Fly Fishing: Gutting Your Catch

As they say in fly fishing circles, “No guts, no glory.” Wait, that can’t be right, I must be thinking of a World War II film starring John Wayne, or something like that. But, hey, never mind; I never let the truth get in the way of an opening sentence. And since we’re on the subject of guts, you might need some tips on gutting your catch. So here we go.

To gut bigger fish, us  a sharp knife to cut from the vent opening to the head. Next, scrape the guts out with a finger or a dull knife. Many people like to cut out the vent hole itself, but purely for aesthetic reasons; but make V-shaped notch across the body of the fish to cut it out. If you plan to remove the fish’s head, though, do that before you make the belly cut. Cut from the top of the head around the back of the gill plate to the neck just below the eye in a semicircle, cutting all the way through the fish.

With small panfish like bream, crappie, and croaker, it's better, and more efficient to make a diagonal cut from the top of the head to just behind the vent across the fish and all the way through it. By doing so you remove the head and guts with one stroke of the knife. Consequently it's now really easy to remove any remaining guts in the body cavity. Also, by cutting a fish this way you lose very little meat.

After you’ve scaled and gutted your catch, check for remaining scales and scrape them off. Next, wash the fish with cold water to remove any loose scales and guts. For the best flavour either cook the fish immediately or put it in salt water in the refrigerator, but be sure to cook it within a couple of days. And do make sure the entire fish stays in the salt water, otherwise it might dry out before you cook it. Small fish can be frozen whole, submerged in unsalted water if you want to keep them for several weeks. Cut the top out of plastic milk jug, put the fish in, cover with water and then freeze. Don't be tempted to use plastic bags because the fins will stick make holes in them, and they will leak. But anyone experience with fly fishing will know that already!


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