In this guide, we’ll have a quick discussion about the different characteristics you’ll find in the market of fish fillet knives, I’ll give you a few tips and pointers on when it might be a good idea to own several different knives for different species, and finally, I’ll tip you off to the best fish fillet knives and where to snag killer deals on them!
You’ve done the hard part, wrangling those rambunctious critters into the net and after an intense fight, you’ve been crowned the victor and you get to keep your place at the top of the food chain.
What’s next? Well, you could toss that little fishy back into the water so it can live to fight another day, or you can fry it up and have yourself a rewarding home cooked meal!
Getting that fish from the water to your plate takes a lot of gear and in this guide, we’ll be focusing on one of the most important aspects of cleaning a fish and preparing it, the fish fillet knife. Now, fillet knives come in many different sizes, stiffness, styles, and you can even get fish fillet knives that utilize electric motors to cut for you! With so many options, its no wonder I get asked quite often about which knife should be used.
Fillet Knife Reviews
Before we get into the knife reviews, if you don’t know where to start or what to look for in a fish fillet knife, be sure to check out the buying guide below the knife reviews below. Keep in mind the type of fish you’ll be filleting so you know what length, material, and overall flexibility you’ll need!
Of course, it’s utterly impossible for me to review each and every blade ever designed for fish filleting, so in this list, you’ll find my personal favorites across multiple different budgets and use cases. If I’ve missed one of your favorites, let me know in the comments section and I’ll do my best to review it in the future!
Here Are the Best Fish Fillet Knives in 2019
1. Kershaw Clearwater 1257X/1259X
My Review: Before we get started, I’ll address the two model numbers I included in the name. The 1257X refers to the smaller 7” model and the 1259X refers to the 9” model. Both knives are the same except the length differences and both knives are manufactured in the USA!
Let’s be real, the Japanese knife manufacturer Kershaw has one heck of a reputation dating all the way back to 1974 across many different categories of knives and their line up fillet blades are no exception to the high standard of quality they continually produce.
These blades are constructed of 420J2 stainless steel and weigh roughly 4 ounces. The blades are coupled with an ergonomic co-polymer handle and fit nicely into their included ABS sheaths.
The blade itself is insanely sharp right out of the package and fairly easy to maintain. Something I really like about this little package is the “clicking” sensation you get when placing the blade into the sheath. It’s satisfying and gives you peace of mind that the knife is secure in its sheath. Since I obviously keep my fillet knives with me on most trips, having a nice sheath is extremely important!
Slide this blade through any fish and you’ll be satisfied. It’s actually a bit difficult to recommend more expensive blades considering the immense value the Kershaw company provides. I would recommend these fillet knives to anyone looking for an entry into filleting for just about any medium-sized fish.
Why I like it:
2. Mercer Culinary Millennia
Of course, color doesn’t really matter and you get to choose between eight total colors, have at it!
The blades consist of the ever so coveted carbon-based Japanese steel and come with a Santoprene and polypropylene handle. The knives are simple and minimalist, which is what I personally love to see in fillet knives. They do one thing and they do it exceptionally well!
The blades are razor sharp out of the box and I really notice the incredible grip offered by the handle in wet conditions. This is one of the best grips you’ll find on a budget fillet knife by far and it really exceeds most peoples expectations.
These are simply “get the job done” types of fillet knives at a price point that would rival a case of beer. They aren’t the highest quality, they aren’t the sharpest and they aren’t the fanciest looking knives out there, but for the money, this is an excellent value and a fantastic knife to keep on the boat with you.
Unfortunately, these don’t come with a sheath, so you may want to invest in one or keep them in tightly packed in storage.
Why I like it:
3. Rapala Superflex
My Review: The Superflex line of fillet knives from Rapala really exceeds expectations and looks great while doing it. Of course, it’s implied by the name, but I must say, these knives are extremely flexible, hinging on the line between Superflex and too much flex!
If you know how to use a fillet knife properly, these are downright amazing. The control and maneuverability these knives offer are unrivaled in the budget category but since they are so flexible, you have to be really careful about how you use them because they are easily snapped when flexed too far.
