Back in your grandpa’s day, skinning a catfish meant nailing the sucker to a backyard pine tree and stripping the skin with pliers. It doesn’t take much to bring the old-timers’ technique into the 21st century for the same results. Here’s how:
Score It: Place a 3-foot-long 2x6 board on a level, waist-high surface. A truck tailgate works well. Using a knife, score the skin all the way around the head, just in front of the cat’s gill plates. Make another slit down the fish’s back.
Nail It: Drive a 16-penny nail through the fish’s skull to secure it to the board. Cut off its dorsal fin. Brace the board against your waist, with the tail pointing toward you. Grasp the skin with Fish Skinning Pliers ($6; basspro.com) and pull it down to the tail and off.
Gut It: Remove the fish from the board. Grasping the head in one hand and the body in the other, bend the head sharply downward, breaking the spine. Now bend the body up and twist to separate head from body. Open the belly with your knife, remove the remaining viscera from the body cavity, and rinse well. These instructions are for eating-size cats—say, 4 pounds or less. Anything larger, and you’ll have to whack the head off with a cleaver.
From the July 2012 issue of Field & Stream magazine.