Making the Cut: Ultimate Guide to the Best Fillet Knives for Fish

fillet knife and salmon on cutting board

To many, a knife is a tool used for cutting, shearing, slicing among other similar functions – a simple tool for a simple task, right?. Nothing is ever so simple, however, in life. There are all sorts of different knives for all kinds of unique applications. This guide will focus on the fillet knife, a specialized type of knife used to cut/slice and separate flesh from bone and skin from flesh.

We hope this guide will give you a better understanding of fillet knives and arm you with the information you need to help you select one that best suits your needs. With that said, here are some important fillet knife buying facts and tips that the guide will cover the following as listed in the table of contents:

 

What Is a Fillet Knife Used For?

One of the best ways to transform your catch (fish) or meat into a juicy meal is by making use of a fillet knife. They may sometimes be mistaken for boning knives but, although they may seem similar and may have overlapping functions, there are still some important differences. For one, fillet knives are thinner than boning knives and are more appropriate for separating skin or fish from bone, primarily due to their thinness and flexibility.

But, perhaps, the most important difference between the two knife types is the flexibility of a fillet knife. A flexible knife conforms better to the contour of the fish to yield a more precise cut and reduce waste. That, combined with its thinness, gives the fillet knife the ability to cut and slice with a precision that a pure boning knife just cannot match.

 Professionals will tell you that making use of the wrong knife when cutting fish or meat away from bone can go wrong really fast. Making use of the wrong knife increases the risk of slicing yourself and wasting your fish or meat. The wrong knife may also struggle to hold its edge, losing its sharpness in short fashion.

Using a good fillet knife for fish will, therefore, allow you to avoid all of these potential problems and give you the best results in the kitchen – or out on the water. But exactly what makes for a good fillet knife?

 

Blade Choices – Stainless Steel or High-Carbon Steel?

Let’s start with the blade composition because that is the most important part of any knife. In its basic form, all steel is a combination, or alloy, of iron and carbon, with carbon acting as the glue that gives the mixture its hardness and prevents it from breaking down. All steel knives, including those for filleting, begin with this simple process. However, our modern knives are more sophisticated than that as manufacturers must fine-tune the basic formula to make the best product for different applications.

Because a fillet knife will be used for slicing meats and fish that require precise cuts – while frequently exposed to wet environments (including corrosive saltwater) – a good fillet knife should ideally have a blade that is durable, sharp and corrosion-resistant. With that being said, knife manufacturers add other elements including chromium, molybdenum, tungsten, magnesium, as well as others, in varying degrees of quantity to achieve particular results.

The knife blades we have today fall into essentially two camps:  stainless steel and high-carbon steel. But even so, you will find plenty of variants of these two main categories on the market, including the high-carbon stainless steel versions that contain more chromium than standard high-carbon steel and offer the best of both worlds. These more expensive hybrids are still essentially high-carbon steel products but with better protection against corrosion.

Let’s take a brief look at the main differences and advantages/disadvantages between stainless steel and high-carbon steel:

Stainless Steel Blade

Pros:

  • Tends to stay attractive longer over time longer
  • Generally, more durable (e.g., less prone to chipping)
  • Requires less maintenance
  • More corrosion and stain-resistant
  • Easier to sharpen (generally; some disagree)

Cons:

  • Easier to break
  • Decreased sharpness and edge retention

High-Carbon Steel Blade

Pros:

  • Stronger and harder blade
  • More flexibility
  • Sharper blade edge (less effort, more precise cuts)
  • Maintains its edge better over time (edge retention)
  • More affordable (usually)

Cons:

  • Less stain and corrosion-resistant
  • Requires more maintenance (mainly for corrosion prevention)
  • Easier to chip (try not to drop it!)

 

German vs Japanese Steel Blade

The German steel blade is an extremely popular choice when it comes to cutlery. The German variant is especially unique because with its lower carbon content the blades are softer, thus making them more durable as well as better at keeping an edge over a longer period of time.

Japanese carbon steel blade knives, on the other hand, have a higher carbon count than their German counterparts. This means they can be made with a thinner/lighter profile, yet be harder (generally, higher Rockwell hardnessHRC – ratings) and extremely sharp for more precise cuts/fillets. The harder steel, however, can make this blade more susceptible to chipping, and even cracking.

