7 Best Fillet Knives for Saltwater Fish: Knife Reviews & Comparisons

by Andrew

7 Best Fillet Knives for Saltwater Fish: Knife Reviews & Comparisons

by Andrew

by Andrew

Nothing is more satisfying than filleting up your catch and eating it with friends and family. That is why many of us anglers go out on the water.

In order to fillet up the rewards from your latest deep-sea excursion, you’ll need an excellent saltwater fillet knife. It’s important that you have a nice fillet knife for saltwater fish. It should be corrosion-resistant, flexible, and ergonomic. Check out this buyer’s guide for the best saltwater fillet knives.

Preview

Product

Knife Type

Blade Length

Check Price

Morakniv Fishing Comfort Fillet Knife with...

Morakniv Fishing Comfort

Manual

3.5 & 6.1 inches

Buck 0220BLS Knives Silver Creek Folding...

Buck 0220BLS

Manual

6.5 inches

Rapala Heavy Duty Electric Fillet Knife

Rapala

Heavy Duty

Electric

7.5 inches

Dexter P94812 Fillet Knife, 7-Inch, Narrow

Dexter P94812

Manual

7 inches

Rapala 7 1/2 Inch Soft Grip Fillet Knife /...

Rapala 4

Soft Grip

Manual

4, 6, 7.5, & 9 inches

American Angler Delta Series Saltwater Manual...

American Angler Delta

Manual

4, 6, & 8 inches

Rapala Lithium Ion Cordless Fillet Knife

Rapala Lithium-Ion

(Cordless)

Electric

7 inches


Why Every Angler Needs a Quality Fillet Knife

There are some types of fishing gear that you can’t live without. A solid saltwater fillet knife is one of those things. It means that you can quickly slice and stack fillets and get back to fishing for more. One benefit of a fillet knife is that you get the most meat out of your catch.

A fillet knife is designed to thinly slice the meat off the small bones of a fish. It is flexible and slender so that you can maneuver it across the skin with ease. It is also made for saltwater conditions so that your hands will be comfortable.

Using a proper fillet knife for the job will ensure that you stay safe as well. If you try to use a large cleaver instead of a fillet knife on a small fish, then you may end up hurting yourself. Fillet knives are sharper and thinner, so carving up fish is safe and easy.


Choosing a Fillet Knife

Blade Material

Most saltwater fillet knives are made of stainless steel. It’s an ideal material for saltwater fillet knives since it is resistant to rust and salt corrosion. It is flexible and easy to clean. It will last a lot longer than a steel blade. I recommend that you use knife oil to keep the stainless steel sharp.

Fish Type

Depending on the type of fish that you’re hunting, your fillet knife of choice will differ. If you plan to hunt mostly small or fatty fish, then a smooth, flexible fillet knife is ideal. Small, fatty fish include salmon, mahi-mahi, and pompano. For filleting up large, tough fish, you should use a larger knife with less flexibility, such as an electric serrated blade. These types of fish include bluefin tuna, swordfish, and marlin.

Fillet Knife Type

There are two main types of fillet knives; manual and electric. Manual knives are normally smooth, slender blades. They are used for small fish. Electric blades can be immensely helpful when filleting a lot of fish since they reduce hand fatigue. They generally have stiffer edges that can slice up thick skin and bones.

Blade Edge

In this buyer’s guide, you will find both smooth and serrated edge blades. A smooth blade is often found on manual blades. They can be used to carve up soft, fatty fish so that you don’t waste any of the meat. A serrated edge blade is much harder on soft flesh, so it should be used for tough fish. 

Blade Size

A good midrange blade size is between 6 and 8 inches; however, many blades can be as long as 9 inches and as short as 4 inches. It is quite the variety, but the general consensus is that larger fish require a longer blade due to their increased breadth. A short blade will work nicely for small fish such as redfish or small snapper.

Other Knife Features

As anglers, we know that comfort matters when you’re fishing all day. Keep in mind that the next saltwater fillet knife that you choose should be ergonomic and slip-resistant. It should be able to withstand the corrosive properties of saltwater as well. Some bonus accessories of the top products below include sheaths and extra blades. The knives I feature should stay sharp even while cleaning your biggest hauls.

Safety Features

The most important thing to remember when handling saltwater fillet knives is to be safe. Make sure that your hands are as dry as possible and that you're carving away from yourself. Many fillet knives on our list come with a sheath or safety cover to protect the blade and your fingers.


