If you harvest fish regularly for the table, a high-quality fillet knife should be one of your top priorities. Not all fillet knives are created equally, and the quality of the steel and other materials can make a big difference in the quality of your fillets as well as help you be as efficient as possible when cleaning fish.
In this post, we are going to look at some of the best fillet knives on the market today, so you can choose one that fits your needs and be as prepared as you can be for that next big fish fry.
Our Top Fish Fillet Knives
With the blade options that are include, two lithium-ion batteries, great design, and an epic carrying case, this is a powerhouse of an electric fillet knife, well worth the price no matter which way you slice it. (pun-intended)
Millions of anglers have one of these fillet knives for a reason. The value you get for the price that you pay is unbeatable, and the way it has stood the test of time for decades is a testament to the quality.
What to Look For in a Fish Fillet Knife
Sharpness and Edge Retention
It may come as no shock to anglers that a sharp fillet knife is one of the most important if not the most important, factors, and for that matter, for any knife in general, regardless of its intended purpose.
Sharp fillet knives reduce the tearing of the soft meat and help you get clean cuts and remove skin if needed.
Edge retention is the product of using high-quality steel, and the higher carbon density and quality will translate to holding that razor-sharp edge for longer.
Materials and Construction
The stainless steel used in almost anything that has to do with fishing or marine environments is critical to reducing corrosion.
Other materials to consider are handle materials, which in many cases may boil down to personal preference, but a handle that ensures a solid grip and stays firmly around the tang is also important.
Full tang construction is great, it ensures that no issues will result in the knife bending or breaking free from the handle above the handle.
Grip and Handle
A handle that ensures a solid grip and stays firmly around the tang is very important. You also want to ensure that you will have a solid grip even with wet hands, and handles for many knives today take that into full consideration.
You also want to ensure that it is ergonomic as well as safe, with little potential for your hand to slip forward and onto the sharp blade.
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When it comes to the thickness of fillet knives, the simple answer is the thinner the blade, the better. With that being said, you need to consider the fish you want to clean with it as well, as large fish will be difficult to fillet with a really thin blade.
Flexibility is important for precision cuts, especially when separating the fillet from the skin and using a flexible blade allows you to use the flex to your advantage to get as close as possible and reduce wasted meat.
Type: Japanese or German/Scandinavian Style
Japanese-style fish fillet knives are great for precise work and have been designed to prepare sushi and other types of fish presentations (see our article on eating trout raw here). Japanese knives are typically made from harder stainless steel than European knives, so the cutting edges have a finer angle. This makes them easier to use as they cut more easily and keep their edge.
German and Scandinavian styles, on the other hand, are for more basic and utilitarian work, which is what most anglers do when it comes to filleting fish like panfish, trout, walleye, and other species.
How to Sharpen a Fillet Knife
You can sharpen fillet knives the same way as with any other knife, and it’s up to you what method to choose, be it electric grinding and honing wheels or oil and old-school sharpening stone.
Best Fillet Knives: Detailed Reviews
The Bubba Blade Stiff fillet knife is a great knife for cleaning large fish. The blade is 9 inches in length, and with the handle, it comes in at 15 inches overall.
The blade in the Bubba Blade Stiff is Ti-nitride coated and is incredibly rust resistant, making it great for both freshwater and saltwater applications, and features an incredibly sharp edge for clean fillets and fast work.
The handle on the Bubba blade has a safety hand guard built into the handle to prevent potential hand slippage into the blade, and the handle itself features a high grip material ensuring a great hold on the blade even with wet hands.
The line of fillet knives comes in several different sizes ranging from 5 inches, 6 inches, 7 inches, and a 9-inch blade length.
All of the fillet knives made by Kastking feature razor-sharp German G4116 stainless-steel blades that come in a great-looking black finish and have excellent edge-holding capabilities, making them great for cutting bait or making steaks from larger gamefish and everything in between.
The knives also have a super non-slip polymer grip that ensures both comfort and safety.
The Wusthof Classic may very well be one of the most refined fillet knives out there. Featuring a thin, curved, and highly tapered blade this Wusthof classic is built for precision fillet work.
The handle that is built around the blade is a full tang triple-riveted synthetic polypropylene handle and has great resistance to heat, impact, fading, and discoloration over time.
The blade is forged from single blocks of high carbon stainless steel which have been tempered to 58 degrees on the hardness Rockwell C scale, and the precision edge technology that Wusthof incorporates gives an edge that is 20% sharper than its competitors.
The standard blade length for the Wusthof is 7 inches, but 9-inch blades are available as well.
In the fillet knife work, the Rapala Superflex is an undisputed classic, and most anglers have owned at least one in their lifetime.
Its fame comes from the super thin and flexible blade, which gives it some amazing control, making it great for panfish, trout, and other mid to small fish, and gives incredibly precise cuts when separating the skin from the fillet.
The blade comes with a PTFE coating which allows the fillets to slide right off the knife effortlessly, allowing you to carry on at a rapid speed to clean your catch.
The blade is hand-ground and forged from stainless steel and also features a through tang design.
You won't ever think of fillet knives having a futuristic look until you gaze your eyes upon the Global flexible swedish fillet knife.
This knife is made from high-quality cromova 18 stainless steel, giving excellent strength as well as resistance to corrosion in both fresh and saltwater conditions.
The blade of this knife has a convex edge for easy slicing and is thin and flexible for working around the bone and getting precise cuts around the skin. The blade is also forged from a single piece of steel and features a hollow handle to create an ultra-light and perfectly balanced fillet knife.