The choice between a Japanese or German steel blade, again, comes down to personal preference and what qualities are most important to you. The differences between the two are not great. The important thing to remember is to buy the best quality you can afford, regardless of type.

 

Blade Flexibility and Size: They Matter

man cutting fish fillets

As mentioned before, it is the flexibility, to a great degree, that helps to make the fillet knife what it is. It is therefore ideal for a good fillet knife to be flexible. This will allow for tight angle maneuvers for an easier time filleting. This produces great results and allows you to get the most out of the fish while avoiding injuries to your hand.

How big a knife? Depending on the size of the meat/fish you’re preparing, there are several options. The fillet knives on today’s market typically range from 4 to 10 inches in size. However, a knife of 6 or 7 inches is generally ideal for most applications while also being convenient for storage and transport.

 

Get a Grip – Handle Material

The handle is the second most important component on a knife, particularly one used for filleting. Even experts will have a hard time filleting with a knife with a poor grip. There is often a tendency for the knife to slip off and this can get tiring, if not downright hazardous, really fast.

Besides a good grip, the handle of a fillet knife should also be ergonomically designed to allow for maximum comfort while cutting, and it should be made from materials that are durable, do not hold in fish odors and are easy to clean. Lastly, there is no reason why a fillet knife handle cannot also be aesthetically attractive – in fact, this is often a strong selling point.

Some of the best fillet knife handles are made from Pakkawood, a strong, durable and attractive hardwood composite frequently used in knife handles. Other popular fillet knife handle materials include synthetic polymer rubber and plastics, chosen for their comfort and grip, Birchbark, a beautiful and  natural material that is comfortable, waterproof and resistant to rotting, Curly Birch, another naturally beautiful and durable handle material, and in some instances bare metal as is the case with one of the knives in our recommendations below.

 

Full Tang vs Partial Tang

Every knife has a tang, that metal part of the knife that extends into the handle, partially or fully. The tang is the unsharpened portion of the blade to which the handle, whether made of wood or some synthetic material, is attached.

In a partial-tang knife, the tang extends only partly and you will not see it as it is usually hidden in the handle. On a full-tang knife, it runs the length of the handle and maybe hidden or visible. When visible you’ll often see it as that thin metal slither sandwiched between the handle material that is usually attached by rivets on both sides. You’ll find several variations of each type of tang on the market but they still belong to one of the two primary types.

Partial tangs have their place and can be found on some very good fillet knives. They can be produced faster, at a lower cost and make for a lightweight knife that won’t fatigue the user with extended use. They are also more accommodating of delicate and, often, exotically beautiful wood and other materials. But they also have their limitations.

That they lack the straight-through strength of the full-tang fillet knife is probably its biggest drawback. The weight-savings, realized by not using a full and heavier tang, will make it less durable and balanced than its full-tang counterpart.

Full-tang fillet knives are inherently superior in strength and durability. Though they tend to be heavier than partial-tang varieties, the perceived liability is quickly offset by the more balanced feel when cutting. I also like the fact that you can lean into them more without fear of impending disaster. In the end, they are usually more costly but well worth the extra expense when you consider long-term performance.

 

Electric Fillet Knife vs Regular: Speed or Precision?

Choices for fillet knives come down to manual and electric models (including cordless versions). Electric models are a great option if you have lots of fish you want to fillet in bulk. They do, however, require a little getting used to, but once mastered produce good and fast results. There are several excellent electric fillet knives on the market today from which to choose if you prefer them over manual.

It is really just a case of picking whatever suits you best. However, many experts (I tend to agree) argue in favor of the manual fillet knives because they tend to produce more precise and desired results. So, for our guide, we have chosen 10 of what we feel are some of the best manual fillet knives currently available for purchase. But, I have also briefly listed here what I believe are some of the best electric fillet knives currently available.

American Angler PRO Professional Grade Electric Fillet Knife Sportsmen's Kit - 110 Volt High Performance Ergonomic Motorized Handset with Five Kinds of Stainless Steel Blades, 32352DS

 

American Angler PRO Electric Fillet Knife

 

 

Rapala Lithium Ion Cordless Fillet Knife

 

Rapala Lithium Ion Cordless Fillet Knife

 

 

 

Bubba 110V Electric Fillet Knife with Non-Slip Grip Handle, 4 Ti-Nitride S.S. Coated Non-Stick Reciprocating Blades, 8' Cord and Storage Case for Fishing

 

Bubba 110V Electric Fillet Knife with Non-Slip Handle

Rapala HDEFACSC Heavy Duty Electric Knife, Fillet, Combo

 

Rapala Heavy-Duty Electric Fillet Knife Combo

Our Top 10 Fish Fillet Knives Recommendations

Any knife is intended to be held in the hand and a fillet knife is no exception. A good fillet knife should not cause any constraints on the hand. A good fillet should not be too heavy; longer, thicker blades will be much heavier than their shorter, thinner counterparts. Additionally, the materials used to make the blade not only impacts the weight but also its quality, performance, and durability. Therefore, the blade material also needs to be considered, along with design features, when choosing a fillet knife.

