For many anglers, one of the most satisfying things is being able to slice through their catch cleanly and ultimately transform the meat into a delicious meal. While you can cut through a fish with a wide variety of cutlery, one type of knife that achieves this more quickly and precisely than any other is the fillet knife. Let’s look into the best fillet knife for fish!
Often confused with boning knives due to their similarity and sometimes overlapping functions, there are some significant differences between the two. For starters, fillet knives are usually thinner than their counterparts and are more appropriate for removing bones and skin from fish.
That being said, perhaps the most significant difference between a boning knife and a fillet knife is the flexibility of the latter. A fillet knife can conform better to the delicate meat of the fish and allow for a more precise cut and reduce wastage. Using the wrong knife to cut fish away from the bone can spiral very quickly – there is an increased risk of slicing your hand and wasting your meat. The wrong knife will also lose its sharpness very fast. Using a high-quality fillet knife will, therefore, help you avoid these potential hurdles and give you the desired results in the kitchen. But what makes for a quality fillet knife?
HOW TO BUY THE BEST FILLET KNIFE
Choosing a fillet knife can be a daunting task especially since there are so many options available on the market that have similar characteristics. Here are the key points to keep in mind when looking for a fillet knife for fish.
- The blade
The blade is perhaps the most crucial part of any type of knife as it is located at the business end of this tool. As a result, you always want to examine the blade of a fillet knife before settling on one.
Always go for a fillet blade that has a thin yet durable blade. Your chosen blade should be able to hold a sharp edge and also be the appropriate length for the fish that you are working on.
Flex refers to the ability of a knife blade to bend when subjected to light pressure. This is especially crucial for executing delicate cuts, such as when paying attention to the contours while trimming around the bones and fins or skinning the fish. The flex of a blade is usually determined by its thickness – an increase in thickness decreases the range of flex that a blade possesses.
Shorter blades typically have more flex as the small size fish you are working on need sharper cuts and tighter angles. Longer knife blades should possess a certain degree of flex as well, but it is not as significant as having it in a shorter blade. On both cases, the blade should bend when the tip of the knife is pressed down and pressure is applied. As the length of a blade increases, flex should be maintained through the entire blade, but length brings with it an added thickness due to the higher strength capacities that they need to exert.
When it comes to the material of the blade, the best choice is stainless steel. High-quality stainless steel won’t warp, corrode, or tarnish after continued use, even in wet conditions especially when it comes in contact with saltwater. Particular types of steel such as 9CR offer an impressive blend of corrosion resistance, toughness, and edge retention. High carbon steel is also quite impressive as it is very easy to sharpen and also resilient. However, it has lower stain and corrosion resistance, thereby requiring more maintenance.
The design of a blade is another important determinant in its quality. A full tang knife features a blade that runs the whole length of its handle, whereas a partial tang knife has a blade that extends only partly, and it is usually hidden in the handle. A tang is the unsharpened part of the blade to which the knife handle is attached. Full tang construction essentially enhances the feel and balance of a fillet knife and also increases stability, strength, and control.
Fillet knife blades range from 4-10 inches in length, giving you a wide selection to choose from. Blades that fall on the shorter end of the scale are ideal for use on smaller fish species such as crappies, sunfish, and yellow perch. On the other hand, if your catch typically consists of trout and eater-sized walleyes, consider going for 6 to 8-inch lengths. If you typically end up with bigger fish such as broad-shouldered pike and supersize salmon, you will want to go for 9 to 10-inch blades that will provide extra strength that is needed.
It doesn’t hurt to have at least two or three fillet knives of different lengths to ensure that you always have the appropriate size, but if you are comfortable with just one knife to serve you for various purposes, a fillet knife in the 7-inch category is a great and versatile option.
- The handle
Although the blade does the job in a fillet knife, the handle also plays an important role. You always want to go for an ergonomic handle that will fit comfortably in your hand and allow you to control the movement of the blade while keeping a firm grip on the knife even when you come in contact with water, fish slime, or blood. A well-made handle will reduce strain and fatigue during a prolonged filleting and cleaning process. Most importantly, a good grip will also ensure safety.
Wood is a common material choice for the handle, but when it gets wet it tends to become very slippery and is also susceptible to cracking when it dries. Wood also soaks up unpleasant smells very easily, making it hard to clean. Hard plastic is tough, but it can also get slippery. Rubber grips are soft and less likely to slip out of your hand, but it tends to lack the rigidity required to control the knife. Therefore, consider going for handles made from a combination of materials such as rubber and plastic.
- The sheath
The sheath is often overlooked, but it is an important consideration as well as it protects those around the knife when it is in storage or transport. A plastic sheath is not only durable but also easy to maintain. Leather is durable and molds well to the shape of your knife, while nylon is very versatile.
