Boat Cuts: The 8 Best Fillet Knives for Fishing

A reeler and an angler might love their lures, their bait, and their boat, but there’s one thing that you’ll never find a serious fisherman without, his fillet knife. A fillet knife is the savior of anyone trying to clean and cut meat properly, and is more important to the enjoyment of eating fish than anything else. Fillet knives are there so you don’t swallow bones or scales, and can always present your catch the way it was meant to be: on a plate.

While the fillet knife itself can be a work of art passed down through generations of flycasters and ice drillers, too many companies don’t agree. They put out scads of blades of inferior quality that won’t hold the keen edge necessary, break under pressure, or corrode after scant minutes in the sea air. Choosing a knife that can go the distance is harder than taking the ribs out of a Chilian Sea Bass after a half dozen microbrews. You want about an inch of flex, steel that stands up during quick cleans, and a width the right size for whatever is on your line. That’s why we’re here with the 8 best fillet knives for fishing.

Rapala Fishn Fillet Knife

Rapala Fish’n Fillet Knife

Pro: Slender blade
Con: Short handle

Showpiece: Featuring a birch handle, this Finnish blade created from 4, 6, or 7-inches of Swedish stainless steel is as appealing on your hip as it is effective in your catch. Able to resist corrosion or wear, the slender blade is delicate enough for working through the Y bones on a pike with surgical precision. Complete with leather sheath and single stage knife sharpener, this can easily be your go-to blade for fine work. [Purchase: $15]

Buck Silver Creek

Buck Silver Creek

Pro: Never gets loose at folding joint
Con: Not good for salt water

Hidden Treasure: One of the biggest challenges facing knifemakers today is creating a folding pocket knife that isn’t too weak to fillet or so stiff it snaps. Since full tang is not an option, Buck chose a mid-lock back design to prevent slips or accidental closing. The blade is a 6.75-inch, scalpel-sharp piece of craftsmanship made of 420J2 stainless steel sunk into a glass reinforced polypropylene handle with TPE rubber accents. To enhance durability and resist rust, they have added a titanium coating. It both fights off weather and helps keep the edge ready to go through paper after repeated use. Comes with a lifetimes guarantee. [Purchase: $26]

Victorinox Cutlery Fillet Knife

Victorinox Cutlery Fillet Knife

Pro: Positive, comfortable grip
Con: Intended for kitchen use

Straight Edge: True, this is not usually the item you’d take camping with you, since its NSF rating makes it more appropriate for a kitchen, but try putting it in your tackle box and see if you don’t reach for it again and again. Victorinox has brought their Swiss Army Knife-making experience to bear with an ergonomic polypropylene handle that stands the test of time and makes hard work comfortable and easy. The low sweep of the blade allows you to use it for boning and the whole apparatus can be sharpened an unlimited number of times without undue wear due to the high carbon content. A bargain for home and away. [Purchase: $26]

Berkley Deluxe Electric Fillet Knife

Berkley Deluxe Electric Fillet Knife

Pro: 18-foot cord
Con: Sloppy cuts cost you meat

Power Up: When you’re out on your fishing kayak you probably don’t have an outlet handy, but for those who need to make short work of large catches, or lazy sots who just want to plug in their knife, our favorite was the Berkley Deluxe. A glut of a adapters let this run off a 110-Volt outlet, a cigarette lighter or automotive power source, or a 12-Volt battery. 6 or 8-inch blade options that can be interchanged allow you to go from large to small in minutes. An ergonomic handle keeps a hold when wet and the cutting power and control are both good…for an electric. [Purchase: $50]

Knives of Alaska Steelheader SureGrip

Knives of Alaska Steelheader SureGrip

Pro: Finger grips on handle
Con: Small cutting edge

Small Wonder: Knives of Alaska lives up to their name by offering up cutlery intended for hard use in the wilds of the Last Frontier. Rating a striking 58-60 on the Rockwell hardness scale, this slim beauty is best used for smaller catches, since it only measures 5.75-inches. Don’t let the size mislead you, though. Tough enough for bigger jobs and bigger game, the 440-C stainless steel body is a full tang with etched finger grips for a better hold when damp or bloody. The nylon sheath is better for tougher environments than leather and won’t suffer from water damage. [Purchase: $50]

Wusthof Gourmet

Wusthof Gourmet

Pro: Perfectly weighted
Con: Does not hold an edge for long

Mobile Kitchen: If you are a true culinary artist, you already have some Wüsthof knives on hand, be it your do everything chef’s knife or perhaps the nice steak knives for entertaining company that you like. Either way, you know the high-carbon German steel cuts like a dream and resists stains and wasting. What you might not know is that you can pack around this 7-inch blade with riveted handle on even the most daring of fishing trips without worrying that it will fail in its duties. Laser cut, light as gossamer, and stamped perfectly, it’s everything you’d want from your kitchen, wherever you are. [Purchase: $71]

Marttiini Finnish Fillet Knife

Marttiini Finnish Fillet Knife

Pro: Excellent stiffness
Con: Handle tends to get slippery when wet

Longblade: You won’t want this by your side if you’re snagging brook trout, but the 9-inch stainless chromium steel blade is ideal for larger catches where more size gives you a better cut. The birch handle with a notched finger groove feels great and gives you plenty of control, but it tends to get a little slick when the guts and blood start to fly. Each blade is hand ground and requires little work right out of the box. It holds its edge longer than nearly anything we tested and makes quick work of salmon and pike. [Purchase: $73]

Bark River Kalahari Sportsman

Bark River Kalahari Sportsman

Pro: Solid stiffness and flexibility balance
Con: Comes with lanyard hole but no sheath

Lifetime Companion: From the micarta handle that gets tacky and sticky when wet to the ideal meat/fish 6.75-inch full tang blade, this is a general use fillet knife for the serious lifetime sportsman. The edge has a nice convex grind that we absolutely love. It stays sharp for ages and is easily stropped to a straight razor keenness. Often ignored in this category of knives is the spine, but this one is cut to a 90-degree angle like an ice skate. Scrape a fire starter along it for quick sparks, or cut into deer meat without it giving way. A larger handle provides leverage and works for hands of any girth. [Purchase: $199]

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