How to Pick the Perfect Fillet Knife

Everyone loves a fresh meal of fish, and picking that perfect fillet knife will help make the fish-cleaning process easier. I am excited to get on the ice and have started prepping my rods and reels, doing inventory on my tackle, and gathering all my essential equipment – and fillet knives are a big part of that. I own a variety of different fillet knives and use certain ones depending on the species I am cleaning, or if I am on the go and need something easy to take with me.

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

Rubber knife handles are ideal, so you do not slip when cleaning. Wood handles get slippery when covered in fish slime, blood, or water. The length of the blade also matters. Typically a 6-inch blade will get the job done for most fish. However, if you are cleaning pike or other bigger fish species, then an 8-inch knife might be a better choice. If you do more salmon or saltwater fishing, you may want a blade longer than 8 inches. If the blade is too short for the fish, you will lose the flexibility needed to cut along the bones.

A protective sheath is one of the most overlooked qualities of a good fillet knife. There are three types of materials used generally for protecting blades, and those are leather, nylon, and plastic. While leather is a popular choice for aesthetic reasons, it will also soak up any moisture and quickly becomes stinky and ruined. Plastic is much more durable and weather resistant.

Mr. Crappie 6-inch Flex Folding Fillet Knife

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

Mr. Crappie 6-inch Flex Folding Fillet Knife: $28.99

Mr. Crappie 6-inch Curved Slab Sticker Fillet Knife

When it comes to smaller fish such as bluegills, perch, and crappies, I lean towards a 6-inch fillet knife: anything bigger is overkill. I have found the Mr. Crappie 6-inch Curved Slab Sticker Fillet Knife to be very durable with an excellent edge. It has a textured rubber handle making it easy to grip, even when my hands get covered in fish slime. The blade’s flexibility and curve make it simple to glide right over the bones without leaving any in the fillet behind. The plastic sheath will keep the blade protected and is easy to clean. I also like the brightly-colored handle since I tend to lose or misplace things; it will stick out if you set it down somewhere, unlike black or brown.

Mr. Crappie 6-inch Curved Slab Sticker Fillet Knife: $28.99

Smith’s 8-inch Curved Super Flex Fillet Knife

For the bigger jobs, such as filleting a walleye, northern pike, or trout, I prefer an 8-inch fillet knife. My favorite knife is the Smith’s 8-inch Curved Super Flex Fillet Knife. The extra flex in the blade makes removing those pesky Y-bones from northern pike a lot easier, as you can bend and maneuver smoothly along the bones. This knife also has a plastic protective sheath and a textured bright-colored 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 Curved Super Flex Fillet Knife: $39.99

Mr. Crappie Slab-O-Matic Electric Fillet Knife

If you have a lot of fish to clean, then 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 out rib bones, which can be tedious without this specialized tool. It also features an 8-inch stainless steel blade to handle the bulk of your filleting. Both blades have protective sheaths, and a marine-grade mesh bag keeps everything together in one place.

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

About Smith’s Consumer Products:

Smith’s Consumer Products is an Arkansas-based company that traces its history to 1886. Smith’s produces the broadest line of knife and scissors sharpeners available, ranging from simple, fixed angle pull-through sharpeners for consumers that want quick and easy sharpening to sophisticated Precision Kits designed for the knife sharpening enthusiast. Our offering includes both manual and electrical sharpeners that incorporate many different abrasive materials, including diamond, carbide, ceramic, bonded synthetic abrasives, and of course, natural Arkansas stones. The Edge Experts at Smith’s Consumer Products also design and manufacture a wide range of tools for outdoor enthusiasts as well as knives for everyday carry, tactical, shop, kitchen, hunting, and fishing needs.