7 Best Fillet Knives for Saltwater Fish Reviewed

1. Morakniv Fishing Comfort

Our Top Pick

Knife Type

Manual

Blade Material

Sandvik stainless steel

Blade Length

3.5 and 6.1 inches

Blade Edge

Smooth

Safety Cover

Yes

If you’re looking for the top-notch product in fishing blades, then this is the ideal knife for you. The Morakniv Fishing Comfort is our top pick in this roundup. It is the best saltwater fishing knife that I tested.

Morakniv did a great job of incorporating solid features in a simple design. This blade comes in a 3.5 and 6.1-inch model. The 3.5-inch works sufficiently for small fish, but it isn’t suitable for medium to large fish. I recommend going with the 6.1-inch model since it’s still on the small end, but more versatile. It comes with a Sandvik stainless steel smooth edge blade. The blade is known for its hardness and sharpness. It is corrosion-resistant, which makes it perfect for saltwater fishing.

I liked this manual saltwater fillet knife. I took it out with me when I was hunting small pompano, and it performed admirably. I liked that I was able to clip it onto my belt with the sheath. It kept me and the knife safe while casting. I thought the handle was comfortable and slip-resistant. It doesn't have as much flex as other models, so I wouldn't recommend it for soft, fatty fish.

Pros
  • Includes a clip-on sheath
  • Durable Sandvik stainless steel
  • Ergonomic nonslip grip
Cons
  • Doesn’t have enough flex for small, fatty fish types

2. Buck 0220BLS

Best Folding Saltwater Knife

Knife Type

Manual

Blade Material

Titanium coated stainless steel

Blade Length

6.5 inches

Blade Edge

Smooth

Safety Cover

Yes

Some anglers are tight on space when it comes to their fishing gear. Kayak and small boat anglers need to carry most of their gear in a fishing vest. I chose the Buck 0220BLS as the best folding saltwater knife. It is 6.5-inches long but can be folded down to a compact carrying size.

This Buck model is made of a titanium coated stainless steel blade. The titanium coating prevents corrosion from harsh saltwater. A unique feature of this fillet knife is the folding mechanism. This Buck fillet knife has a Lockback system that allows the knife to stay locked into place when fully extended. When you want to close the knife, you simply click the rocker and fold the knife down. The handle is made of polypropylene and TPE rubber. It's comfortable and slip-resistant.

I brought this knife out on my ocean kayak for a day trip. I carry most of my gear in my fishing vest, so I have extra space in my kayak. I thought that the folding mechanism made this knife unique and easy to carry. It sliced up my snapper catch of the day very well.

According to Ken, “This knife is super sharp right out of the box and can slice and dice with the best of them.”

Pros
  • Includes a lanyard loop for carrying
  • Folding Lockback system
  • Titanium coated stainless steel blade
Cons
  • The handle is smaller than other models, which may make it harder to hold onto for some anglers

3. Rapala Heavy Duty

Best Electric Saltwater Knife for Fish

Knife Type

Electric

Blade Material

Stainless steel

Blade Length

7.5 inches

Blade Edge

Serrated

Safety Cover

No

Sometimes a manual fillet knife just won’t do the trick, especially when you’re having an exceptional day on the water. The quickest way to carve up your fish is to use the Rapala Heavy Duty. I named this model the best electric saltwater knife for fish.

Rapala has been making quality fishing knives for many years. Their corded electric model is an excellent addition to the family. It features two reciprocating stainless steel blades that let you slice up fillets in half the time.

The serrated edge blade is ideal for cleaning walleye, grouper, and other large fish. It comes with an 8-foot long power cord. The advanced motor housing is designed to bring airflow through the device so it won’t get overheated. The handle features rubber grips to keep your hands steady.

I brought home a ton of snapper and walleye a few weekends ago and decided to give this electric saltwater knife a try. If I had used my manual knife, it would have taken quite a while to get through all the fish. This knife was comfortable and easy to use for extended periods.

According to one customer from Bass Pro Shop, “I cleaned over 1500 fish with it and I'm happy with it.”

Pros
  • Comfortable rubberized grips
  • Two reciprocating blades
  • Quiet motor
Cons
  • The trigger is not very durable

4. Dexter P94812

Top Rated

Knife Type

Manual

Blade Material

High carbon stainless steel

Blade Length

7 inches

Blade Edge

Smooth

Safety Cover

No

When you're shopping for new fishing gear, it's always reassuring to find a product that has fantastic ratings. Take this Dexter model; for example, I named it the top-rated saltwater fillet knife. Nearly every customer liked using this fillet knife.