- Electric vs. traditional fillet knives
When selecting a fillet knife, you can either go for an electric-powered knife or a more conventional manually operated model. Traditional fillet knives execute precise cuts and are ideal for extracting meat from gamefish such as panfish, trout, and walleyes. On the contrary, electric fillet knives require less effort to operate and are faster than traditional options, although they are also larger and heavier. There are two common categories of electric fillet knives, namely cordless and corded variants. Corded fillet knives offer more power and higher RPMs, but there is no use for them if there is no outlet. Cordless knives are especially useful when there is no charging outlet nearby, and you also don’t have to worry about the cord getting entangled around the blade.
BEST FILLET KNIVES FOR FISH
There are many impressive fillet knives for fish that you can find on the market. Here are some of the top-rated fillet knives recognized for their quality and value.
1. Bubba Blade 7 Inch Tapered Flex Fillet Fishing Knife
Bubba has been known to consistently produce quality knives, and the Bubba Blade 7 is no different. Just like with other knives from the brand, the Blade 7-inch features a textured no-slip grip handle that allows for added grip security and provides ultimate knife control. The trigger grip feature further contributes to the security of your hold on the knife as you use it. This fillet knife has an overall length of 13 inches with a 7-inch blade. The length of the blade is ideal for multi-purpose use, so it can be used on both big and small catches.
The blade is Ti-Nitride coated and can easily cut through scales. The blade also features a sharp tip that will make it easier to start cutting into the meat. It is also super-thin, which allows it to bend easily as you are slicing through the meat, making it easy to remove meat from the bone without wastage. This knife features full-tang construction which improves its feel and balance in your hand and also increases stability. Another impressive feature is the safety guards which are meant to provide protection from the blade as well as the spines of the fish you are working on.
What I like about it
- TiN-coated stainless steel
The blade is coated with a corrosion-resistant coating that keeps rust from building up and limiting the functionality of the knife.
- Good grip
The ergonomic handle gets sticky when it is wear and has a trigger-like design to allow for a solid and secure grip.
- Very sharp
The blade is very sharp to ensure detailed cuts. Its non-stick nature also ensures smooth movement by staying clean when in use.
- A sheath is included
This fillet knife comes with a synthetic sheath that has a belt loop to allow for easy storage when it is not in use.
What I don’t like
- Customers have raised an issue with the size of the handle
The handle of this knife is quite bulky and can get tiring to hold especially when cutting through meat for extended periods.
- Requires regular sharpening
This knife requires regular sharpening to stay sharp and precise.
2. DALSTRONG Phantom Series
This Phantom Series knife from Dalstrong is dual-purpose as it can be used for both filleting and boning. It has a narrow, curved, and ultra-shape blade that effortlessly gets close to the bone as well as in between the skin and joints. The blade is made of Japanese AYS-8 steel that is reinforced with chromium to ensure resistance. The edge of the blade is hand-finished by experts to a mirror polish that is within 13-15 inches to ensure easy cuts and has a tapered design to increase flexibility and durability. The full tang construction adds to the robustness and quality of the knife. The blade is 6.5 inches long which makes it ideal for use on medium-sized fish.
The handle of the knife features a stainless steel end cap that adds counterbalance. The laminated Spanish pakkawood handle not only looks good but also adds strength and has a Japanese D-shaped design that allows you to tuck the knife into your hand for comfort, control, and agility.
What I like about it
- Includes a sheath
The knife comes with a custom sheath that has a soft suede interior that protects the knife when it is not in use.
- It is lightweight
Due to the lightweight nature of this knife, your hand does not fatigue easily, making it ideal for those who like to spend hours cutting away meat from fish.
Other than filleting, this Dalstrong knife can also be used for boning, trimming, skinning, and butterflying.
- A nice comfortable handle
The handle of the knife is ergonomic and will fit right into your hand, allowing for comfortable and safe cutting.
What I don’t like
- Edge retention is not impressive
You will have to sharpen this knife frequently due to the low edge retention.
- The sheath doesn’t always close all around the blade
You might struggle a bit when it comes to enclosing this knife in its sheath. This can be especially dangerous to those who unexpectedly come in contact with the knife when it is in storage.
3. Wusthof Classic Ikon 7-Inch Fillet With Sheath, Black
This high-end fillet knife features a German high carbon stainless-steel blade that is tapered to ensure that the cutting angle is precise for filleting. The angle is conveniently tapered from the spine of the knife to its edge for increased sturdiness and is also tapered from the bolster to the tip to increase the strength of the knife as well as its flexibility. The blade is also precisely tempered to ensure that the knife holds a sharp edge for a considerable amount of time. The 7-inch blade is perfect for use on any panfish, crappie, and gills, to mention a few. The full tang feature enhances your control and stability when using the knife. Since the blade is flexible, you can fillet your fish with minimal waste.
The contoured synthetic handle fits perfectly in your hand to allow for a comfortable and secure grip. This also allows for better control when the knife is in use. The partial bolster is meant to provide protection and allow you to sharpen the entire blade with ease.
What I like about it
- Leather sheath
This knife comes with an attractive leather sheath that allows you to store or carry it whether you are in the kitchen or out in the dock.