The knife is exceptionally finished. The polished brass ferrule is a great little decorative touch and the handle is a beautiful wood finish, all topped off and protected by a tooled leather sheath with a belt loop.
Something interesting I noted when reviewing this knife was the PTFE non-stick coating Rapala claims to enhance filleting. If you’ve used high-quality fillet knives before, you probably won’t notice much difference, but if you’re coming from filleting with the wrong type of knife, the non-stick coating certainly is a nice touch and makes thing a tad bit easier.
My only gripe here is that the sheath isn’t lockable, which really isn’t a big deal as the sheath fits rather tight anyways.
Why I like it:
4. Morakniv Fishing Sandvik
My Review: let’s make this review simple, shall we?
This is an incredibly useful fillet knife that comes with a rather tactical feeling sheath and really, its a get “get the job done” kind of deal.
The price you pay is extremely fair for a nice Sandvik 12C27 stainless steel blade inclusive of a textured rubberized handle.
You can find these bad boys in both 3.5” and 6.1” blade lengths. I found the thickness at 1.9mm to be very user-friendly and precise and overall, this fillet knife is a fantastic all arounder.
Why I like it:
5. Sea Striker Fillet Kit
My Review: Normally, I wouldn’t recommend a kit because of course, over the years, I’ve tailor-made my own kits that allow much more flexibility. With that said, if you’re a new fisherman and you have absolutely nothing in terms of filleting, I think a kit is a fantastic way to get started and a good place to start building your little cutlery arsenal!
The eight-piece kit from Sea Striker includes three different fillet knives with lengths as follows: 8”, 6”, and 4”. The kit also includes shears, gloves, and a cutting board.
Now, the shears are a bit cheap and you’ll probably replace them in the future, but as I said, this is a good starting place and they are certainly usable, especially at this price point! To boot, you also get a little knife sharpener and of course, all of this comes in a plastic carry case.
The blades are all stainless steel, so they should be relatively resistant to corrosion and despite being so cheap, they offer a fair middle ground between flex and durability.
Why I like it:
6. KastKing MadBite
My Review: I’ve featured products from KastKing many times throughout my blogs and for good reason. They aren’t the best overall, they aren’t the most fancy, they aren’t the cheapest. What they are is hands down excellent value clearly designed by people who love the same things that we do.
What can I say? The design is rather appealing, the blades are insanely flexible, blade construction consists of the G4416 stainless steel, and they come in many different lengths and options.
At this price point, these are absolutely excellent. They have all the sizes you would need in the range of 5” up to 9” and they always come with an aerated handy dandy sheath.
Why I like it:
7. Outdoor Edge ReelFlex
My Review: This is kind of a kit, but really it’s more of an assortment of blade lengths in a carry case with a decent little knife sharpener.
As mentioned before, I think these kits are excellent for starters who don’t already have anything at all to use. If you plan on catching a wide variety of species, kits like these are a no brainer.
You’ll get three blades at a 6”, 7.5”, and 9.5” length selection. Each blade is constructed from the lovely German 4116 stainless steel and comes equipped with a TPE non-slip handle.
To wrap things up, you can pack it all in the lightweight plastic carry case that’s included.
Why I like it:
8. Bubba Blade
My Review: The 7” Bubba Blade is something a little different than most of the other knives on this list, offering a little tactical styling, a trigger style grip, and some interesting blade coating.
At first, I was a bit surprised by the blade coating as it seems to be a bit porous, kind of like something you’d willingly stay away from when shopping for a fish fillet knife.
I was wrong, and that’s okay because I get to share the insight with you now! The 8CR13MOV stainless steel blades are coated in a Ti-Nitride spray that enhances resistance to corrosion and even though it’s not silky smooth, it certainly still acts like it.
Why I like it:
9. Dexter Sani-Safe
My Review: Oh my sweet love, the Dexter Sani-Safe! This is actually the knife I’ve chosen to use over the many many many models I’ve had in the past. Now, that’s not to say it’s the best fillet knife ever made, but personally, I feel as if it’s the best well-rounded knife under fifty bucks that I can rely upon on a daily basis.