This Dexter fillet knife is made of high carbon stainless steel. It is designed to be durable and sharp even in harsh saltwater conditions. The blade has a medium amount of flex, so it's suitable for filleting up many types of fish. This saltwater fillet knife was capable of getting between the thin skin and meat of walleye fish. The handle is made of polypropylene that will last for years to come. The handle also comes with a finger guard that will keep your hands safe while filleting.

I was excited to see if this Dexter fillet knife would live up to all the positive review hype. I liked that it was a simple manual fillet knife that didn't cost a fortune. My first time out with it, I used it to slice up some walleye. It was sharp and able to slice through the skin without a problem.

According to one customer -“Love this sharp knife. Filleted my first salmon with it and it worked great.

Pros
  • High carbon stainless steel
  • Finely honed blade
  • Medium flex
Cons
  • The handle is not rubberized or nonslip

5. Rapala 4 Soft Grip

Best Rapala Fillet Knife for Fishermen

Knife Type

Manual

Blade Material

Stainless steel

Blade Length

4, 6, 7.5, and 9 inches

Blade Edge

Smooth

Safety Cover

Yes

Here we have another Rapala product, but this one comes in a manual version. I named this one the best Rapala fillet knife for fishermen. It is a fantastic saltwater fillet knife that comes in many different blade lengths.

This Rapala fillet knife comes in sizes ranging from 4 to 9 inches. It features a stainless steel blade that won’t rust after a day of fishing. It has a superbly comfortable rubberized handle that includes nonslip textures. The oversized stainless steel finger guard will keep your hands safe while filleting. It has a good amount of flex, more than the previous Dexter model, so if you need to carve up small, fatty fish, this knife will work. It comes with a sheath and small sharpening stone. 

When I took this Rapala knife out, I was hoping that it would live up to its name, and it certainly did. I was impressed with the flexibility of the blade. I could likely fillet almost any kind of fish with it. I thought the handle was comfortable and easy to hold onto in wet conditions.

As one satisfied customer explained, “I bought this knife for cleaning trout at Bennett Springs. It is very sharp and works great.”

Pros
  • Soft and non-slip handle
  • Hyperflex blade
  • Includes a sheath and sharpening stone
Cons
  • The handle might not be long enough for some users

6. American Angler Delta

Cheap Fish Fillet Knife

Knife Type

Manual

Blade Material

German stainless steel

Blade Length

4, 6, and 8 inches

Blade Edge

Smooth

Safety Cover

No

Every angler loves a bargain, especially one that also happens to be a great product. I chose the American Angler Delta as the best cheap fish fillet knife available. It is inexpensive, but it's still able to keep up with avid anglers on the water.

American Angler brought us a great product at an even better price. It features a German stainless steel blade that's durable under harsh conditions. It comes in three different lengths. The shortest fillet knife is 4 inches, and it is suitable for small, fatty fish. It features a gutting hook that can be used as a line cutter also. The 6 and 8-inch models are longer fillet knives that are suitable for larger fish.

I tried both the 4 and 6-inch versions of this knife, and I was surprised by both of them since they’re so cheap. The smaller one was perfect for small fish. The gutting hook made it really easy to slice through fish. The 6-inch saltwater fillet knife was good for medium size fish. It remained sharp and had the right amount of flex. I thought the handles were comfortable, but they weren’t as nonslip as I would have liked.

Pros
  • Includes a gutting hook on the small fillet knife
  • Budget-friendly for all anglers
  • German stainless steel construction
Cons
  • The handles did not have as much slip resistance as other models

7. Rapala Lithium-Ion

Best Cordless Fillet Knife for Fishermen

Knife Type

Electric

Blade Material

Stainless steel

Blade Length

7 inches

Blade Edge

Serrated

Safety Cover

No

Here we have another great product from Rapala, but this one is unique. It is the only cordless electric model that we have included on our list. The Rapala Lithium-Ion is the best cordless fillet knife for fishers on the market.

This knife was made to carve up a lot of fish in a short amount of time. It comes with one rechargeable lithium-ion battery. It takes approximately two hours to charge completely, and it runs for about 80 minutes continuously. It doesn’t slow down once the battery starts draining. It has two reciprocating, 7-inch blades. The serrated edges are perfect for large, tough fish such as swordfish and tuna.

Rapala has designed an innovative saltwater fillet knife that I was excited to try. I took it out deep-sea fishing when I was fishing for marlin. I thought it was pretty cool that I could fillet fish even when I was far away from an outlet. This electric fillet knife was great for filleting large and thick-skinned fish, but it might damage the meat on smaller fish.

As one shopper from Cabela’s stated, “It has great battery life and it lasted our whole trip without having to be recharged.

