you to bend over a little 

Step 4-Continue Peeling Up The Fish Side To Cut The Fillet Out. 

  • With your non-dominant hand, begin peeling the flesh open. You can expose the side of the fish at a 35-45 degrees angle. 
  • Use small cuts for slicing through any linking tissue at the fish’s side base. By this step, you can take off the fillet entirely. 
  • Begin Peeling your fillet off of the fish. Then put it aside. Turn your fish over, then repeat those steps on the other side.

Variation In Preparing Different Types Of Fish

You can use the above procedures to scale, gut, and clean most types of fish. But, Those are additional guidelines for some fish that are most commonly used.

Cleaning Mackerel Fish

Cleaning Mackerel Fish

This type has high popularity in a lot of countries. It is an oily fish that lends well to grilling, salting, smoking, and stewing. Mackerel comes with an intermediate to firm structure.

Mackerel scales are too small. Therefore, you do not have to take off the scales from them. But, it is recommendable to rinse the skin completely.

When we come to cleaning and gutting, apply the method mentioned above. Make sure to take off the bloodline; the mackerel involves a noticeable bloodline.

Cleaning Trout Fish

Cleaning Trout Fish

It is a freshwater fish, and somewhat its shape is like the salmon one. Trout is oily and has plenty of omega-3 fatty acids. There are several varieties, and it has pink flesh. Besides, it has an intermediate to firm make-up.

When we come to preparing, firstly start with scaling it. A Lot of small trout types may not need the scaling step. They have small scales. But, it is recommendable to scale trout if you want to ensure preparing professional dishes.

For gutting and cleaning trout, you can go with the technique we mentioned previously. However, you can apply another way for trout. 

This method is ideal to use if keeping the head of the fish intact in the final dish is not essential. it means when you tend to make fillets 

Alternative Method For Gutting And Cleaning Trout 

Required Tools

  • A protective cover (Newspaper)
  • A knife
  • Cutting board
  • Water


  • Step 1-Gather all the tools and cover the working surface
  • Step 2-Flat the fish on the cutting board.
  • Step 3-Find the anal vent.
  • Step 4-Insert the knife tip within the opening and continue cutting the whole way to the head.
  • Step 5-Make sure to make shallow cuts with only the tip of the knife. You need to avoid creating a mess inside the fish.
  • Step 6-Do a cut behind the fish head through the spine but do not go the whole way through
  • Step 7-hold the head. Then start pulling it right down toward the tail. The fins and innards will come out in a single piece. 
  • Step 8-Discard innards bucket
  • Step 9-After removing the innards and fins, open the fish. Then use a knife or your thumbnail to take off the bloodline. Be aware not to break through the flesh.
  • Step 10-Keep rinsing the cavity well with running water.

Cleaning Salmon Fish

Cleaning Salmon Fish

It is a unique fish type. Salmon are born in freshwater, But they live in seawater. However, to spawn, they migrate to the freshwater. Salmon flesh has a pretty deep pink to red color. This depends on the variety. Besides, it has a highly fatty make-up. 

You can eat them a little seared, smoked, or grilled. You can apply the trout gutting and cleaning technique for salmon.

Cleaning Swordfish

Cleaning Swordfish

Swordfish are a large fish type. It features a sharp, long bill that has a sword shape. Swordfish is an oily fish and has very firm flesh. Therefore it can withstand very robust cooking ways.

This fish type size generally reaches a 3 meter or reaches up to 10 feet. Therefore cleaning and gutting it will require dexterity and sturdy.

Adult swordfish have no scales. For that reason, how to scale fish technique will be skipped. But, it is recommendable to rinse the fish body thoroughly. Follow those steps to do this right.

Required Tools

  • A knife
  • Running water
  • An appropriate trash pin
  • Protective cover ( Newspaper)


  • Step 1-Prepare the required tools and protect the surface ( you will need a large workplace) 
  • Step 2-Put the fish on one side, then start cutting off the bill, head, and fins. 
  • Step 3-Do shallow cuts in the stomach. it has to start from the head toward the fish end
  • Step 4-Take off the entire innards and discard
  • Step 5-Slice the two sides of the backbone.
  • Step 6-Take off the bloodline
  • Step 7-Continue rubbing the cavity till it becomes clean, then keep rinsing the fish thoroughly. Pay good attention to the bloodline area.

Frequently Asked Questions About How To Scale Fish

1-How Can You Clean And Care For Fish Scalers?

After you learn how to scale fish with scalers, it is time to care for a fish scaler properly. Fish scalers can be similar to other fishing gear pieces. Cleaning and storing it correctly is necessary if you want it to last for a prolonged time.

If you use metal fish scalers, you usually use freshwater when rinsing it. This step will remove any debris and dirt. After that, coat it with a layer of a protective oil/spray. This will help you to avoid rust and corrosion during storage.

If you use a scaler with a wooden handle, do not immerse the wooden portion in water. You have to keep it dry. 

Moreover, you can find scalers from plastic. There are also scalers and other materials to wash using soapy water and store in a dry area.

2-Why Do I Need To Take Off Fish Scales?

One primary reason to scale a fish is to take off the slim external layer. Another thing to remember, do not scale a fish till you begin to cook it right away. This keeps the fish fresh.

3-Is It OK To Eat Fish Scales?

Yes, you can eat them. But it will not be a tasty one. Actually, in some dishes, the fish scales can be cooked. But, it is advisable to do this with large fish scales.

4-Do I Have To Take Off The Salmon Scales?

A lot of individuals eat salmon skin, especially if it is crispy. However, you should remove the scales when you buy the fish. You should know how to scale fish with a knife or fish scaler tool.

5-Is Eating The Salmon Skin Safe For Health?

Eating the skin of the salmon is generally safe. Some individuals prefer to take off the skin before you cook a salmon fillet. other people like to leave and eat the skin for more health benefits

6-Do I Have To Rinse Frozen Fish?

Before you cook frozen fish, wash it with cold water first. This step helps you to take off the frost or ice before you cook it. Apply this step even if you are noticing any frost or ice

7-How Can I Cook Frozen Fish?

There are some basic directions to follow when preparing frozen cod and salmon portions. To prepare a crunchy crumb crust fish, you need to adhere to those instructions.

Required Tools

  • Pepper 
  • Two teaspoons vegetable oil or olive oil
  • 4 (4-6 oz.) salmon pieces
  • Other seasonings or sauce
  • Salt 


  • Step 1-Preheat the oven to 450°degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Step 2-Take off frozen fish from their package. Then wash them with cold running water to take off the ice.
  • Step 3-Organize the fish in one layer on the baking sheet. Then Start brushing a little on all the sides using oil. 
  • Step 4-Bake for 4-5 minutes. After that, Take it out to put seasonings or sauce.
  • Step 5-Continue baking till the center becomes hot and flaky. It will require around 8-12 more minutes. 

You may need to turn the thicker parts during cooking. Also, it may take a few additional minutes to be cooked thoroughly.

Final Thoughts

Knowing how to scale fish is one of the useful skills, whether you want to learn to impress your family with your cuisine skills or use it during outdoor adventures.

How to scale a fish guide can help you properly scale, clean, gut, and fillet your fish. Keep in mind to clean both the fish and the tools that you used thoroughly.

You should consider that the odor of fish can be terrible. Therefore it is better to use a perfumed dishwashing liquid to wash all the equipment you used during each process.  

Besides, Remember to discard the innards or any undesired portions properly. After that, you can enjoy your meal with the family.

If there are any inquiries about how to scale fish, contact us via the comments.

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