There are plenty of good fillet knives for fish on the market from which to choose. The 10 recommendations in this section are top-rated and recognized for their workmanship, quality, and value. Let’s take a closer look at each.

 

DALSTRONG Gladiator Series 7″ Fillet Knife

DALSTRONG Fillet Knife - 7" Flexible - Gladiator Series - German HC Steel - w/Two Sheaths

See Gladiator Series 7″ Fillet knife on Amazon

The first offering I will be analyzing is the DALSTRONG Gladiator Series German high-carbon steel 7-inch fillet knife.

The Dalstrong Gladiator Series 7’’ fillet knife, as the name suggests, is a ‘battle ready” cutlery. It has been meticulously crafted to make de-boning, filleting, skinning and trimming of your favorite catch easier more and with better results. It’s great on just about anything, from panfish to steelhead and salmon.

This knife boasts of accuracy, ultra-sharpness and durability that comes from using single-piece, high-carbon ThyssenKrupp German steel with a Rockwell hardness rating of 56+. The blade edge is sharpened to a 14 – 160 degrees on each side for an ideal balance between sharpness and maximum flexibility. It also has an attractive polished stainless-steel finish, protective bolster which provides excellent knife counter-balance with just the right amount of weight.

A polymer handle is shaped for optimal comfort, grip and cutting is bonded to the full tang.  Finally, the knife also comes with a BPA protective Dalstrong PerfectFit sheath as well as a handy belt-looped travel case, making it convenient for use not only in the kitchen but also out on the lake.

Knife Specs: 

  • Blade Type: High-Carbon German Steel
  • Total dimensions: 12.7 x 0.8 x 0.1 inches
  • Weight: 5.9 oz.
  • Handle construction: Imported (Spain) Pakkawood
  • Full Tang
  • Lifetime Warranty
Buy DALSTRONG Gladiator Series 7″ Fillet Knife on Amazon

 

Bubba Blade 7″ Tapered Flex Fillet Fishing Knife

Bubba Blade 7 Inch Tapered Flex Fillet Fishing Knife with Non-Slip Grip Handle, Full Tang Stainless Steel Non-Stick Blade, Lanyard Hole and Synthetic Sheath for Fishing, Boating and Hunting

See Bubba Blade 7″ Fish Fillet Knife on Amazon

The next knife that I will be analyzing is the Bubba Blade 7″ Tapered Flex Fillet Fishing Knife. This knife features a textured synthetic rubber non-slip handle for excellent grip, one-piece/full tang construction, and a 7-inch stainless steel blade coated with TiN (Titanium nitride)/non-stick Teflon for smooth, razor-sharp cutting. Even fish with tough skin such as redfish are no problem for this knife. The coating also gives the knife exceptional corrosion-resistant protection.

One of the knife’s many shining qualities, and one I really like, is the ergonomic non-slip handle that actually becomes sticky when wet for even more safety and control when filleting. This makes the knife quite flexible. This flexible and durable fillet knife is great for fishing, hunting or just to have in the kitchen.

Knife Specs: 

  • Blade Type: High-Carbon Stainless Steel
  • Total dimensions: 13 inches length
  • Weight: 3.04 oz.
  • Handle construction: Synthetic non-slip rubber
  • Full Tang
  • One-Year Warranty
Buy Bubba Blade 7-Inch Tapered Flex Fillet Knife on Amazon

 

Wusthof Classic Ikon 7″ Fillet Knife

Wusthof Classic Ikon 7-Inch Fillet With Sheath, Black

See Wusthof Classic Ikon 7-inch Fillet Knife on Amazon

Family-owned German knife cutlery Wusthof has been churning out high-quality knives since 1814. The Classic Ikon 7-inch (18cm) Fillet knife is one of its most popular products, renowned for its exceptional sharpness, strength and flexibility.

