Importance of Using A Quality Fillet Knife

By Jessica Graham

When I was younger, around eight years old, I wanted my Dad to show me how to fillet a fish. We had been fishing at our pond and had caught some bass. My Dad showed me the basics: how to clean a bass, don’t leave the ribcage on the finished fillet, and most importantly, don’t cut yourself. One thing that is often missed when teaching someone how to clean fish is the importance of using a quality knife. It will keep you safe, stay sharp, and help you quickly clean your limit of fish.

Handle Construction
Today we have a plethora of choices when it comes to picking out a fillet knife. There are all types of sizes and styles to chose from. Perhaps the most important part of a fillet knife is the handle. How a knife fits in your hand is important especially when cleaning several fish at once. You want a knife that fits your hand and offers plenty of grip.

Wood handles are still a staple in the market. There is something about the look and finished feel of wood that makes it pretty and appealing. However, wood falls short when it contacts moisture. The handle can quickly become slippery and a could be less safe while processing fish. For this reason, plastic, rubber, and synthetic handles have grown in popularity. Plastic and rubber also are easy to clean thoroughly. You will notice some handles on knives are textured to keep your hand from slipping, while others have grooves to divert moisture collected on the handle. Whichever knife you choose, make sure it fits your hand well. Handles should also be durable. Some of the most durable knives are one solid piece. You can’t go wrong with a classic fillet knife from Rapala. The company has built up a recognizable reputation in the industry.

Blade Selection
A good knife needs to be rust-resistant; you will be exposing it to water and heat which will promote rusting. You will notice that blades are generally stainless-steel and flexible. Generally speaking, the stainless steel holds a decent edge so you can maintain a sharp blade even while fileting several fish. Not all the stainless-steel blades on the market are created equal.

Different alloys will hold an edge and offer different flexibility. There are also PVD coated blades. These blades are very corrosion resistant and the blade glides cleanly through the fish. Not all blades are created equally. For this reason, you will see prices vary and results vary. A high-quality knife will be flexible and will hold an edge on the knife through several fish. This helps you get all the intended fish fillets and prevents waste.

You need to pair the size of the blade for the fish you are cleaning. Using a large 9-inch knife on pan fish will make it awkward and the task will take longer. In contrast, using a small fillet knife on a wide, big fish species will get the job done, but you will need more strokes than necessary. A 6-inch blade will work nicely on smaller fish, like crappie. You might find a larger blade, closer to 7.5 inches more suitable for bass. If you are catching even bigger fish, you might consider a larger blade than 7.5 inches. You might consider investing in a 9-inch blade to get the job done the best way possible.

Don’t forget about a sharpener to go with your knife. Keep a pocket sharpener in your tackle box to use out in the field.

Some of my favorite sharpeners come from Worksharp. A safe knife is a sharp knife, and it allows actions to be repeated easily with little effort. Once your blade is dull, you exert extra motion and energy into your tasks. This is when it becomes easier to cut yourself, as your precision and accuracy go out the window.

Electric Knives
Electric fillet knives are much faster than processing fish by hand. It’s no wonder they continue to become more and more popular. They will speed up your job and also can cut through bones. Electric knifes are suitable for avid fishermen who clean lots of fish every year (although you will still enjoy using an electric knife even if it is only for a couple fish). In lieu of the classic smooth blade of a hand-held fillet knife, electric knives tend to have teeth. Since the knives operate much faster, you can choose to purchase models with additional safety features such as blade and trigger locking features.

Traditionally, these knives used to be corded, but the demand for cordless models have revolutionized the market. Now, you can pack the knife in your tackle box and take it with you wherever you fish. Some models have an internal batter that can be recharged. You just want to be sure your knife is charged and ready to go before you use it.

Enjoy the Product of Your Work
Fishing and enjoying a meal afterwards are traditions that many Iowans still enjoy. It is important to keep your equipment, including your knife in working condition and to pick a knife suitable to you and your needs. You want a sharp blade that is durable and flexible. Choosing a quality knife is important for safety and to quickly and efficiently fillet a fish. Keeping your knife sharp will ensure precise and accurate cuts with each and every stroke.