The Sani-Safe is an extremely narrow 9” fillet knife constructed from high-carbon based stainless steel.
The handle consists of a nice textured white polypropylene material which I find to be excellent for grip, even when constantly wet.
A little fun fact, the name is kind of meant to suggest that it’s National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) rated and really, these knives can be found over all the world in the hands of professional fisherman for good reason!
Of course, I recommend this knife to anyone fishing in the deep blue. It’s a bit overkill for small freshwater critters but for tuna, these knives absolutely get the job done.
The knife itself isn’t sold with a sheath, however, you find a generic Dexter sheath here that fits their fillet knives rather well.
Why I like it:
10. Dalstrong Omega
My Review: Alright filleting enthusiasts, this one is for you! Of course, you’ll spend a bit extra, but if you enjoy the finer things in filleting, I think you can appreciate these blades.
Liquid steel! Wow, so cool! To be honest, I don’t really know if it’s applicational past just looking incredible, but hey, style points matter, right? C’mon, you gotta look good when you’re chopping up dead fish!
These 6” fillet blades are excellent, though, don’t get me wrong. The liquid steel design is supposed to allow for smoother action and although I can’t vouch for it entirely, I can say the knife itself is just absolutely amazing.
The blades are American forged BD1N-V Hyper steel, which basically means they’ve been heat-treated and encompass an angle at roughly 10 degrees.
These blades are handcrafted by some of the top bladesmiths using the Honbazuke blade crafting procedures. Nitrogen is forced into the metal as it cools which is supposed to increase its hardness level, durability, and overall blade performance.
You didn’t think you’d get a fancy blade without a fancy handle, did you? The full tang handles consist of G10 woven fiberglass that is both heat and freeze resistant and showcases beautiful Dalstrong emblem engravings.
Why I like it:
What is a Fish Fillet Knife?
Sometimes referred to as a filleting knife, a fish fillet knife offers the user a much higher level of control, specially crafted for the act of filleting. These are typically 4” to 11” in length and tend to be much lighter than most other kitchen cutlery.
Fish fillet knives, coupled with amazing flexibility, utilize a blade point that differs from a traditional knife. These are generally referred to as “trailing points”. A trailing point makes the act of precision slicing and skinning much easier by implementing a slight curvature at the end of the knife, which is generally used for small and precise cuts and makes maneuvering around bones a much easier and more accurate task.
Bevels on the blade constructed at a 12 to 17-degree angle make for an extremely sharp and thin edge, focusing on precision and ease of use over durability and are not to be used on hard surfaces, like making contact with a cutting board.
The angled bevel is the reason fish fillet knives are rather delicate and are easily damaged when they contact something hard. Trading off durability, however, allows for extremely easy entry points and enhanced maneuverability, especially in the rib and backbone areas. A bevel makes cutting out the meat without hitting bones significantly more efficient than other styles of knives.
What Makes a Fish Fillet Knife Special?
Most knives are quite rigid and durable, giving you the capability of cutting through thick and difficult materials without snapping the blade. A fish fillet knife focuses on something a bit different, though.
Since you’re cutting through the soft skin of a fish, a rigid and thick blade isn’t a necessity and instead, many anglers prefer to use a fish fillet knife because they offer thinness and precision that otherwise wouldn’t be available.
You’ll probably notice the shape and overall design of a fish fillet knife is fairly different compared to your average kitchen knife. Manufacturers have contoured their blades specifically in a way that best aligns the cut with a fish’s body.
If you’re an experienced fisherman or cook, you know filleting a fish is an art form and not many people are actually capable of achieving a perfect cut. Filleting a fish takes a lot of practice, but you’ll never quite get it right without the use of a proper fish fillet knife.
Fillet knives can be found manufactured from many different materials. I’d argue this is likely the most pressing factor behind price. The typical consumer grade fish fillet knife usually consists of stainless steel.
You’d think stainless steel blades would perform well in filleting fish, especially because they’ll constantly be wet, but chromium is actually the winner here as it resists corrosion even better than stainless steel but at a cost.