Pros
  • Continuous runtime of 80 minutes
  • Dual reciprocating blades
  • Takes only 2 hours to charge
Cons
  • Not ideal for small, fatty fish

Comparing Knife Types

  • Electric Fillet Knife vs. Manual Blade
    Some anglers prefer an old school approach while others may opt for the newest in technology. If you’re going for the old school route, then a manual blade is for you. It is significantly better for small, fatty fish. If you use an electric fillet knife, you’ll end up damaging the meat. A manual blade has more flexibility so it can carve up the small fish easily. An electric fillet knife is ideal for large and tough fish. It can slice through the meat without damaging it. Electric fillet knives are ideal for large quantities of fish.
  • Boning vs. Fish Fillet Knife
    While many people may confuse these two types of knives, they are not quite the same. A fillet knife is designed to cut between the skin and the meat of fish. It usually is more slender and flexible, which makes it more precise when cutting. A boning knife is used to cut meat away from the bones. They are less flexible and, unlike fillet knives, do not curve upward.

How to Safely Sharpen Fillet Knife Blades

There are a few different methods that you can use to sharpen your saltwater fillet knives. Manual fillet knives are much easier to sharpen than electric fillet knives. The method that you use to sharpen your fillet knives will depend on the type of sharpener you have.

whetstone sharpening

image source: thespruceeats.com

Electric Sharpener

  1. 1
    Place the heel of the knife blade in the designated slot.
  2. 2
    Pull the knife through slowly from the heel to the tip. Let the machine do most of the work. Don’t apply too much pressure.
  3. 3
    If you have an electric sharpener with multiple stages, then repeat this process for each stage.
  4. 4
    Rinse the knife and start filleting.

Whetstone, Sharpening Stone or Honing Rod

  1. 1
    Place the stone on a flat surface.
  2. 2
    Hold your knife against the stone at a 22-degree angle.
  3. 3
    Slide the knife-edge over the stone multiple times on each side.

How to Fillet a Saltwater Fish

Now that you’ve snagged the perfect catch, it’s time to fillet it up for the ultimate family dinner. Follow the steps below to fillet a saltwater fish correctly. 

  1. 1
    Lay the fish flat on its side.
  2. 2
    Start your first cut by placing your knife behind the gills and pectoral fin. Cut the meat away, but stop at the rib cage.
  3. 3
    Turn the blade toward the tail and cut along the ribs by using the backbone as your guide.
  4. 4
    Turn the fish over and repeat steps 2 and 3.
  5. 5
    Place the knife blade close to the ribs and slice the entire rib section away from the bones.
  6. 6
    Insert the knife blade at an angle near the tail and remove the fillet.

Frequently Asked Questions

What steps should I take to extend the lifespan of my knife?

You should always clean your knife with fresh water after you’ve exposed it to a day of saltwater fishing. Remember to dry off your knife and store it in a cool, dry place. You should always keep your fillet knife sharp to extend its life.

What is the best size for a fillet knife?

This answer will depend on the type of fish that you need to fillet. For small fish, you can use a 4 to 6-inch fillet knife. If you are filleting medium-sized fish, then a 6 to 8-inch blade will be enough. For large saltwater fish, then a 9-inch or longer blade will cover the extra surface area.

How flexible should a fillet knife be?

There should always be some flexibility in your saltwater fillet knives. It allows you to cut more precisely and evenly. Short fillet knives will have less flex than longer ones. Electric fillet knives don’t have as much flexibility, which is why they are better for large, tough fish.

Is a knife for filleting saltwater fish the same thing as a fish cleaning knife?

Anglers use both of these types of knives. A fish cleaning knife is used to scale and gut fish. They often have a gut hook so that you can easily remove the insides. The backs of cleaning knives are often designed for scaling fish. A fillet knife is designed for slicing up the meat.

Can you sharpen electric fillet knife blades?

Yes. It is more difficult to sharpen a serrated blade, but it can be done with a small ceramic rod. You have to sharpen each tooth individually as you move down the blade. Some electric sharpeners are capable of handling serrated blades.

Where can I buy replacement blades for my electric fillet knife?

I recommend shopping on Amazon for all of your fillet knife accessories and replacement blades.


Conclusion

When I first started looking for a new saltwater fillet knife, I couldn’t find all of the quality information that I wanted in one place. I decided to write this buyer’s guide to help my fellow anglers found their perfect fillet knife. I have reviewed seven of the best blades on the market.

Which blade do I think is the best, you might be wondering. In my opinion, the Morakniv Fishing Comfort is the best saltwater fillet knife. It features always-sharp Sandvik stainless steel, and the clip-on sheath is a nice bonus. 

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