This full-tang one-piece forged German High carbon stainless steel knife features a precision, narrow, thin and very flexible blade that lets you fillet or debone your fish with minimal waste. A perfect fillet knife for crappie, perch, walleye and more. Speaking of the blade, the Classic Ikon has a compound-tapered blade that rates a 58 on the Rockwell hardness scale and boasts of 20% sharper edge with double the retention of other models.

The Knife has a comfortable partial bolster that provides finger protection while using or sharpening the blade and also improves balance and control. As for the grip and handle, the contoured synthetic handle fits nicely in the hand for a sure and comfortable and grip.

This fillet knife sports a 5-inch long handle to go with the 7-inch compound-tapered blade and weighs just 4.8 ounces. The Classic Ikon 7 is a precision knife that feels very balanced in the hand, making it easy to cut those perfect fillets every time. Every knife comes with an attractive leather sheath for easy carry/storage whether you’re out on the dock or in the kitchen.

Knife Specs:

  • Blade Type: German High-Carbon Stainless Steel
  • Dimensions: 12 inches in length
  • Weight: 4.8 oz.
  • Handle construction: Polymer/Synthetic
  • Full Tang
  • Lifetime Warranty
Buy Wusthof Classic Ikon 7-Inch Fillet Knife on Amazon

 

Dalstrong Phantom Series 6.5″ Fillet & Boning Knife

DALSTRONG Phantom Series - Japanese High-Carbon - AUS8 Steel - Sheath (6.5" Boning & Fillet)

See DALSTRONG Phantom Series 6.5″ Fillet & Boning Knife on Amazon

A DALSTRONG product is featured again here on our list. This time it is an offering from the knife maker’s widely popular Phantom Series featuring a high-carbon Japanese steel dual-purpose fillet/boning blade. This knife not only excels at filleting fish but also at boning, skinning and trimming fish or any other meat. This is a knife that anglers and hunters alike can appreciate. The blade on this knife is made from precision-forged Japanese AUS-8 steel with a Rockwell hardness rating of 58.

A Japanese blade is usually designed to be more lightweight due to the blade tapering off in the handle as opposed to the traditional full tang design of German-made steel knives. The Japanese made steel is also thinner, which gives it excellent flexibility, and a sharper edge. High Levels of chromium added to the steel increases its resistance to corrosion and stains.

The handle is made from laminated Spanish Pakkawood for strength and good looks while featuring a traditional Japanese D-shaped design that lets you tuck into the palm of your hand for superior control, comfort and agility. The Phantom Series boning and fillet knife comes in at 5.8 ounces, which is a modest weight for a tool that can do so much.

 Knife Specs:

  • Blade Type: Japanese High-Carbon Steel
  • Total dimensions: 11.8 X 1.2 X 0.1 inches
  • Weight: 5.8 oz.
  • Handle construction: Spanish Pakkawood
  • Full Tang
  • Lifetime Warranty
Buy DALSTRONG Phantom Series 6.5″ Boning & Fillet Knife on Amazon

 

Victorinox 4-Knife Fish Fillet Set

Victorinox Fish Fillet Kit

See Victorinox 4-Knife Fish Fillet Set on Amazon

­­­­This 4-knife fish fillet set is offered by Victorinox, the Switzerland-based maker of the famous Swiss Army knife as well as other outdoor tools and gear. The set comes from the company’s Fibrox Pro Collection and features a 3 ¼ -inch serrated paring knife, a 6-inch curved boning knife, an 8-inch flex fillet fishing knife and a 10-inch breaking knife.

The mirror-polished knives make use of high-carbon stainless steel blades to provide maximum sharpness and longevity; they also come with a hygienic and dishwasher-safe textured synthetic non-slip grip handles. They are NSF certified, meaning they meet the highest (commercial kitchen standards) sanitary standards. The knives in this kit are designed with partial tangs but offer great overall value as you get a variety of quality knives, including boning and fillet, in one package.

Making the deal even sweeter is an included portable hand-held knife sharpener, a convenient 8-slot black nylon carrying/storage roll case with handle/shoulder strap and, importantly, Victorinox’s lifetime cutlery guarantee.

