How to clean white sea bass

Updated February 21, 2017

White sea bass are prized both as a food fish and for the tough fight they put up against a rod and reel. Good meals await if you catch your limit, but first you have to clean the fish. Preparing a whole fish for baking or poaching takes only a few minutes. With a few extra steps you can enjoy boneless fillets of white sea bass. Whichever way you prefer to prepare the fish, a razor-sharp fillet knife is essential.

Hold the fish by the tail with one hand on a cutting board and your scaler in the other.

Rake the serrated edges of the scaler from the tail toward the head. Once the scales are removed, the skin of the fish should be smooth. Flip the fish over and scale the other side.

Insert the tip of your fillet knife into the belly at the anal fin and cut straight along the underside of the fish, stopping at the gills.

Rinse out the guts in the cavity of the sea bass and pat dry with paper towels. If you plan to bake or poach the whole fish, you're done.

Cut off the head of the sea bass with your fillet knife and discard or use for bait.

Slice laterally along the body of the fish from the front of the tail toward the gills, guiding the fillet knife above the rib cage. Remove the knife and insert your fingers below the fillet to feel the rib bones, which will help you gauge how deep to cut. Stop cutting at the edge of the gills.

Turn the fish over and slice the fillet on the other side. Leaving the first fillet in place while cutting the second helps you control the slippery fish on the cutting board.

Remove the fillet from the body of the sea bass and place with the skin toward the cutting board. Make a straight cut between the skin and fillet, lifting the boneless fish off the skin. Discard the skin.

Flip over the sea bass once more to remove the first fillet with a final cut at the gills to lift the boneless meat off the body. Place the fillet skin down on the cutting board and slice off the skin with a straight cut.

Refrigerate or freeze the fish immediately in freezer bags.


Skip scaling the sea bass if you plan to skin the fish. If you prefer the skin on, or plan to bake or poach the fish, then scaling is essential.

Things You'll Need

  • Cutting board
  • Scaler
  • Fillet knife
  • Freezer bags
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About the Author

James Clark began his career in 1985. He has written about electronics, appliance repair and outdoor topics for a variety of publications and websites. He has more than four years of experience in appliance and electrical repairs. Clark holds a bachelor's degree in political science.