How to Get Fishy Taste Out of Catfish

How to Get Fishy Taste Out of Catfish

Tips for Removing Fishy Taste from Catfish

There are several ways on how to get fishy taste out of catfish fillets. Here are a few of the tips and tricks that have been presented for removing fishy taste from catfish. These examples will work with other fish as well.

  • Bleeding your fish as soon as possible
  • Soak your catfish fillets in milk
  • Grill your catch to smoke out fishy taste
  • Acidic marinade to remove or mask fishy taste in your catfish
  • Use spices to cover up fishy tasting flavors

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When I was living in Alaska I learned very quickly how to bleed out salmon and halibut. It is a common practice before throwing the fish on ice. Bleeding your fish removes blood from the meat. Bleeding fish carries fishy taste out of your catfish. Fish bleeding is not as common here in the south. People either throw their catfish on ice or keep them alive until ready to clean. Throwing your catch on ice will help focus the blood along the spine and organs removing it from the meat itself. This is probably better than keeping the catfish alive. When you clean a catfish that is still alive the blood is flowing freely throughout the fishes’ body. This is why you get so much blood on your cleaning station when cleaning live fish. The blood can be removed with other tips listed here.

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The best way to bleed out your fish is to cut through both gills. The fish will bleed out pretty good, but to really bleed your fish it should be submerged into cold water. Submerging into cold water will introduce water into the veins in the fish, flushing out the blood as completely as possible. Moving the fish around in the water will expedite the process.

Another great way to bleed a catfish that is easier and quicker is to cut the tail off the catfish and hang vertical. The catfish should be alive to pump the blood from its body when you do this. The removal of all the blood will help eliminate that fishy taste from catfish.



We may have all heard about soaking wild game in milk to remove gamey flavor. This also works for removing fishy taste from catfish. There is a science behind the process and I will explain it here as best I can. There is a protein in milk called casein. This casein protein attaches itself to the organic molecule that is the fishy smell you get as it evaporates from the fish. The milk protein attaches to these amines expelling them from the fish. This makes the fish smell and taste fresher with less of that fishy taste you don’t like. This works with deer meat or any meat that you want to remove a strong flavor from. Soaking fish in milk for 20 minutes should suffice. Rinse fish after soaking in milk.


A great way to mask any fishy taste in your catfish is to grill it. Grilling will introduce smoke to the meat masking some of the fishy taste. Of course, you will have to introduce smoke to your catfish when grilling on a gas grill. The charcoal will add just the right amount of smokey flavor. Add a few wood chips wrapped in aluminum foil to add more smoke flavor. Grilled catfish are delicious. Grilling opens up many recipes for your catfish. These recipes can include spices and lemon juice that will also help with the fishy taste in your catfish.


Marinating fish in an acidic marinade will remove the fishy taste from catfish. The same smelly organic molecule that naturally emits from fish and all meats is basic. This means that anything acidic will react with it leaving behind acid salt and water. Neither of these is smelly or tastes bad. Creating a lemon or vinegar-based marinade and soaking your catfish will help remove the fishy taste. Don’t soak your catfish for more than 30 minutes to an hour. Fish is delicate and will begin to actually cook in the acid and become mushy. Dipping your catfish in tartar sauce or drizzling vinegar over your fish will help reduce the fishy taste from your catfish as well. I’ve always done it because it tastes good, even when the fish is not fishy tasting. Creating a spicy fish marinate will further work to hide fishy-tasting catfish.


Probably the most common way of removing fishy taste from catfish is by soaking it in saltwater. Soaking fish in saltwater overnight has been a common practice even for people not trying to get rid of the fishy taste. Many anglers that love to enjoy the harvest soak their fish in saltwater mainly to remove blood from the meat. This in turn, as mentioned above, helps to remove the fishy taste from your catfish. It also brines the meat making it firmer and adds flavor as well.

What is the best salt for brining fish

Brining fish is a process that many people do without really knowing it. They soak the catfish overnight in salt water which results in brining of the fish. Kosher salt is the best salt to use for brining.

Brining: Fish brining or wet-salting is performed by immersion of fish into brine, or just sprinkling it with salt without draining the moisture.

NOTE: A friend introduced me to a great way to remove the fishy taste from catfish. By adding your catfish fillets to ice water and getting them very cold you can contract the flesh enough to squeeze the fat out of the meat. I know I said the same thing. “Your crazy!” But he showed me. There is a particular lake that we fish in Tennessee and we catch a lot of catfish every summer on vacation. He has been catching them every summer since he was a kid. He put ice in a bowl of fillets and I could see the fat globules forming on the surface of the catfish fillet. I was sold and I do it to all fish before freezing them or cooking. Now not all catfish are fat enough that you will see these fat globules. In this particular lake, the catfish were very healthy and fat. They were also delicious but everyone went through the ice water process and I am sold on it.

Get those fillets cold then rinse before freezing or cooking. You might not see the fat come out depending on where you catch them, but it is there on the surface.


Using spices has been used for a long time to hide unwanted flavors. Some people just do not like fishy-tasting fish. I am one of them. However, some fish like catfish are not that fishy and the fishy taste can easily be hidden with the tips in this article as well as this one which is by using spices. Adding spices can be a great way to disguise the fishy taste in catfish without hurting the flavor and often adding to the dish. One of the best ways I’ve found to get the fishy taste out of catfish is by using blackened seasoning. I have a recipe for blackened fish here. Check it out.

Adding spices to your marinate is another great way to disguise the fishy taste in catfish. All you have to do is add your favorite spices to your marinate. You can also add some spices to the saltwater that you soak your fish in. The flavor from the spices finds a way into the surface of the fish and although subtle can be just the right taste you’re looking for.


Another way to rid your fillets of the fishy smell before cooking is to soak them in a mix of water, baking soda, and salt. The mixture is made from a quart of water, 2 Tbsp baking soda, and 1 Tbsp of salt. Soak your fish in this mixture for an hour before cooking is all that’s needed. Rinse well and use a paper towel to pat the fish dry before cooking. This mixture will help remove the fish smell which translates to a fishy taste in your cooked fish.


Soaking your fish fillets in an ice slurry will get the flesh so cold it will squeeze the fat out of the meat. I was skeptical myself until a friend introduced this method to me on a fishing trip long ago. We caught over 300 catfish on that week-long trip and he explained to me that the catfish in this particular lake were really fat. He learned this method on the same lake from his grandfather and father who spent their week-long vacation on this lake way before he was born and did this same method.

Place your catfish fillets in a bowl and add some water but mostly ice. Add salt to ice to make it colder, a couple tablespoons should be enough but depends on size of bowl. Adding salt to ice reduces the freezing point and allows the water to get even colder than 32 degrees. This extreme cold will help shrink the meat forcing the fat out. If the fish are as fat as the ones on this lake you will see what I saw. The fat globules were actually visible on the fillets. These fat globules could then be rinsed away before packaging to freeze or prepared to cook.

VIDEO Explaining How To Get Fishy Taste Out Of Catfish




About Ken McBroom 307 Articles
Ken McBroom is an accomplished outdoor writer and photographer. Growing up in Lynchburg Tennessee allowed him many opportunities afield as a boy and young man. Later in life, after Desert Storm, Ken’s wanderlust took him to Alaska to live and work and experience the last frontier. Married now with two beautiful children, Ken now calls Kentucky home where he continues to communicate our American outdoor traditions and the lifestyle it offers.

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