- Ergonomic handle
The handle fits well into your hand when you hold it. This improves your control during filleting and also reduces the risk of the knife slipping out of your hand when in use.
- Precise and flexible
The blade is narrow and thin to ensure precise filleting. The thinness is also important for flexibility, allowing the knife to bend easily and consequently achieve delicate cuts.
- Finger protection
The comfortable partial bolster will keep your fingers protected when using or sharpening the blade.
What I don’t like
- Can be hard to get used to
If you have little experience with filleting, you might want to start with another knife first as the Classic Ikon 7-inch requires a bit of experience in terms of control.
4. DALSTRONG Fillet Knife – 7″ Flexible – Gladiator Series
The Dalstrong 7-inch Gladiator Series fillet knife is intended to make de-scaling, de-boning filleting, trimming, and skinning is easier and efficient. The razor-sharp blade is made of imported high-carbon German steel that is ultra-sharp and wear-resistant. It has a tapered design to increase its flexibility and allow you to cut without applying too much pressure. The shape of the blade also lets you maneuver easily around the joints and bone. The edge is hand sharpened edge is 14-16 degrees on each side, managing to maintain the balance between maximum resilience and blade sharpness. The full tang construction ensures incredible robustness and quality, while the chromium coating allows for stain resistance. It features a polished spine that allows for a comfortable pinch grip.
The laminated pakkawood handles are of premium quality thanks to their superior strength and visual appeal. The handle shape facilitates grip, comfort, and ease of movement as you use the knife, and the stainless steel end cap adds counterbalance. This fillet knife is triple riveted to improve its durability, allowing you to make use of it for a long time.
What I like about it
- Thin, sharp, and flexible blade
The precisely forged blade is thin and ultra-sharp to enable you to fillet, bone, and trim the meat from your catch with effortlessness. The knife is very flexible thanks to its tapered design.
- It comes with two different sheaths
This fillet knife comes with a belt-looped travel case as well as a BPA protective Dalstrong PerfectFit sheath that provide the perfect storage whether you are out on the lake or in the kitchen.
- It is sturdy
The full tang construction plays a huge role in how stable and sturdy this knife is
- The handle is comfortable
The handle of the knife fits well into your hand and is easy to maneuver, allowing for full control.
What I don’t like
- The handle is heavy
Despite being well-constructed, the handle is quite heavy and can be tiring to hold for long periods of use.
- Requires regular sharpening
This knife tends to lose its sharpness after a couple of uses and therefore requires regular sharpening to maintain it.
5. Wusthof Classic 8-Inch Flexible Fish Fillet Knife
This is an 8-inch narrow fillet knife that is useful for boning and skinning fish. The blade of this classic 8-inch knife is precision forged from high-carbon stainless steel. It has a full tang design that enhances its balance and also increases maneuverability. The 8-inch blade is long enough for use on trouts, walleyes, and other similarly sized fish. Due to its thinness, the blade is flexible, making it easy to follow contours as you skin the fish and trim around the fins and bones.
The triple-riveted synthetic handle increases balance and adds to the general sturdiness of the knife. It is also comfortable to hold and allows you to fillet effortlessly and safely. Additionally, the handle is lightweight, effectively reducing fatigue and strain that can be experienced during extended cleaning sessions.
What I like about it
- High flex ability
The thin blade bends well under light pressure, allowing you to make precision cuts with ease.
- Comfortable and non-slip handle
The synthetic handle allows for a non-slip grip without compromising on comfort.
- A storage sheath is included
Take advantage of the included sheath to store your fillet knife when it is not in use.
- Great for small to medium size fish
The 8-inch blade can be used to fillet, bone, or skin both small and medium-size fish with precision and little wastage.
What I don’t like
- Tends to dull after a couple of uses
Despite its initial sharpness and precision, this knife becomes dull quite quickly, so you will need to sharpen it frequently to use it.
- Easily chips
Try as much as possible not to drop this knife as it easily chips. This will not only ruin its aesthetic appeal but also reduce its functionality.
With so many fillet knives on the market, it can be a little overwhelming to pick just one. That being said, there are some key qualities that you should always seek out when looking for a knife. For starters, a fillet knife should have a flexible blade that will allow you to maintain tight angles as you fillet. The material used to make the blade should be non-corrosive, stain-resistant, and durable. The size of the knife you go for will entirely depend on the size of the catch you are working on. The knife handle should be comfortable and non-slip to allow you to use the knife without worrying about it accidentally slipping out of your hand. Always go for a blade that runs the whole length of the handle because full tag construction generally enhances stability, control, and strength.
When making a purchase, opt to go for fillet knives that are from reputable companies. You will want to read reviews from verified customers carefully to ensure that the quality of the knife checks out as well. All in all, whichever brand of fillet knife you choose from the above-mentioned, you will undoubtedly make a quality purchase – they are from reputable companies, possess most of the qualities needed, and the reviews are mostly positive.
I hope you found these reviews helpful! Please leave me your thoughts below.
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