Grasp the fish firmly, belly down. Cut across the nape of the neck, run the ooint of the knife along the back to the tail, and on each side of the back fin. Remove the fin by catching lower end between thumb and knife blade and pulling smartly upward toward the head. Skin each side by seizing between thumb and knife the flap of skin at nape and jerking outward and downward; then the rest, by grasping skin as near the vent as possible and tearing quickly down to the tail, bring away the anal fin. Remove the head and the entrails will come with it. Trout and pickerel should be scraped free of slime.
Large fish for frying are best steaked. Robert Pinkerton gives the following directions:
" Cut off the head, run the knife down either side of the oones of the back the entire length. Cut down to the backbone and continue along the ribs. This gives you two slabs of boneless meat and leaves the entrails in the skeleton. Lay the pieces, skin side down, on a paddle blade and run a sharp knife between the flesh and skin. You now have boneless, scaleless, skinless fish, which may be rolled in flour or cornmeal, fried in bacon grease, and eaten with as little difficulty as though it were moose steak".
To skin a catfish or bullhead, do not scald it, for that makes the meat flabby and robs it of its fresh flavor. Cut off the ends of the spines, slit the skin behind and around the head, and then from this point along the back to the tail, cutting around the back fin. Then peel the two corners of the skin well down, sever the backbone, and, holding to the corners of the skin with one hand, pull the fish's body free from the skin with the other. A pair of pliers will be appreciated here.
Or, cut through the skin clear around the neck near the gills. Stick a large table fork into the gills and pin the fish to a board by its backbone. Then catch the skin at neck between thumb and knife-blade, and strip it off by a steady pull.
To skin an eel: drive a fork through the back of his neck (if you have no fork, roll him in ashes or dust and use a swab in the left hand), slit the skin around his neck with a sharp knife, make a longitudinal slit half the length of the body, peel the skin back at the neck until you get a good hold, and then strip it off.
Another way is to rub the tail under your foot until the skin splits, or nail the eel up by the tail, cut through the skin around the body just forward of the tail and work its edges loose, then draw the skin off over the head; this takes out all of the fin bones, and strips off the skin entire.