How To Start Fish Smoking Business: Detailed Guide

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Fish smoking business is very lucrative. You will be amazed when you find out the quantity of fishes consumed in a day in Nigeria. The growth in our population help in keeping the business viable. Doctors, age and health related issues also help in promoting fish consumption. Many people now prefer fish to meat; unlike before, people who consumes fish were considered to be poor. Somebody like me I so much hated the smell of fish but today I consume fish the same way I consume meat.

The business of smoking fish became more popular because of the increasing number of fish farmers especially cat-fish farming. You maybe saying but Nigeria is surrounded by water why rearing fish again. Apart from the reasons given above we are now exporting fishes in large quantities. About 5 tonnes is said to be exported every month. if fishes are not reared we may not have enough to eat. That is why we are calling on smart entrepreneurs to take advantage of these opportunities and invest in fish business. Fish is a sea animal that should be preserved ones it is out of water, for it to last a little longer without getting spoilt.

You don’t have to be a fish farmer before you start smoking fish. You can buy fishes from fish farmers and smoke them. But if you have the money to set up a fish farm the better for it, because you will make more than 3 times the profit. In this post we shall be looking at the different steps involved in smoking fish, advantages of smoking fish, branding/packaging of fish, fish exportation and marketability.


Undergo training from someone who is already into fish smoking business and understand the intricacies of the business. The business of smoking fish is not hard but requires determination, skill and execution. There are important steps to take in smoking fish, they are:

  • Cleaning
  • Curing
  • Smoking
  • Drying


To clean fish, you have to first of all remove the gills, lungs and intestine before washing it clean from the inside out. You have to be very generous with water, use plenty of clean water.


This is the process of immersing fish inside water in other to:

  • Kill diseases that may be present in the fish example of such bacteria is botulism.
  • Firm up the fish, the ions present in the fish will prevent it from breaking easily.
  • It gives the fish a very good taste just like salt will do in meat or other foods.
  • Curing: this helps to drag out any remaining blood from the fish thereby giving freshness to the fish and a good taste.


iodized salt is not good for curing fish so avoid using it.
Mix the salt with water in the ratio of ½ galloon for water and ¾ cup for salt.


  • Kiln
  • Racks
  • Rollers
  • Basins for fish washing
  • Charcoal
  • Matches
  • Flat material
  • Vacuum sealer
  • Packaging materials
  • Label

The main equipment for smoking fish is kiln and they come in different sizes, kinds and power source such as charcoal,sawdust,gas and electricity. The materials used in the inside of kiln is very important. It should be the type that does not attract rust or corrosion NAFDAC will not approve any kiln that is not made with galvanized plate or stainless steel. Although stainless steel is very expensive but it lasts longer than others. This is very important for those considering export. For local market you can use mild steel or black plate for the kiln interior.


Kiln is specially for those going into large scale fish smoking business. The sizes of smoking kilns are; 50kg, 100kg, 200kg, 300kg, 400kg and 500kg. There are different models such as basic and classic with different features as well.

Some smoking kilns come with dual or triple power source such as gas, charcoal and electricity equipped with high-speed blower for even distribution of thermal energy. Fibre insulated for effective conservation of thermal energy this means it has high rate of drying with temperature gauge to monitor and regulate working temperature. And damages to avoid polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon.

You can get a smoking kiln of #40,000-#50,000 for a start, this can take 100 fishes
100kg galvanized steel smoking fish with blower temperature, gauge, oil and moisture collection trolley with removable rack.


  • Get the smoking place ready, it should have enough wood or charcoal that will finish drying the fish.
  • Bring out the cured fish from the brine and rinse with cold water
  • Place the fish on the rack which is already in the fire-place, position the fish in such a way that the skin (body) is facing down while the head is up
  • Maintain the fire at a low temperature for about 2 hours before adding charcoal to increase the amount of heat.
  • Allow it to remain that way until you get your desired dryness or according to your taste. The thickness or type of fish determines how long it stays on fire.
  • Remove it from the rack when it becomes flaky and well cooked.
    The drying process will take about 8 hours.

Ikg of fish should reduce to about 200grams. This is the reason why you should weigh your fish before smoking and after smoking. It will help in long-term preservation. You can store fish in the refrigerator up to 2 months.


Avoid too much of smoke on the fish because it will make the fish taste bitter. You have to allow the fire to catch first before placing the fish on the rack. Firewood or sawdust should not be used because of the kind of smoke the produce. The high volume of smoke that comes out of those two contains high toxic substance, Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) which is dangerous to health. It is very toxic to man in that it is a cancerous material. Charcoal gives the best taste


Make sure the fishes you buy are healthy and fresh. It is easy to determine the freshness of a fish from the appearance. Old fish appears dull and pale and drying it will not hide it, while the fresh one appears lively. Get a customer that can be supplying you always with fresh fish. As a fish dealer or farmer don’t wait until your fishes starts getting spoilt before taking them to cool room.

It lengthens the shelf life of fish. Smoke fish can stay up to 4 months and still maintains freshness. This will be so if 80% of the oil and fat present in it was extracted while smoking.
Smoke fish adds flavour to food. The taste stands out when used for sauce or soup preparation.


You have to brand your product because this is what you will be known and identified with. If you are using carton in packaging it has to be perforated. The same goes for nylon it has to be perforated too. For export, you have to use vacuum sealer if you are using nylon for packaging. This is because the vacuum sealer will remove air from the nylon before sealing. The process will make the fish to last longer.


Harvested catfish are divided into two. The melange and table top.
Melange weighs between 300-600g while table size weighs from 600g and above. Table size sales between #600-650 while melange sales between #500-#550 per kg. Melange is the most commonest fish used for fish smoking business because it is easy to fold.


Assuming you bought 300kg of melange and each kg goes for #500, then 500×300=150,000
This will give you 200g ×300g=6000g which is 600kg converted. You remember that 1kg of fish reduces to 200g after smoking
Lets say expenses are:
Transport #2,000
Fish #150,000
Charcoal #4,000
Salt :#1,000
Miscellaneous #2,000
Total #159,000

Smoked fish goes for #4,000 per kg
600×4,000=240,000, amount sold minus expenses
That is how profitable smoking fish business is.

Note: these prices are not fixed, find out the correct prices in your location.


If you are going into large-scale fish exportation you need to get licensed by relevant authorities. And meet up with many other requirements. But for the informal which is small-scale exportation you won’t have to go through all those rigorous processes. It is very easy to export small quantities of product. Packaging of the fish will depend on which export you are going into; large or small. But it has to meet up with the standard of the country you are exporting to.

For formal exportation the product has to be tested and branded to ascertain if there is any PAH. So the level of dryness has to be very high for good preservation before and after leaving the country.


  • The market for smoke fish is unsaturated
  • You can start fish smoking business from home
  • The demand for fish is high both locally and internationally
  • It is very profitable


Distribute to retail outlets, supermarkets, hotels, restaurants, wholesalers, bars etc. Advertise your fish business using both offline and online such as Facebook,Twitter etc. Start by selling to neighbours, friends and family members.


The rate at which fish is consumed everyday is enough to push someone into fish smoking business. If you cannot handle the business you can employ people to do it for you while you supervise.

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