Best Fillet Knife for Fishing
Fillet knives were designed for fish. The best fillet knife for fishing addresses several key attributes that many fishermen would not think to consider in their search for their next fillet knife. As the old saying goes, learn from others mistakes rather than make the mistake [of buying the wrong fillet knife].
Key Features to the Best Fish Fillet Knife
The best fillet knife for fishing will account for the actions fishermen take while they are filleting their fish, as well as the delicate meat and bones the fish are composed of.
Naturally, accounting for these actions solves problems professional chefs meet in the kitchen as well. Thus, a quality fillet knife can be one of the most valuable assets in a chefs kitchen drawer. Here are some key proponents to look for in a the best fillet knives for fish:
1 - Quality Material
The material of a fillet knife for fish will determine the ultimate sharpness, or how sharp the knife can be sharpened. It will also determine how well the knife is able to hold an edge and hold up to abuse once it is sharpened.
Key Points for Quality Fillet Knife Material
- Sharpens to a fine edge
- Has great edge retention
- Corrosion resistant
The most common material used in fish fillet knives is also in lower grade kitchen knives: 304 or 316 stainless steel or various German steels. These materials will get the job done and have a high commercial availability, but they aren't the best material out there. One of the best materials for fish fillet knives used by professional chefs is VG-10.
VG-10 is known as one of the highest quality knife materials that is sought after by professional chefs across the world. The reason being is due to its ability to sharpen to a very fine razor-like edge, and hold that sharp edge through continued abuse. VG-10 also has corrosion resistant properties which make it an ideal fillet knife for fish in a saltwater environment.
Little Known Fact: While most stainless steels, German steels, and even VG 10 blades are corrosion resistant, they are still prone to surface rust. Surface rust on these corrosion resistant materials can easily be removed with soap and a scrubbing sponge. To prevent surface rust, wash and dry the knife after exposed to saltwater environment. For best long-term care and maintenance, put a couple drops of vegetable oil on a paper towel and lightly wipe the blade of the fillet knife prior to stowing away for long periods of time. These small acts of care can make your fillet knife for fish last 5x longer.
2 - Fillet Blade Design
There are 4 key attributes to the blade design of the best fillet knife for fishing: thickness, length, angle, and flexibility. The ability of a fillet knife to fillet fish comes by mastering these attributes to maximize the efficiency of the filleting process.
A properly designed fillet blade will allow the fillet knife to follow the contour of the fish to minimize the amount of meat left on the bone. It will also allow the knife to fit into tight-fitting areas for harvesting fillet meat that is not on the main body of the fish.
The best blade length for a fish fillet knife is 7 inches. This length gives the user the most control over the knife for precision cutting.
Knives that are beyond 7 inches require a higher thickness and/or width, which can reduce the control the fishermen has when filleting fish and higher widths can make it more difficult to efficiently separate the skin and meat. Precision filleting is important when looking for a fillet knife for fish. Fishermen want to minimize waste and get the largest, most uniform fillets from their fish. Cuts that are made with low precision can result in meat left on the bone or left over scrap meat that is more difficult to properly cook.
The ideal blade thickness for a fish fillet knife is 2mm. Knives that are less than this thickness may be prone to premature failure when they are flexed too far. Blades that are thicker than this have a harder time efficiently separating the skin from the fish fillet meat. This is the primary feature that separates a boning knife from a quality fillet knife for fish - boning knives are thicker than fish fillet knives.
Blade Edge Angle
The best edge angle for sharpening your fillet knife is 20 degrees. An angle lower than this can work well for filleting fish, but it will take much longer to sharpen. We have found that setting your sharpener to 20 degrees is good for most fish fillet knives.
The blade flexibility is directly related to the width and thickness of the blade. A fillet knife for fish will have a reduced thickness in comparison to other knives, which allows for them to have better flexibility. The flexibility of a fillet knife for fish is very important for following the contours of the fish bone structure to maximize the size of each fillet.
Little Known Fact: A properly designed fillet knife blade can work very well for boning due to its ability to slice meat off larger bones and follow bone contours. The reverse, however, is more difficult. Boning knives make for poor fillet knives due to their increased thickness which has a hard time flexing with the contour of the fish. Boning knives are more likely to leave fish meat on the bone or cut through the skin, leaving pieces of skin on the fillets.
3 - Made with Comfort at Top of Mind
The fillet knife handle and grip is equally as important as the blade. A comfortable grip makes for more consistent execution when filleting a cooler full of fish.