Knife Set Specs:

  • Blade Type: High-Carbon Stainless Steel
  • Total dimensions: Various sizes in the set
  • Weight: 2.6 lbs for the set (3.2 oz. for fillet knife)
  • Handle construction: Plastic-rubber
  • Partial Tang
  • Lifetime Warranty
Buy Victorinox 4-Knife Fish Fillet Kit on Amazon

 

Nazarov 6.75″ KASATKA Birchbark Handle Fillet Knife

Fillet Knife - Fishing Knife - D2 Steel - Birchbark Handle - KASATKA - Leather Sheath

See Nazarov Knives KASATKA 6.5″ Fillet Knife on Amazon

The Nazarov Knives KASATKA fillet knife features a 6 3/4-inch long blade made of D2 steel which is a hard yet flexible material that holds an edge well even after several uses. The Russian-made Knife comes with a beautiful, engraved genuine leather sheath. It also features a unique and one of the most attractive handles you’ll find. While the handle may look like it is made of cork, it is actually a Birchbark handle that is far more durable and relatively comfortable. 

The knife has a partial tang that is reinforced with a metal rod that extends through the handle. While not as desirable as a one-piece full-tang, it does make for a lightweight fillet knife that is still sturdy enough to handle just about any job. The blade dimensions of the knife are 6-3/4″ x 1″ x 1/16. This knife comes with a lifetime warranty from Nazarov.

 Knife Specs:

  • Blade Type: High-Carbon Steel (D2 Steel)
  • Total dimensions: 13.5 inches
  • Weight: 5.3 oz.
  • Handle construction: Birch bark
  • Partial Tang (reinforced)
  • Lifetime Warranty
Buy Nazarov 6 3/4″ KASATKA Birchbark Handle Fillet Knife on Amazon

 

Rapala Witch’s Tooth Collector 6″ Fillet Knife

RapalaWitch's Tooth Collector Fillet

See Rapala Witch’s Tooth 6″ Fillet Knife on Amazon

From the Rapala comes the Witch’s Tooth Collector Fillet Knife is a J. Marttiini-produced and engraved stylish knife from Finland. This hand-ground stainless steel blade fillet knife, in addition to being incredibly sharp, is also one of the most beautiful knives, fillet or otherwise, that you will ever see. This is a knife ideal for filleting trout and bass as well as small to medium-size saltwater fish. You get the knife and a leather sheath, all packaged in an attractive collector’s gift box.

The genuine reindeer antler/Finnish curly birch wood handle even comes with folklore originating from Finland’s northernmost region of Lapland about a witch’s tooth (in this case a small rock) locked inside each handle to protect its bearer from harm. The Rapala Witch’s Tooth Collector Fillet Knife is 11 inches long with a 6-inch blade and weighs approx. 4.8 ounces., making it relatively convenient to handle. But don’t let the good looks or folklore throw you off, this is a serious, high-quality lightweight fillet knife that gets the job done with style.

 Knife Specs:

  • Blade Type: Stainless Steel
  • Total Dimensions: 11 inches long
  • Weight: 4.8 oz.
  • Handle Construction: Curly Finish Birch & reindeer antler
  • Partial Tang
  • One-Year Warranty
Buy Rapala 6″ Witch’s Tooth Collector Fillet Knife on Amazon

 

ZWILLING J.A Henckels Professional “S” 7-Inch Fillet Knife

ZWILLING J.A. Henckels 31030-183 Professional"S

See ZWILLING J.A Henckels Professional 7-inch “S” Fillet Knife on Amazon

The ZWILLING J.A Henckels Professional 7-inch “S” Fillet Knife is manufactured in Germany and features single-piece/full tang construction with a no-stain high-carbon steel blade. The ice-hardened FRIODUR high-carbon stainless steel blade is corrosion-resistant, flexible and maintains its sharpness longer. 

It also features an Ergonomic polymer three-rivet handle that is attached to the knife’s full tang. The knife’s beefy bolster serves to protect the finger while also providing the perfect balance. At 7.2 ounces the knife is a little on the heavy side due to its full-tang design and overall solid construction, but it is so well-balanced that movement and convenience are not hindered one bit. A great fillet knife for getting some nice steaks out of the likes of striped bass, Mahi and just about anything else in the ocean, lakes and rivers.

