There are plenty of different ways to catch a fish. You can use a fly rod, a cane pole, a net, a trap, a spear, or one of many other techniques depending on your situation. Catching a fish is a great and exciting thing, but, unless you’re practicing catch-and-release, the point of catching a fish is to eat it.
The technique explained here is one that I’ve found to be the simplest and easiest way to cook and eat a fish without the aid of a kitchen. It’s really not that hard to clean, cook, and eat a fish with nothing more than a knife, a stick and a fire.
When I say “clean the fish”, what I really mean is “gut the fish”. It’s messy and to some people is just plain gross. Described plainly, you’re going to cut the fish’s belly open and pull out it’s guts. With your hand.
The first step in cleaning the fish is to cut it open. To do this, hold the fish so that it’s belly is facing up and the head is pointing away from you. Look at the tail end and you’ll see a small hole. The exact location is going to be different with each fish, but they’ve all got one. That hole is the fish’s anus. Yup, it’s the fish’s butt. And you’re going to cut it open.
Once you’ve located the fish’s anus, insert the point of the knife so that the sharp edge faces the fish’s head and cut along the ridge of the belly towards the head. Try to keep the point of the blade as shallow as possible to keep from cutting into the fish’s guts. It’s not a big deal, but it helps reduce the mess.
You should cut up to where the fish’s gills meet just behind the jaw. Leave the jaw intact as you’ll need this for later when you cook the fish. Once the fish is cut open, keep the knife handy as there is one more cut to make.
Here’s where it gets messy. Reach into the cut you just made behind the fish’s jaw and get a grip on whatever you can. Once you have a hold of it, pull it out. It is going to be the fish’s throat and is likely still attached to the fish’s mouth. You can pull hard to tear it out, or you can use your knife to cut it free.
Once you’ve separated the fish’s throat from its mouth, continue pulling the rest of the fish’s guts towards its anus to remove them. A sharp tug should be enough to detach the intestine from the anus.
Now that the guts have been removed, open up the fish so you can see inside the body cavity. Notice the dark substance behind a film along the backbone? This is the kidney. To remove this part, run your thumbnail along the ridge to squeeze and scrape it out.
Now that you’ve removed all the innards, rinse the fish out in the stream so that your meal is cleaned and ready for the fire.
Cooking the fish over a fire is a very simple thing and only requires minimal attention and technique.
The stick is what you are going to use to skewer the fish to hold it over the fire. Select a solid stick that is slightly smaller than the diameter of the fish’s mouth. Sharpen one end of the stick to a point. Insert the pointed end of the stick through the fish’s mouth, down towards the tail and push it into the fish’s tail end so that you have both ends of the fish secured to the stick. It’s ok if the fish rotates on the stick.
You can cook a fish in the flames of the fire or in the coals. If you use the flames, be sure to keep the fish below the smoke to avoid getting soot on your meal.
Turn the stick periodically to cook the fish evenly. It’s ok if the fish is loose on the stick and won’t turn with the stick, it will still be worth eating when you’re done.
Keep an eye on the scales of the fish. When they start to turn flaky and peel away from the fish’s belly, start checking the meat to see if you can pull it free. Once you are able to gently remove chunks of meat from inside the fish’s belly, the next step is to enjoy your meal.