If you’re purchasing a fish fillet knife to use occasionally when you take the rare weekend guys trip and catch a few fish, stainless steel is probably just fine. If you’re a chef or your diet consists mostly of freshly caught fish, I’d go ahead and spend the extra money on a chromium infused blade.
If your blade corrodes even a little, the behavior of the knife will change drastically. Even a slight pitting in the middle of the blade will noticeably cause more drag and a more difficult cut. Furthermore, any pitting or corroding makes the knife far more difficult to clean and may even hide bacteria under the top layers, later releasing this bacteria into your next meal.
A little fun fact here, fish fillet blades are typically rated above 50 on the Rockwell hardness scale, which basically means that they’re mid-grade hardness and will hold a sharp edge longer than blades with a lower rating. Having a rating in the 50s allows the blade to maintain flexibility while still being relatively hard, kind of like the best of both worlds type of deal.
Length and Thickness
As mentioned before, most fish fillet knives fall into the 4” to 11” area, with some specialty fillet knives exceeding a foot. When shopping for fish fillet knives, it’s likely that you’ll see 4”, 6”, 7.5” and 9” knives the most, as these are the most popular and generally fit everyone’s needs.
The length of your knife is very important to consider as this will change its behavior, flexibility, weight, and durability. Smaller fish are much easier to fillet with smaller blades and vice versa! The length you need is the length it takes to reach all the way across the entire fillet, as the idea here is to fillet your fish in the lowest number of pieces possible!
With that said, if you’re fishing ventures consist primarily of a single species or species that are all relatively the same size, you’ll probably get away with buying one good fillet knife fit for that species. If you’re like me and you try to catch everything that moves, you may need an array of different knives, all with different lengths and characteristics for different fish.
Generally, shorter blades also result in thinner blades and your blades on the upper echelon of the spectrum tend to be thicker. Generally, fish fillet knives are found in the ballpark of 2.5 to 4mm in thickness at the spine.
Thicker blades are much more durable and also tend to hold an edge significantly better, however, there is a tradeoff here. The thicker the blade, the more difficult it may be to maneuver and cut with. In my experience, I’ve always enjoyed using the thinnest blade possible, especially when removing the skin from the fillet.
Ultimately, the thickness you need will likely depend on the length you need. A really long knife that is also super thin won’t be very easy to use as it may flex too much and, of course, are extremely easy to bend and break. Longer blades are typically used with much larger, more difficult to fillet fish, so a higher level of thickness is usually in order anyways!
Fish meat, for the most part, is typically very soft compared to the meat you’d find from many other animals. Have you ever had a thick juicy cut of steak? Yeah, that cut likely started with a thick and sturdy cleaver type knife that is almost a necessity just to separate portions.
With fish, you won’t run into many situations where you need a bit of muscle, and instead, you’ll find that just about any blade will slice right through most fish meat with ease. Filleting a fish becomes more of an art form, with gentle strokes of precision as opposed to cleaving meat slabs in half with a heavy blade.
Filleting a fish is tricky, there are a lot of tiny bones packed into a small space, right next to the sweet meat you’re trying to get to. A fillet knife with a decent level of flex to it will allow a much greater level of maneuverability through the maze of bones and tissue, allowing you much greater control over your cut.
In my experience, I have always benefited from using a fish fillet knife as opposed to a typical kitchen blade. There have been countless times when I had to leave meat and come back to it because I wasn’t using a proper fillet knife, and in turn, my finished products were often quite ugly and ended up in odd shapes that make cooking a bit more difficult than it should have been.
Using a fillet blade with plenty of flex simply allows the user to remove a much higher amount of meat in one swift movement instead of digging out meat that was too close to the bone for your rigid blades to reach.
Captain Cody has worked on charter fishing boats in the Florida Keys, Virgin Islands and Alaska. Cody grew up in Pennsylvania and has also done extensive freshwater fishing including bass fishing tournaments. Cody strives to provide detailed information about the best fishing gear and tactics to help both novice and experienced anglers have a more productive and enjoyable time on the water. Cody also has a background in aerospace engineering and neuroscience but really only takes pride in being good at one thing and that is fishing!