Knife Specs:

  • Blade Type: German High-Carbon Stainless Steel
  • Total Dimensions: 16.5 X 2.75 X 1.5”
  • Weight: 7.2 oz.
  • Handle Construction: Synthetic polymer
  • Lifetime Warranty
Buy ZWILLING J.A. Henckels Professional “S” 7-Inch Fillet Knife on Amazon

 

Shun Cutlery 6″ Boning and Fillet Knife

Shun Cutlery Classic Boning and Fillet Knife; 6-inch High-Performance, Double-Bevel Steel Blade; Luxurious, Hand-Crafted Japanese Knife Provides Flawless Aesthetic and Close, Controlled Cut or Fillet

See Shun 6″ Classic Boning & Fillet Knife on Amazon

Another highly-rated and stylish knife is the 6-inch blade Shun Cutlery boning and fillet knife. This high-performance, hand-crafted Japanese knife is another best-selling, multipurpose knife that can be used for boning and filleting. This knife will slice through a rib roast and tuna with the same precision.

What makes this knife such a standout is Shun’s proprietary VG-MAX advanced steel. The advanced formula increases the use of certain metals to achieve desirable results. For example, the company added more carbon for better strength and durability, more chromium for greater wear and corrosion resistance and vanadium for improved cutting performance.

While not as flexible as some of the other knives in the guide due to its dual-function design, the Shun Cutlery Classic makes up for it with its incredibly sharp and accurate blade. Cutting meats and filleting fish with this knife takes very little effort. A meaty and attractive black Pakkawood handle offers a secure grip while working with the knife.

Also, it’s a little weighty (I kinda like the feel of a heavier knife) but as a multipurpose fillet knife that can also serve as a boning knife, I find the little extra weight acceptable. As an added bonus, Shun will sharpen your knife free of charge for as long as you own it!

Knife Specs:

  • Blade Type: Japanese High-Carbon Steel (VG-MAX Steel)
  • Dimensions: 11″ x 0.9″ x 1.8″
  • Weight: 7 oz.
  • Handle Construction: Pakkawood
  • Full Tang
  • Lifetime Warranty
Buy Shun Cutlery Classic 6″ Boning and Fillet Knife on Amazon

 

Cangshan TN1 Series Swedish Sandvik Steel 7″ Fillet Knife

Cangshan TN1 Series 1021639 Swedish Sandvik 14C28N Steel Forged 7-Inch Fillet Knife and Leather Sheath Set

See Cangshan TN1 Series Swedish Sandvik 7-inch Fillet Knife on Amazon

The final knife on our list is the Cangshan Cutlery Company TN1 Series 1021639 Swedish Sandvik 14C28N steel 7-inch Fillet Knife. This knife is a winner on looks alone with its ultra-sleek minimalist design featuring a unique skeleton-like metal handle that is surprisingly ergonomic and comfortable. It’s the perfect combination of form and function.

The TN1 Series is a story of balance, precision and great design. It features a blade with full tang forged from high alloy Swedish Sandvik 14C28N Steel that is put through a 6-stage heat treatment process to give the knife exceptional hardness (Rockwell scale rating of up to 60) and edge sharpness that can last up to 5 times longer than many other competing blades on the market. Using the Total Card Cut (TCC) measurement, the TN1 Series fillet knife’s score of 850 is 300 points over what the industry considers excellent. It is also NSF-certified for its high sanitary standards in the kitchen.

The Cangshan TN1 Sandvik fillet knife pairs a 5.5- inch handle with a 7-inch flexible blade to create a well-balanced knife that is perfect for boning or filleting meat and fish. If that were not enough, you will not find a cooler-looking, high-quality fillet knife than this 2016 RedDot Award winner! Making this knife even more attractive is the included natural leather sheath with a belt loop and Cangshan’s lifetime warranty against defects.

Knife Specs:

  • Blade Type: Swedish Stainless-Steel Alloy
  • Dimensions: 12.5 inches in length
  • Weight: 5.5 oz. (est.)
  • Handle: Stainless steel alloy
  • Full Tang
  • Lifetime Warranty
Buy Cangshan Swedish Sandvik 7″ Fillet Knife on Amazon

 


Frequently Asked Fillet Knife Questions

Q: Who Makes the Best Fillet Knife?

A: That’s a tough question and the answers can be quite subjective – kinda like asking who makes the best car? You’ll get more opinions than you bargained for.  There are so many good knife makers who put out quality fillet knives of varying price points. What I will say is that the 10 knives in this guide are some of the best, made by the world’s top-rated knife manufacturers such as German maker ZWILLING, one of the oldest brands in the world having opened their doors in 1731.

