I learned this field cleaning technique out West and thought I'd share it in case someone else wanted to try it.
The writeup ended up longer then I expected, and I hope I described how to do it correctly.
Old school, catch and keep, learned from a Wyoming hunting guide. I'm right-handed. This is the right handed version.
It's a technique for the pan sized fish, not anything over fourteen or so inches.
If you're interested, read on.
If I decide this one is dinner, the hook comes out and I'll quickly break his neck to end his life.
Holding him in my right hand facing left. His belly resting on my fingers and my right thumb on the backbone, as a pivot point.
I put my left thumb on the top of his neck and my left index finger inside the mouth.
Grasping tightly with my left hand, I bend his neck up and back against my right thumb, to cause it to break.
Clean kill. Game Over.
Field dress him to remove waste - gills, front fins, and guts.
This method leaves the head on, takes two cuts and a tug. Standing up, no table. Fish never leaves your hands.
Holding fish belly up in my left hand, I first make a long cut from the vent just under flesh, up to the narrow area between the gills.
With this method, it's important to leave about a Nickle sized area uncut, just at the base of the gills, about between the front fins.
Remembering the fish is still belly up, I re-position my left hand to hold the fishes head, putting my thumb inside the mouth, supporting his head in my left hand, by resting the top of his head on my left index finger as the body hangs, supported by my fingers and thumb.
The next and last cut is up through his throat, just in front of the lower gills. That narrow bridge between the base of the gill covers.
At this point, I'll stick my knife in a tree or lay it down on a rock, I'm done with it until I rinse it.
With the belly still face up and supported by my left hand.
My right hand grabs the recently cut lower gills and the uncut belly area to tear it off.
Thumb bent inside the throat on the base of gills and pinching against the right index fingers second knuckle outside.
A quick tear to toward the tail with your right hand, tears out all the gills, removes the throat, the front fins, and guts as it breaks the uncut portion of skin.
You end up with a nicely dressed fish in your left hand and waste in your right.
Respectfully dispose of the waste and rinse the fish.
When rinsing the gill area and the body cavity, you'll see a blood line along the backbone. I run my thumb under it to remove the blood.
One more rinse, and into your creel, day cooler or back in the water on a rope stringer and back in the water, to stay cool.
Oh yeah, Don't forget to find your knife and give it a rinse too.