Cleaning Smelt Fast & Easy – With Video Tutorial

Smelt are running in the UP where I live, and that means loads of free protein if you’re willing to put in the time and work.




Since our family is all about self-sufficiency, we jumped at the chance to put some food on the table while having a little bit of fun in the process.

Last night, Hubby decided to sneak away for the night and try his luck at bringing home his limit (two gallons per person).




To make things go faster, we decided to all work as a team and knock it out, which was just fine by me since I was hoping to find a quick way to be done with it!



With Hubby’s help, we were cleaning smelt quick – in no time flat (and this is coming from a girl that’s never cleaned a fish before in her life, if that says anything).



Even our elementary school age boys were whipping through the process.



Items needed to clean smelt:



  • Clean water
  • Buckets, tubs or large bowls
  • Sharp scissors (the thinner the blade, the better)
  • All the volunteers you can get (optional, but encouraged)

How to clean smelt:

  1. Holding the smelt, place your scissors right behind the gill plate & just above the fin.
  2. Make one snip.
  3. Turn smelt upside down, so that it’s belly is facing up toward you.
  4. Insert end of scissors into the vent & gently pull up on the skin, while trying to avoid piercing the entrails.  Slide your scissors up the skin of the smelt until you reach the head.
  5. Next, while holding the body in one hand, gently pull the head down & away from the body.
  6. Open the cavity in the body, run your thumb through to ensure you got everything & rinse.

That’s it!  It’s really that simple.  And don’t toss the fish heads.  You can cut them from the guts & save them for frying up or making fish head soup.  Or if you’re an avid fisher, you might just want to save for use as bait!  If running water is available where you are cleaning your smelt, it does make the job even easier, but we like to rinse ours in a tub of water.  Then we use that to water and fertilize our plants.

And for those that prefer a video tutorial, my awesome husband, Jeff, has you covered.