Two key features to look for in the handle of a fillet knife:
- Comfort fit grip molded for common hand movements while filleting fish
- Non-slip textured finish for maintaining a steady grip
The key features that make for the best fillet knife for fishing handle seem imperative, but surprisingly there are few knife manufacturers that pay close attention to this. The ability to keep your hand comfortable while filleting fish will directly impact the results of your final fillets.
Little Known Fact: There are many common hand movements fishermen make while filleting fish, and the VG 10 Flex Fillet Knife is the only one that was designed with every hand movement in mind. Whether you are taking a fillet from the main body of the fish, gutting a fish, or precision cutting meat from hard to reach areas, this handle was molded for every hand movement.
4 - Protective Sheath made for Comfort and Portability
The most over-looked item we discovered during our research is the protective sheath for fillet knives. Fillet knives are used for fishing, which is done outdoors and on the move. A sheath that will protect the knife blade will not only help the knife stay sharper for longer, but it will make it more safe to be around. Any deck-hand or seasoned fishermen will tell you the importance behind having a quality sheath for your fish fillet knife.
Fillet Knife Sheath Must Have
- Removable sheath designed to conform to blade shape
- Easily mounts to shorts and pants, with or without belt.
- Has holes integrated into sheath for proper drainage when knife is wet
These three core features were the foundation for the design of our knife sheaths. We went a step further to put a notch on the sheaths of our VG 10 Flex Fillet Knives for deckhands to use our knives to easily cut fishing line while out on the water.
Little Known Fact: Most fillet knife sheaths are nylon, which will hold water when soaked. It is best to use a plastic or similar material sheath that does not hold water and easily drains when wet, so the knife can stay dry when not in use. This will help prevent surface rust and also helps maintain the integrity of the fillet knife edge.
Fillet Knives vs Boning Knives
A fillet knife and boning knife each has its own use, and in some cases can be interchangeable.
- Fillet knives separate tender fish fillets from thin skin and small bones.
- Optimal blade thickness is key to flexibility
- Boning knives take meat off larger bones, less ideal for fish.
- Quality fillet knives can work as boning knives, but the opposite is not true.
- Boning knives have increased thickness and reduced flexibility
Buyers Guide: The Best Fillet Knife for Fish
We have presented the core attributes we investigated and tested for while designing our VG 10 Flex Series Fillet Knives. Our results came from professional chefs as well as anglers who are on the water everyday. These include a wide range of hunting and fishing guides across the United States who are on open terrain, wooded areas, freshwater, and saltwater.
During the testing phase of this fillet knife for fish, we sharpened a couple fillet knives and let several commercial fishermen and guides test them. The problem these guys experienced was they had to sharpen their knives at least once every fishing trip. Commercial trips meant at least 30 fish were cleaned and guided trips meant there could be anywhere from 20 to 30 fish cleaned per trip depending on how many people were on board. Every single commercial fishermen and guide was impressed with the ability of the VG 10 Fillet Knife to hold a sharp edge. One guide told me he went 3 consecutive days of solid fishing trips before he finally sharpened his knife again. He was very impressed with the results.
Since this testing, we spent time molding the handle to make it a comfort-fit grip that forms to your hand for comfortable filleting. As we previously mentioned, the best fillet knife for fish has to be comfortable so this was a key attribute we had to accomplish. The final product that we developed, with the help of commercial fishermen and guides, is represented in the following photos. We are proud to have the VG 10 Flex Fillet Knives and the VG 10 Gut N Bait Knives.
We are confident to say the best fillet knife for fishing is the VG 10 Flex Fillet Knife.
Our VG 10 Gut N Bait Knife is made with the same non-slip, comfort fit grip our fillet knife has, but has an added gut hook and serrated edge on the back side for slicing and preparing bait while fishing.
You've learned what you need to know about fillet knives for fishing, the next step in fish and game processing is to find a vacuum sealer made for fish and wild game.
Learn more about the importance of a vacuum sealer that can handle high moisture content fish fillets, run on multiple power sources, and weigh out your catch to reduce waste in your vacuum packages. We cover all of this and more in our Guide to Buying the Best Fish and Game Vacuum Sealer for sale.
Outrigger Outdoors is a designer and manufacturer of fish and game processing equipment, including VG 10 flex fillet and bait knives. If you're looking for a cost effective knife that will slice through a cooler full of fish like butter without having to be resharpened, look no further than our VG 10 series of fillet and bait knives.