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How to Clean Crappie and Catfish on an Ironing Board

Sorry that I've been absent for awhile, but I was caught-up in another pressing matter which required hands-on attention, like researching and developing a market for my one-of-a-kind NO STINK catfish dough bait, (which requires hands-on testing out in the field--"lake"), but now that it is freezing outside, I wanted to stay toasty warm today and take the time to put together this little homespun presentation on How to Clean Crappie and Catfish on an Old Ironing Board.

Hopefully, along the way, I will also find time to share some larapin great-tastin' crappie recipes (Cajun-style) with you before everything is all said and done.

So, if you are ready... let's get started.

1.  Choosing an Ironing Board.

My first word of caution is NOT to help yourself to an ironing board which is still being used by someone for its primary purpose--which is to iron clothes on. That may upset someone, especially if you've cleaned your latest catch of fish on it.

The one that you see here was going to be discarded by a neighbor who didn't need it anymore.. This is what it looks like.

Today I want to demonstrate a technique that I use to clean crappie the easy way, and without the use of electric knives on this old popular brand ironing board.

I should mention that the ironing board idea was a great one! It is very light-weight, portable and it can be setup at a comfortable working height for me (I am a tad over 6 feet tall) and merely collapse it with one pull of a small handle underneath when I'm finished processing. Plus, I can easily tuck it away in the back of my pickup truck bed. 

Since I do a lot of fishing anyway, my portable ironing board low-tech fish cleaning processor is always within reach (Johnny-on-the-Spot) when I need it for cleaning fish.

Below is a photo of some catfish which I caught one morning on about one-half of a TopCat Premium Catfish Dough Bait biscuit (you know which kind of bait that I'm talking about... don't you?). I processed these on top of the old ironing board in about 20 minutes.. 

The pectoral fins of the catfish will easily fit in one of the many different sized holes already pre-drilled into the ironing board by the manufacturer

BTW, if you wanted to just go out and buy one exclusively for this purpose, you can probably (at this writing) get one at your local K-Mart or WalMart stores for around $30 - $40 bucks. Make sure you check it out first, if you can, to see if it has a stable enough footing and that it also has all of those pre-drilled holes on the top.

The holes in the ironing board are various sizes in this old model, so it becomes very accommodating when I have to clean some of the larger catfish.

The holes can be used to anchor down the catfish solidly on top of the ironing board, and, in my experience, it does a lot better job at holding down the fish than those fish cleaning boards with a big clamp at one end. 

I cannot say the same about crappie and other species of fish with like shapes (like bass, sunfish, perch, blue gill, etc.) because these fish have a tendency  to slide around from time to time 'cause they are a bit slimy, especially while removing the scales, but the old ironing board works just fine for them, too.

Maybe later, if I can find the time,  I may bolt-down one of those large metal clamps on one end just for that purpose. I could also modify the ironing board (beneath) where I can hang a plastic 5-gallon bucket to catch the refuse.

Catfish Cleaned on Old Ironing Board

2.  Removing the Scales From Crappie Fish

I could go into great detail about the various tools which are used to remove fish scales from crappie and other similar species of fish, but the best and least expensive tool to use is a plain old kitchen tablespoon. Here is a short video which demonstrates how I do it:

3.  Making the Correct Incisions to Remove the Tiny Bones in Crappie Fish.

In this next video I will share the technique which I have developed that will show you how to take out ALL of the tiny bones from a crappie fish.  

You may refer to the diagram below to familiarize yourself with parts of the fish as I illustrate where the incisions and cuts are made. A word of precaution: it is better if you use a very sharp fillet knife and take extra care not to cut yourself in the process of cleaning your fish. 

You may want to invest in a pair of inexpensive fish-cleaning gloves for increased safety when processing fish.. You can usually find them in the sporting goods section of stores.

After descaling the crappie fish, begin by making small incisions (about a 1/4 inch deep) parallel and along both sides of the anal and dorsal fins of the fish.

This will make it easier to extract the tiny bones which are connected beneath the fin bones and which are mainly used to anchor the external fins into the flesh of the fish. 

Once these incisions are made, catfish skinning pliers can be used to gently pry the external fin bones away from the flesh, (against the grain), as well as the internal smaller bones.... all at the same time. It is sooo easy to do.

When the job is complete, all that remains in the fish are the large spinal bones, (some folks call them the comb bones 'cause they look similar to a grooming comb), and the rib cage bones--which houses the internal organs. 

When you process your crappie this way, all those tiny and annoying fish bones that no one enjoys biting into, simply vanish.

Some folks would rather bake the entire fish than only the filleted portion. They claim the large bones make the fish tastier during the cooking process. Who am I to disagree? I love the taste of crappie fish just about any way.

What's great about this technique of processing crappie fish, is ease with which to fillet them, if you want to, even after they have thawed from being frozen. You will never have to worry about "small" bones. 

In conclusion, I know there are anglers who will tell you it is so much faster and a lot easier to process crappie and catfish with electric knives... and, that's fine!

Personally, I don't use electric knives to clean my fish. Besides, the techniques which I teach will always come in handy if you ever find yourself off the electric grid, or you find yourself in a remote area without electric power.

Happy fishing! (and cleaning).

P.S. I am taking a few days off for the holidays. I haven't forgotten about those recipes, though. I will publish some after the new year rolls around.

Bon appetite!

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Breakfast Fried Rice

Click here for the Youtube video


4 cups cooked white rice
6 eggs, beaten
1 large white onion, chopped
1/2 bunch green onion, chopped
6 slices bacon, diced
1/2 tsp course ground sea salt
1/4 tsp course ground black pepper
1 Tbsp dark soy sauce


Fry diced bacon over medium heat until most of the fat is rendered from the bacon.  Add chopped onions and saute until soft.  Remove onion and bacon, and set aside.  Add cooked white rice, stir fry until hot.  Stir cooked onion and bacon mixture back into the rice.  Push the rice, bacon, and onion to the outside of the pan.  Pour beaten eggs into the middle of the pan.  Gently and continuously push the eggs toward the center of the pan until all of the egg has cooked.  Once egg has cooked, stir it into the rice.  Stir in chopped green onion.  Stir in soy sauce, salt, and pepper.  Serve hot!

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do.  It has become a Saturday tradition in my family.  Our 12 year old perfected this recipe, and cooks it for us perfectly every time.

To make this more 'Cajun' you might consider using tasso instead of bacon, and Gaspard's DIY Cajun Seasoning instead of soy sauce, salt, and pepper.

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