For a keen angler, there are very few things in the world that can beat a good day out fishing.
The sun’s shining, the fish are biting, you’ve almost caught your bag limit, and you definitely know what you’re having for dinner tonight!
At the end of the day, you pack up, clean, and organize all of your gear, and now that you’ve caught all those fish, you need to clean and fillet them.
A good fillet knife will go a long way in helping you get the job done quickly and efficiently, so we’ve highlighted five of the best fillet knifes, plus curated a buyer’s guide and answered common questions about fillet knives.
Best Fillet Knifes: A Review
1. Rhinoreto Fillet Knife
First up is a reasonably priced fillet knife from Rhinoreto.
Rhinoreto designed this knife with a passion for wanting to deliver a practical product that improves the lives of others.
When you buy the Rhinoreto Fillet Knife, you get to choose between three different length blades, from five to eight inches.
This is really handy since you can match the blade size to your needs, depending on the size of the fish you are catching or the size of your tackle box for carrying convenience.
Regardless of the length you buy, though, the blade is flexible and curved so that you can easily maneuver it between the fish bones and flesh.
It’s made of stainless steel, which is great for a knife that you take out and about with you since it’s resistant to corrosion.
That is especially true for saltwater fishers since knives will be far more prone to corrosion from the salt in the water.
Unfortunately, the stainless blade can dull fairly quickly, but your Rhinoreto won’t let you down since it also comes with a free sharpener.
Just four or five passes through the sharpener will have your blade as good as new, cutting through fish like butter.
It does mean, though, that you will probably have to carry your blade sharpener around with you.
The blade has a non-stick coating, and this results in a very smooth action as the fish meat slides off the blade easily.
The rubber handle is comfortable to hold, and no matter which size blade you choose, it is large enough to accommodate all hand sizes, whether you’re a lefty or righty.
It’s non-slip, too, making it safer to use, especially considering how slippery your hands can be when covered in fish mucus.
This knife also comes with a vented, lightweight sheath to protect your knife when you’re not using it.
The design of the sheath is well-thought-out since it is very lightweight, and it also means that you can store your knife away when wet or when you’re in a hurry.
We like the fact that the Rhinoreto Fillet Knife has a fairly large handle, no matter which size blade you buy, as you can grip it fully with all five fingers for maximum knife control.
The downside of the Rhinoreto Fillet Knife is that the blade dulls fairly quickly and, since it needs to be really sharp for filleting fish, you’ll need to sharpen it every time you use it.
- Comfortable and non-slip grip
- Corrosion-resistant blade
- Sharpener included
- Lightweight sheath
- Available in three different lengths
- Blades dull quickly
2. Rapala Soft Grip Fillet Knife
Rapala is a well-known brand in the fishing market, selling lures and knives, among other fishing accessories.
This particular product is one of Rapala’s budget-friendly fillet knives.
This knife from Rapala comes in four different lengths from four inches through to nine inches, which offers even more choice for the buyer.
Whether you want a compact filleting knife that you can take anywhere with you or a longer blade for cleanly slicing up larger ocean fish, the Rapala Soft Grip Fillet Knife won’t disappoint.
Whichever length you go for, though, they all feature a flexible stainless steel blade, combined with non-stick coating, similar to that of the Rhinoreta knife.
The soft-grip handle is molded to fit the curves of your hand and textured to make it non-slip.
That ensures you have maximum control and comfort when filleting fish, which is especially useful for when you’re catching your bag limit and have a lot of filleting to do!
The package includes a sheath to protect your knife’s edge while not in use, which you can also fix to your belt so that you always have it within arms reach.
Also included is a single-stage sharpener to help you keep your blade sharp.
Like the Rhinoreta, this stainless steel blade will most likely need a lot of sharpening, so this sharpener will get a lot of use.
It’s best to keep the sharpener with the knife so that you can keep the blade sharp and effective.
We love the fact that the Rapala Soft Grip Fillet Knife is available in four different lengths as if you prefer to catch panfish, you have better knife control with a smaller blade.
If you’re catching larger fish, then you can choose the longer, heftier version instead to make filleting a bit easier.
Some people find that the handles of the smaller Rapala knives are just too short for them, allowing only a three-finger grip, which is neither comfortable nor safe.
- Trusted brand
- Non-slip grip
- Corrosion-resistant blade
- Sharpener included
- Handy belt attachment on the sheath
- Available in four different lengths
- Too short handles on the shorter length blades
- Tends to dull quickly
3. Dexter-Russell Narrow Fillet Knife
Dexter-Russell has been one of the leading “experts of edges” since 1818, providing all of the necessary tools for hunting and fishing enthusiasts.
This USA-made, seven-inch blade is the cheapest of all the knives on our list but doesn’t lack in quality.
This knife from Dexter-Russell is available in just one length, which is seven inches, so it would be ideal for your needs if you mostly catch medium-sized fish.
If you need a knife to fillet panfish, though, this probably isn’t the knife for you since you’ll have better control over a slightly smaller blade.
It is incredibly affordable and, at the same time, maintains the high quality that one would expect from Dexter products.
