Michigan State University Extension
Preserving Food Safely - 01600798


The quality of the preserved fish begins with the
handling of the fish when caught. Handle fish carefully;
they bruise easily. Keep fish out of the sun. Clean, dress
and wash fish immediately; then pack them in ice, or
refrigerate them as soon as possible to prevent
deterioration. Use within 1 to 2 days.

Follow these basic steps for cleaning, dressing and
steaking fish.
1. Wash fish. Use clean, drinking-quality water.
2. Scale or skin as required. Remove scales by
scraping with dull edge of a knife from the tail to the
head. If you skin the fish, it is not necessary to scale
it. To skin, split the skin down the back, and loosen
around the fins. Use pliers to remove the skin, pulling
from head to tail.
3. Cut entire length of belly from vent to head.
Remove viscera and gills if the head is not to be
4. To remove the head (if desired) cut to the backbone
above the collarbone. Break the backbone over edge of a
table or cutting board, then cut any tissue holding the head
to the body.
5. Remove dorsal (large back) fin by cutting along each
side and pulling the fin and attached bones out. Never trim
off fins because the bones at the base of the fins will be
left in the fish.
6. Wash fish thoroughly in cold running water.
7. Large fish may be steaked. To steak, cut fish
crosswise into portions about 1 inch thick.

Fish may be filleted without first removing the
viscera. With a sharp knife, cut down the back of the fish
from the tail to the head. Then cut down to the backbone.
Angle the knife to cut away the flesh from the backbone,
allowing the knife to run over the rib bones. Lift off the
side piece, freeing the fillet at the tail. Turn the fish
over, and cut the fillet from the other side. If you wish
to skin the fillet, lay it skin-side down on a cutting
board. Hold the tail end with your fingers, and cut through
the flesh away from it by running the knife forward while
holding the free end of the skin firmly between your

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