North Carolina has numerous lakes that hold an abundance of catfish species. Anglers enjoying catching catfish because they can grow massive in size depending on the type and are test the fisherman’s abilities by its battle. In addition to the fight, they make excellent table fare. When it comes time to take catfish home to fillet, here are steps on how to skin a catfish.

What Is Needed to Skin A Catfish In North Carolina

The process of skinning a catfish is simple. Equally as simple is gathering the tools needed to remove the skin of a catfish quickly and easily.

Filleting Tools

Cutting board

Sharpened fillet knife


Running water

A steel glove is optional to help avoid cuts

Why Should Catfish Skin Be Removed

While some prefer fish skin left as part of the fillet, a catfish has white meat beneath the outer skin covering that tastes best without it. Removing the skin will help prevent a fishy or muddy taste to the flesh.

Catfish are bottom feeders. Thus, they can absorb chemicals by spending so much time on the bed of a lake. Because the skin is exposed to the seafloor, this could result in a higher level of toxins. Removing catfish skin will help to reduce or eliminate toxins.

Considerations For Removing Catfish Skins

Proper preparations will lead to the skin being removed from a catfish more quickly and without losing valuable meat or even possibly a finger.

Ensure The Fish Has Been Well Iced

Keeping a caught fish cold is not only crucial for maintaining freshness but also important in making the filleting process easier. A warm fish can become mushy, resulting in difficulties removing the meat. Keep catfish cold.

Use A Sharp Knife

Dull filleting blades or any knife for that matter can lead to a higher chance of becoming injured by cutting yourself. Sharpen the knife before you begin filleting a catfish.

Use a Stable Cutting Surface

Unstable cutting surfaces can lead the board to fall over or cause the fish to slide off. Make sure that the fillet table is secure and will not rock.

Steps To Skin A Catfish

The process of removing the skin from a catfish is simple. Surprisingly enough, the skin is peeled away before the white fleets are cut free for cooking.

Begin Making A Shallow Cut

Puncture the fish with the tip of the fillet knife but only deep enough to slice through the skin. The goal is not to remove more than the skin layer.

Work The Knife Around The Fish

Cut through the skin from the lower portion of one side of the fish, over the top just behind the head, and down to the bottom of the gill plate on the other side.

Slice From Head to Tail On The Catfish Midline

Just like cutting from gill plate to gill plate, make a shallow cut from head to tail along the top of the fish where the dorsal fins are. Cut around both sides of the forward and rear dorsal fin to the beginning of the tail.

Cut The Skin From Head To Tail Along The Belly

Start by inserting the knife in the already cut area at the bottom of the gill plate. Work the blade from the head back to the tail, avoiding the belly fat but then working center to the bottom of the fish to the tail behind the belly. Lastly, slit the skin from the top of the ea

Peal The Skin Away With Pliers

Now that the skin has been cut entirely around the fillet, it is time to peel away the fish’s skin. Hold the fish firmly near the head with one hand and pliers in the other hand. Pinch the skin with the pliers where the cut at the top of the head and meets the horizontal cut to the tail.

With the skin firmly gripped in, the pliers pull down and away towards the tail of the fish. The skin will come off in one sheet. Repeat the process on the other side.

Now It’s Time To Remove The Meat Cook And Enjoy

Removing the white catfish fillets caught in North Carolina is just like filleting any other fish. Once they are cut away, they can be cooked in a multitude of ways. Follow any catfish recipe that is appealing to you. Some of the more popular include baked catfish, blackened catfish, or any fried catfish recipe. No matter how you cook it, the meat will be sweet, flaky, and tender.