This knife is part of Dexter’s 400 series, and the blade is made from stain-free, high-carbon steel, which means it holds a sharp edge really well.
This is great news since unlike the first two knives on this list, the Dexter-Russell Narrow Fillet Knife doesn’t come with a free sharpener.
When it does start to dull over time, though, because the blade on this knife is hollow ground, it allows for quicker and easier re-sharpening and maintenance when needed.
The knife-build is also solid, and the handle is made from durable and slip-resistant polypropylene.
The Dexter-Russell Narrow Fillet Knife doesn’t come with a free sheath, though, so you should purchase a sheath that fits.
We love the fact that the Dexter-Russell Narrow Fillet Knife is a very high-quality knife for such a low price.
One of the drawbacks of the Dexter-Russell Narrow Fillet Knife is that it doesn’t come in different lengths, so if you’d prefer a shorter blade, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Secondly, you would need to buy a sheath if you wanted to carry it around with you since it’s so incredibly sharp.
- Trusted chef’s brand
- Non-slip grip
- Stays sharper, longer
- Sharpens easily and quickly
- Durable, quality construction
- Most affordable fillet knife on this list
- Must purchase a separate sheath
- Sharpener not included
- Too big for some people’s needs
4. Bubba Full Tang Fillet Knife
The Bubba Full Tang Fillet Knife and the last knife we chose to feature in our list are quite a bit pricier than the previous three, but their features and perks shine through to justify the investment needed.
The Bubba Blade Company was started up by keen fishermen that were unsatisfied with the options available to them.
They now produce a range of useful products for fishers, hunters, campers, and outdoor enthusiasts in general.
The Bubba Full Tang Fillet Knife features a 12-inch blade, so it is best suited to those of you who will be filleting a lot larger fish, such as salmon and lake trout.
With an overall length of 18 inches, this knife has a really comfortable handle, wide enough for even the largest of hands to grip properly and maintain full control.
The handle features a non-slip grip as well as a trigger grip, which offers outstanding safety.
It is exactly what you need on a knife of this caliber since with one slip-up, you could easily lose a finger.
The Bubba Full Tang Fillet Knife also has safety guards on it to prevent your fingers from slipping forward into the blade, and it also protects the knife from the fish spines.
The super-thin, high-carbon, stainless steel blade moves effortlessly through the flesh to easily remove meat from bones, reducing loss.
The blades will stay sharper for longer, thanks to the high-carbon content, meaning you don’t need to sharpen them as often as other blades.
The blade is also coated with an incredibly tough ceramic, called ti-nitride, helping it cut through scales easily and makes it rust-resistant.
This “full tang” blade is durable, too, as the blade runs down the entire length of the knife, including within the handle.
This knife comes complete with a sheath featuring a belt loop, which is really handy since you can carry your blade with you, hands-free.
The high-carbon blade on the Bubba Full Tang Fillet Knife is outstanding, especially with the extra-hard ceramic coating.
The price of the Bubba Full Tang Fillet Knife will be cost-prohibitive to some people.
Also, with its length, it will only be useful to fishers who are fishing larger prey.
- Rust resistant
- Highly accurate and sharp blade
- Good safety features
- Stays sharper, longer
- Durable, quality, full tang construction
- Sheath included with hands-free carry
- Too long blade for some fishers
- Quite expensive
5. Dalstrong Gladiator Series Fillet Knife
Dalstrong fuses traditional Japanese craftsmanship with high-tech processes to offer exceptional quality professional kitchen knives.
They create best in class tools at unrivaled price points, but as the most expensive knife on our list, maybe only the keenest of fishers and cooks will be able to justify the price.
This seven-inch knife from Dalstrong forms part of a more extensive collection of knives that features incredibly razor-sharp, high-carbon German steel blades that have hand-polished edges.
The Gladiator Series is also tested to 56+ hardness on the Rockwell scale, and this fillet knife is carefully tapered to improve hardness, minimizing slicing resistance.
With a 1.5mm thickness from the spine and flexible blade technology, the Dalstrong Gladiator Series Fillet Knife makes de-scaling and filleting easier.
This knife is made with premium materials and has a nice quality feel to it.
The blade comes complete with two sheaths, one for when you have it in your kitchen drawer at home, and the other for when it’s on the move with you.
The luxury black Pakkawood handle is riveted and has a grip that is comfortable and maneuverable.
Dalstrong also offers each customer a 100% satisfaction guarantee, enabling you to try the knife, completely risk-free.
Even though the Dalstrong Gladiator Series Fillet Knife is the most expensive knife on this list, we love the fact that it comes with a 100% money-back guarantee if you’re not completely satisfied.
It’s also made with premium quality materials and is razor-sharp.
Again, the price point of the Dalstrong Gladiator Series Fillet Knife may render it inaccessible for some people.
Another downside is that it’s only available in one length.
- Highly accurate and razor-sharp blade
- Stays sharper, longer
- Durable, quality, full tang construction
- Two sheaths included with hands-free carry
- 100% money-back guarantee
- Only available in one length
- Most expensive on this list
When you’re looking for a good fillet knife, there are a few things you should think about before making your final purchase to ensure you’re investing your money wisely.