Q: Which type of Fillet Knife is Best for Fish, Stainless Steel or High-Carbon Steel?

A: What is best will depend on you and your intended use. If you want precise cut fillets of fish and are working mainly in your kitchen, I would favor a high-carbon model. You’ll get a knife that has a really sharp edge, maintains the edge longer and will cut with a little less effort. Of course, you must maintain it by wiping and drying it off as soon as you’re done – and sharpening it using a quality knife sharpener according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

However, you if are going to using your knife to fillet fish by the lake or, in particular, around saltwater, I would choose a stainless-steel knife for its superior corrosion-resistant properties. It really depends on your particular application.

Q: Why Bother with a German Carbon Blade if the Japanese Blade Is Sharper?

A: Well, if being sharper were the only consideration, I would say go for it. But there’s more to a good fish fillet knife than blade hardness or sharpness. You also have to think about how long the blade will stay sharp with frequent use or, better yet, how often do you want to be sharpening the blade.

Yes, the Japanese high-carbon blade will be slightly harder and sharper and give you some excellent fillets but, if you want a blade that is perhaps a little more durable and can go longer without having to be sharpened, a German blade knife might be a better choice. Again, it really depends on how you intend to use the knife.

Q: What Size Knife Do I Need to Fillet Fish?

A: Assuming we are talking about the length of the knife blade, the size depends on what you are going to be filleting. If you are going to be filleting small fish like crappie, bluegill and mangrove snapper, a fillet knife with a blade of 5 – 6 inches should be sufficient.

For bigger fish such as walleye, trout or striped bass, a 6″ – 8″ blade knife may be necessary. Saltwater species like mahi-mahi and larger salmon will require blades of 9 inches and above. Size comes down to the size of the fish you plan to fillet. A medium-size fillet knife in the 7-inch to 8-inch range, such as the ones in this guide, should be perfect for most needs.

Q: Wouldn’t It Be Easier and Better to Use an Electric Fillet Knife Instead of a Manual One?

A: Easier? In some cases, yes. It may be easier using an electric fillet knife in the sense that you will have to put less effort into filleting as the electric knife’s motor does most of the work. Electric knives are also great time-savers, particularly if you have a bunch of fish you need to fillet. You could probably get them done in half the time and not even break a sweat. There are many people who love using their electric knives and would never go back to manual fillet knives.

But better? Not necessarily. While the electric knife excels at speed and convenience, the regular or manual fillet knife is a tried and true tool that does certain things better – in the opinion of many, this writer included.

For starters, manual fillet knives give you better control and precision when cutting. The more ergonomic and less bulky knife handle combined with a thinner and more flexible blade will let you have a better feel as you fillet along the fish’s bones. You will usually get thicker and better-looking fillets with less wasted flesh. This is particularly true if you are filleting smaller fish.

Lastly, also keep in mind that an electric knife will require a bit of a learning curve before you are able to master it. With a standard knife, it is more intuitive and easier to learn, giving good results with just a little practice.


Picking out the best fillet knife for the job is not an easy task, with so many options available today. That’s why we put together this little fish fillet knife guide with the accompanying recommendations. Hopefully, you found it helpful. As always, your thoughts and opinions are welcome. Leave us a comment below and tell us what you think. Did our guide make the cut? Till the next time…

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This entry was posted in Tackle/Gear Reviews & Guides on by .

About Dorado

John Pardal, aka Dorado, is the editor as well as an author for Reel Adventure Fishing. He has fished extensively up and down the U.S. Atlantic coast, throughout much of Florida and a bit of the Caribbean. John loves writing about all aspects of sportfishing and is passionate about conservation and promoting sustainable fishing.

2 thoughts on “Making the Cut: Ultimate Guide to the Best Fillet Knives for Fish

  1. Dale

    Having lived in Japan for 2 years back in 2010, I only trust their knives when it comes to fish. They are BIG TIME fish eaters and the way they prepare the fish over there is unmatched. It all starts with a proper cut from a good blade. I once had a set of knives from Japan. I don’t know the English name for them but they are stellar. I will have to see if I can find them for sale in the US online and report back.

    Reply
    1. Dorado Post author

      Hey Dale, thanks for stopping by. You are correct, the Japanese certainly know a thing or two about fish prep. Let us know when you recall that Japanese knife brand.

      Reply

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