The signature dimple handle design ensures a great grip in any condition.
The Dalstrong fillet knife is a full tang knife that is precision forged from a single piece of high carbon Japanese AUS-8 steel, coming in at +58 Rockwell hardness and ice-tempered, this knife has exceptional durability, strength, sharpness, and edge retention.
The blade is also hand polished and is meticulously hand ground to 13-15 degrees.
The knife is also flexible to get precision cuts and features great corrosion resistance.
Victorinox, the brand known around the world for producing the Swiss Army Knife among a plethora of other great cutlery and tools also has a great boning/fillet knife to offer in their extensive lineup.
The knife features a very ergonomic handle for great grip, and the blade is curved and flexible, allowing for effortless cuts and precision.
As with all Victorinox products, this knife has a lifetime guarantee against material and workmanship defects and comes at a stellar price point.
If you want to have a set that has it all and can quickly fillet large quantities of fish at lightning speeds, look no further than the Bubba Blade Pro Series electric fillet knife.
With a brushless motor and two removable and rechargeable lithium-ion battery packs for convenient operation, and 4 different blade designs, which include the 7-inch E-FLEX, 9-inch E-FLEX, 9-inch E-STIFF, and the the12-inch E-STIFF blades, you will have zero issues with any fish from small to large.
All this comes at a very reasonable price and includes a waterproof hard-body carrying case to make transportation at camp, home, or on the water a breeze.
The American Angler Pro Electric Fillet knife is very sleek and comes with two blade types to choose from, stainless steel or titanium.
The knife features a whopping 110 volts, a 40 mm motor, and an 8-inch serrated blade to make quick work of your day's catch.
You will never lose your grip either with its Santorini grip pad that is cool to the touch.
The American Angler pro electric is also made with high-quality components like naval brass and Sasa polymer transmission and comes with a nylon mesh storage case.
The Rapala electric fillet knife is a non-nonsense, no-frills knife that gets the job done, pure and simple, and the price of the Rapala electric fillet knife is incredibly affordable, giving you the ability to clean and fillet fish very quickly while keeping more cash in your pocket.
It features two 7.5-inch reciprocating blades that work in tandem and a fillet fork, both of which are made with high-quality stainless steel.
This knife also features a 7-foot 110-volt electrical cord giving you an angle length to work with.
Fillet Knife FAQs
What’s the Best Way to Sharpen a Fillet Knife?
I use a global ceramic knife sharpener to keep my fillet knives sharp. This sharpener has either two or three ceramic discs mounted in parallel with grooves, so all you have to do is insert the knife and sweep it back and forth four or five times in each groove, and it comes out sharp. The secret to it is that it keeps the knife at exactly the correct angle. Be sure to use the most coarse disc first.
Those who are more experienced with sharpening knives may wish to use sharpening stones or steel to keep their knives in tip-top condition. Remember that fillet knives are made from steel, which is a little softer than kitchen knives, so they do need more frequent sharpening.
Is an Electric Fillet Knife Worth It?
This depends on how many fish you have to clean and fillet. Electric knives do have some advantages to avoid fatigue, but we think for most fishermen and women, a standard fillet knife is fine. Provided it is kept nice and sharp, it doesn’t take too much force to fillet a fish, and electric fillet knives are more expensive.
What Width of Knife Is Best for Filleting Fish?
Most fillet knives have a relatively narrow blade for a couple of reasons. This allows the user to twist it more easily to manipulate the angler as you cut the fillet away from the backbone. It also makes the knife more flexible, which provides a bit more give to negotiate the bumps along the ridge of the backbone of the fish as you go along.
Can You Use a Kitchen Knife to Fillet Fish?
If it is a really high-quality kitchen knife, then yes – it is probably going to be acceptable in filleting most fish. But the wide and inflexible blade of a kitchen knife is not ideally suited to fish filleting. We always recommend that you buy a specialist fish fillet knife rather than trying to make do with a boning knife or kitchen knife. It is easier and safer to use a proper fillet knife, and you’ll be rewarded with cleaner fillets with less wastage.
Will a Fillet Knife Rust?
Although fillet knives are made of stainless steel, they can sometimes get rusty if exposed to salt water. Usually, rust occurs on the sharp bit of the fillet knife blade and can be relatively easily removed by sharpening it. The best way to prevent rust on your fillet knife is to dry it if it has been exposed to salt water. Fresh water won’t usually cause a decent fillet knife to rust.
How Do You Choose the Right Size Fillet Knife?
This depends on the kind of fish you are filleting. A seven-inch fish fillet knife is pretty versatile, but if you are filleting crappie or bluegill, maybe a five-inch fish fillet knife is better. In the same vein, if you are filleting large fish such as pike or stripers, a fish fillet knife of nine inches or greater might be better.
Fish Fillet Knife Safety
The final point to make about fillet knives is that most injuries result from either a fillet knife that is too blunt or has a too slippery handle. You can avoid the first issue by frequent sharpening, and the second one by buying one of the high-quality fish fillet knives we have mentioned here. The other source of injury is the incorrect filleting technique. There are a host of fish filleting videos on YouTube that we recommend you take a look at. There is one for practically every fish species you might be trying to fillet.
Final Word on Fillet Knives
A quality fillet knife can go a long way in making the process of cleaning and filleting fish easy and quick. It’s up to you to decide what you need, maybe an electric fillet knife is your best bet for cleaning large quantities of panfish? Or, maybe you prefer something more precise for delicate cuts.
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