What is a Fish Scaler?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 07 October 2019
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A fish scaler is a kitchen tool which is designed to remove the inedible outer scales from fish, leaving soft skin behind. These scales are usually removed as a part of the cleaning process, during which the fish will be gutted in preparation for cooking or freezing. There are a number of different kinds of scalers on the market, ranging from large motorized commercial versions designed for cleaning multiple fish at once to simple hand held models. The end goal is to quickly and painlessly remove the scales from a fish.

Some fishermen simply use the blade of a knife to remove scales. The knife is gently but firmly scraped along the body of the fish, pulling scales with it. However, people can injure themselves doing this, either on the blade of the knife, which must be extremely sharp, or on the sharp fins which some fish have. Therefore, some fishermen prefer to use a specialized tool for comfort.

The most basic fish scaler is a handheld version which looks rather like a rasp. A comfortable handle is firmly gripped while the fisherman drags the fish scaler down the body of the fish. This design is usually very efficient and easy to use, and a skilled handler can remove all the scales from a single fish very quickly. Since removing scales is a rather onerous task, this type of scaler makes the cleaning process much more enjoyable.


Some companies make small electric fish scalers which rotate or vibrate, almost like electric sanders. To use this type of fish scaler for removing scales, the fisherman lightly pulls it down the body of the fish, with the scaler cleanly pulling scales off. Typically the device is waterproofed and battery operated for convenience.

A commercial fish scaler, on the other hand, is designed differently. The fish are put inside a large tumbling drum with rough rides. As the drum turns, the sides of the drum pull the scales off, and after a set period of time, the scaled fish are removed. This type of scaler is not always practical, as some fish may be damaged by passing through the drum. Commercial fishers and people who catch a high volume of fish both use tumbling drums.

As a general rule, fish is scaled and cleaned before it reaches the market, so most consumers do not need a fish scaler. People who do their own fishing, however, will benefit from the purchase of a scaler, and although the tool is not intended for multipurpose use, it is certainly useful when it is needed.


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Post 4

The article mentions that fish scalers can be used for other purposes in a pinch. I once used a fish scaler to strip the bark off of some live tree branches. It was probably not the best tool or the most practical way of getting the job done, but it worked, and without it I would have been out of luck. Most tools have multiple uses if you just get a little creative.

Post 3

@backdraft - I agree that simple models work great for scaling fish too. I have gotten a lot of mileage out of the fish scaler that is included on my swiss army knife. It might not work as well for larger fish, but I mostly fish for bass and crappie. It works great, leaving the fish clean and scale free. I also like it becomes it comes bundled with so many other useful tools. Instead of carrying a whole bag filled with things I may need, I can just slip my knife into my pocket and not have to worry about it.

Post 2

@anon10251 - Wow that sounds like a really nice fish scaler and you have to trust the judgment of the professionals. Fish mongering is harder than it looks and I'm sure people in this industry have tried every scaler on the market.

I have always used a fairly simple model that actually belonged to my dad. It must be at least 40 years old but it still works great. It is little more than a wooden handle with the serrated scaler at the end but I have never had any problems with it. I must have scaled 200 fish with that thing.

Post 1

Good article. The best hand-held fish scaler ever made has been designed by a canadian company named KAAG. KAAG Professional fish scaler has an ergonomic handle, 54 stainless edges for scraping scales off painlessly and without mess and an appealing design that will seduce everyone. It is widely used by professionals (fishmongers), groceries stores like Sobeys, A&P, METRO, LOBLAWS in Canada and now slowly getting in the european market.

On youtube, you can also find a video by making a quick search using this key word : KAAG fish scaler

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