How to choose the perfect fillet knife

By: Kristine Ostertag

Everyone loves a fresh fish meal, and choosing the perfect filleting knife will help make the fish cleaning process easier. I’m excited to get on the ice and have started preparing my rods and reels, taking inventory of my tackle and gathering all my essential gear, and filleting knives are a big part of that. I have a variety of different fillet knives and use a few depending on what species I am cleaning, or if I am traveling and need something easy to take with me.

There are a number of key features that you need to consider when selecting a quality fillet knife. The most important thing to look for is a sharp, durable, thin, and flexible knife. Having a flexible knife is critical when trying to get the blade down the side of a fish. If your blade is not flexible, it will make a mess of your steak. It has to be flexible so that it can follow the contour of the fish and also be effective in removing the fillet from the skin. Having a sharp point will make piercing the fish a breeze. Blades should be forged from high carbon, corrosion resistant stainless steel. Cheap knives dull quickly and can eventually rust, and nothing ruins a fish fry faster than a dull, rusty blade.

The rubberized handles of the knives are ideal so that it does not slip when cleaning. Wooden handles become slippery when covered in fish slime, blood, or water. The length of the blade also matters. Usually a 6-inch blade will do the job for most fish. However, if you are cleaning pike or other larger fish species, then an 8-inch knife might be a better choice. If you fish more salmon or saltwater, you may want a blade longer than 8 inches. If the blade is too short for the fish, it will lose the flexibility needed to cut along the spines.

A protective sheath is one of the most overlooked qualities of a good fillet knife. There are three types of materials that are generally used to protect blades, and they are leather, nylon, and plastic. While leather is a popular choice for aesthetic reasons, it will also absorb moisture and quickly become smelly and ruined. Plastic is much more durable and weather resistant.

Mr. Crappie 6-Inch Flexible Fillet Knife

If you’re like me and like to venture into small frozen lakes in the woods where packing light is essential, then you’ll love the Mr. Crappie 6-Inch Folding Fillet Knife. It’s also a great knife to pack on fishing and camping trips, as it folds flat and fits easily in a pocket or tackle box. The 6-inch stainless steel locking blade is a great general fillet knife for most inland fish. It also has a non-slip rubber handle, which is best for gripping.

Mr. Crappie 6 Inch Flexible Folding Steak Knife: $28.99

Mr. Crappie 6 Inch Curved Slab Adhesive Fillet Knife

When it comes to smaller fish like bluegill, perch, and crappies, I lean toward a 6-inch fillet knife—anything larger is overkill. I found the Mr. Crappie 6 Inch Curved Slab Adhesive Fillet Knife to be very durable with an excellent edge. It has a textured rubber handle that makes it easy to grip, even when my hands are covered in fish slime. The flexibility and curve of the blade make it easy to glide over the bones without leaving residue on the steak. The plastic sleeve will keep the blade protected and is easy to clean. I also like the brightly colored handle as I tend to lose or misplace things; it will stand out if you put it somewhere, unlike black or brown.

Mr. Crappie 6 Inch Curved Slab Adhesive Fillet Knife: $28.99

Smith 8 Inch Super Flex Curved Fillet Knife

For bigger jobs, like filleting walleye, northern pike, or trout, I prefer an 8-inch fillet knife. My go-to knife is Smith’s 8-Inch Super Flex Curved Fillet Knife. The added flex in the blade makes removing those pesky northern pike y-bones much easier, as it can smoothly bend and maneuver along the bones. This knife also has a protective plastic sheath and a brightly colored, textured handle for maximum grip and visibility. The stainless steel blade is corrosion resistant and will help extend the life of your blade.

Smith’s 8 Inch Super Flex Curved Fillet Knife: $39.99

Mr. Crappie Slab-O-Matic Electric Fillet Knife

If you have a lot of fish to clean, an electric fillet knife is the answer. The Mr. Crappie Slab-O-Matic Electric Fillet Knife is a fantastic option. Unlike other knives, it includes a special 4.5-inch blade for cutting ribs, which can be tedious without this specialized tool. It also features an 8-inch stainless steel blade to handle most of your filleting. Both blades have protective covers and a marine grade mesh bag keeps everything together in one place.

Mr. Crappie Slab-O-Matic Electric Fillet Knife: $59.99

About Smith Consumer Products:

Smith’s Consumer Products is an Arkansas-based company that traces its history back to 1886. Smith’s produces the broadest line of knife and scissor sharpeners available, ranging from simple fixed-angle removable sharpeners for consumers who want quick and easy sharpening to sophisticated precision kits. Designed for the knife sharpening enthusiast. Our offering includes manual and electric sharpeners that incorporate many different abrasive materials, including diamond, carbide, ceramic, bonded synthetic abrasives, and of course, Arkansas natural stone. Smith’s Consumer Products Edge Experts also design and manufacture a wide range of tools for the outdoor enthusiast, as well as knives for everyday carry, tactical, shop, kitchen, hunting and fishing needs.