A more expensive knife might not necessarily be the best knife, and certain features and perks may be really useful to you.
Here we discuss how knife types, blades, handles, and sheaths should affect your decision on choosing which knife is right for you.
1. Fillet Knife Type
Fillet knife types can vary in several ways, including the curvature and flexibility of the blades.
The two specific types you may come across are Scandanavian and Japanese fillet knives.
Scandanavian fillet knives are more flexible, with a pointed and mildly curved blade-end, and the edge is ground on both sides.
On the other hand, Japanese fillet knives are often less flexible, with an even-width blade, finishing up with roughly a 45% curved end.
They are sharpened by grinding on one edge and are often sharper than Scandinavian knives.
For filleting small fish, specifically, a flexible blade is better so that it can more easily follow the contours of the small fish’s bone structure.
More flexible blades are also more suited to softer flesh, skin, and scales.
Whereas if you often catch fish with tough skin and scales, a slightly firmer blade will perform the task better.
Most modern filleting knives are a combination of these two different types of knives.
2. Knife Blade
The knife blade is hugely important when you consider what length you want, and what materials it’s made out of.
The materials will affect how sharp it can get, how often you have to sharpen it, and whether it’s resistant to corrosion.
You should ideally complement your blade length to the size of the fish you are most likely to catch.
Seven inches is perfect for medium-sized fish, but if you’re catching smaller panfish, then pick something smaller and vice-versa for larger fish.
The handle is also essential since cleaning, scaling, and filleting fish is a slimy and messy task, so the handle needs to have a good grip.
Extra safety features are also a bonus, so look out for safety guards that prevent your fingers from sliding down into the blade.
You also want the handle to be big enough to be able to grip solidly, and it should be comfortable to use, especially if you catch and fillet a lot of fish!
If you bring all of your fish home to be filleted in your kitchen, then a sheath is slightly less important than if you take it out fishing with you.
The sheer sharpness of a fillet knife will ideally be sheathed, even in a drawer, to stop people from accidentally cutting themselves when they’re rooting around the drawer.
If you take your filleting knife with you when you fish, then having a sheath with a belt loop is really handy so that you can carry it hands-free.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What Is the Easiest Way to Fillet a Fish?
If you’re leaving the skin on your fish fillets, then you need to descale the fish first.
However, in filleting fish, you also technically remove the skin and therefore don’t have to descale or gut the fish before beginning the filleting process.
Here’s what you need to do:
- First, make an incision behind the gill from the top of the head, towards the belly of the fish.
- Another incision should then be made from the head to the tail on one side of the fish, at the top of the spine.
- Next, insert your knife at the head-end once more, but deeper this time, until you feel the backbone.
- Use the backbone to guide you down to the tail of the fish once more.
- Turn the fish over and repeat these steps on the other side.
- Then insert your blade close to the rib bones and cut the rib section of each fillet.
- Once you have your fillets off the fish carcass, place each fillet skin-side down and cut ½ inch away from the tail.
- Angle your blade between the flesh and the skin.
- Holding the tail firmly, cut against the skin with a “sawing” motion until the fillet is removed from the skin.
- Wash your fillets and they’re ready to be cooked or frozen for another time.
2. Is a Fillet Knife and a Boning Knife the Same Thing?
No, a boning knife is generally stiffer and straighter than a fillet knife.
You could fillet a fish with a boning knife, but you will most likely end up with more waste, so it’s better to invest in a proper filleting knife.
3. Can You Fillet a Fish Without a Fillet Knife?
Yes, in a pinch, you can use a sharp, skinny knife with a long-enough blade to reach the backbone of the fish, but there will be more wastage.
Your fillets will end up smaller and have a “butchered” look, which isn’t a good thing.
4. What Size Fish Fillet Knife Is Best?
Size does matter, but it depends on what size of fish you catch the most of, and therefore fillet the most.
Four to six inches blades are better for smaller fish, while seven inches is ideal for medium fish.
Finally, larger blades are better for larger fish.
5. Do I Need a Fillet Knife?
Filleting fish makes for easier eating since you don’t have to worry so much about bones and scales.
However, you can cook your fish whole and pick the meat straight from the bones into your mouth.
This would still require some work, but since you will still need to clean and gut your fish before cooking.
That said, having a fillet knife will depend on your needs.
Our Final Recommendation
We decided that out of the five best fillet knifes, our overall winner is the Dexter-Russell Narrow Fillet Knife.
We can’t get over the fact that it is the cheapest blade on our list but still features high-carbon steel.
High-carbon steel is usually only found on knives that are more expensive than this.
It also makes the knife sharper and stays sharper for longer, as well as being rust-resistant, which is a must for saltwater fishing.
It doesn’t come with a sheath, so you’ll have to buy one separately for carrying the knife on you, but it’s a great deal for a knife that gets the job done with minimal effort.
Now that you’ve got a perfect fillet knife, maybe you could use a fish finder to help you find the fish.