10 Best Fish Fillet Knife Reviews: Electric & Manual Compared

by Andrew

10 Best Fish Fillet Knife Reviews: Electric & Manual Compared

by Andrew

by Andrew

It doesn't matter if you are fishing in a lake, a stream, or in the waves of the ocean. One thing is certain for every angler; at some point, you need to fillet your catch. But which knife do you need? Surprisingly, fillet knives are not all created equal.

This article will outline the variances in different knives and teach you what to look for in your next fish fillet knife. We also offer a list of the best fish fillet knives for all of your needs.

Preview

Product

Knife Type

Blade Length

Check Price

Zwilling J.A. Henckels Zwilling J.A Fillet...

ZWILLING J.A. Henckels 4 Star Series

Manual

7 Inches

American Angler PRO Electric Fillet Knife,...

American Angler

PRO

Electric

8 Inches

Rapala Lithium Ion Cordless Fillet Knife...

Rapala Lithium-Ion Cordless

Electric

6 & 7.5 Inches

Mercer Culinary Millennia Narrow Fillet...

Mercer Culinary Millennia

Manual

8 Inches

KastKing Fillet Knife 9 Inch, Professional...

KastKing

Fillet Knife

Manual

6, 7 or 9 Inches

Morakniv Fishing Comfort Fillet Knife with...

Morakniv Fishing Comfort

Manual

6.1 or 3.5Inches

Rapala Heavy Duty Electric Fillet Knife

Rapala

Heavy Duty

Electric

7.5 Inches

Buck 0220BLS Knives Silver Creek Folding...

Buck 0220BLS

Manual

6.375 Inches

Rada Cutlery Fillet Knife – Stainless Steel...

Rada Cutlery

Manual

7.125 Inches

Shun Cutlery Classic Boning and Fillet Knife;...

Shun Cutlery

Classic

Manual

6 Inches


Why Every Angler Needs a Quality Fillet Knife

High-quality fillet knives have a lot of benefits. While it's true, you can hack and slash your way through a fish with anything relatively sharp; you should do everything you can to get the best fillets from your catch. Why quality fillet knives? Take a look.

  • Fillet knives have various lengths and thicknesses for different types of fish.
  • The angle of the blade can get deeper without ruining the steaks.
  • Thin fillet blades bend easier and won’t get caught up on discarded pieces.
  • The best fillet knives are easier to use than low-quality knives.
  • Unlike boning knives, fish fillet knives are designed to be quick and precise.

Angler’s Buying Guide: Choosing a Fish Fillet Knife

There are a lot of things to consider before you head out and buy your next fillet knife. It may seem a bit counter-productive to think about a knife so much prior to purchase. However, I can promise you that taking a few moments to consider your specific needs will yield a better knife and experience.

Blade Material

It may seem easy, stainless steel blade, done. The truth is, there is more to it than that. Each manufacturer will use slightly different steel, and the steel needs to hold up to the type of fish (more below) and the waters you catch them in.

You can fillet any freshwater fish with almost any blade, as long as you know how to properly care for it. However, you also want to keep in mind that saltwater will have adverse effects on any steel. You want to look for a stainless blade, of course.

You should also look for one with an anti-corrosion coating, which helps fight off any water types. And it may be in your best interest to find a blade with a silicone or Teflon coating to help glide through the fish when making your cuts.

Fish Type

It isn’t a secret that different fish need different knives. For this reason, you need to understand what type of fish you catch on a primary basis. Larger fish, like your catfish, largemouth bass, and walleye, may require different fillet strokes.

Smaller fish are chopped from the head and then towards the tail. Larger fish leave the head and cut from tail to gill. Your knife needs more flex for smaller fish, thus a thinner blade. Know how to fillet the fish you like to catch and make sure your blade is capable of making those cuts.

Fillet Knife Type

Manual knives are useful for doing your work on the boat or your tailgate. Some like to gut, clean, and fillet their fish before heading home; others prefer to do the work in their sinks at home.

Electric fillet knives are highly common and do well to get small, precise cuts on more difficult fish. They also go through some of the smaller bones easier, if your cut isn’t exactly perfect. If you aren’t near a power source, though, an electric fillet knife is about useless.

Blade Edge & Size

There are many types of blade edges to choose from, as well. First, you will need to decide if you want serrated or smooth. There are distinct advantages and disadvantages to either option, so go with the one you like best.

The thickness will also go a long way towards the flexibility of the blade. The smaller the fish, the more flex you will need. Keep this in mind when shopping for your best fish fillet knife. The length and size of the blade will also be a personal preference.

The most popular blades fall in the 7 to 9-inch range. Though shorter blades are easier to transport and longer blades can cut more types of fish.

Handle

The other major aspect of the knife is the handle. You want a comfortable handle, preferably with finger grips or cut-outs. Filleting a fish isn't too difficult, but you will get wet hands and covered in fish guts. The handle can quickly become slippery and make you cut wrong, slip and drop or have an accident.

The handle material is important, too. Wooden handles soak up water and odors and get heavier over time. Plastic is lightweight but can absorb odors over time. Metal may corrode or become slippery. You will want a lightweight handle that is easy to grip and won’t slip. The rest is a personal preference.

Safety Features

It is difficult for manufactures to include a lot of safety features with their blades. Aside from the chain-mail gloves you should own, the only thing the companies can really offer is a case or sheath.

Safely transporting and storing the knife is essential. The blades are sharp and can poke holes, cut through canvas, and other materials. A plastic sheath is ideal as it maintains the light weight and preserves the blade. Canvas belt holsters are good, too, as long as the blade side has a plastic insert to protect your sheath and your hip.

Price & Warranty

Finally, the price will be a significant determining factor. Instead of jumping out to pick the most expensive knife you can find, find the balance between functionality and cost. Unless you are using the knife multiple times on multiple fish every single day, a lower-cost alternative may perform just as well.

If the knife comes with a warranty, make sure you understand what it covers and for how long. You also need to pay special attention to what is required on your end to make a claim, such as retaining proof of purchase or mailing the knife back at your cost, etc.


10 Best Fishing Fillet Knives Reviewed

Here you will find the list of the 10 best fishing fillet knives, reviewed and compared for your convenience. Each knife listed here has distinct advantages and disadvantages, depending on your needs. Find the best fillet knife that matches your specific criteria.

1. ZWILLING J.A. Henckels 4 Star Series

Our Top Pick

Knife Type

Manual

Blade Material

Stainless steel

Blade Length

7 Inches

Blade Edge

Smooth

Safety Cover Included

No

J.A. Henckels has been in the knife game for over 280 years. Their 4 Star Series is among the most sought after knife collections for chefs and butchers, and it stands as no surprise their fillet knives are just as desired.

The full tang rat-tail blade is forged from a single piece of steel and ice-forged by ZWILLING to give a solid, flexible, and well balanced knife. The handle is molded for comfort and ease of use, though there isn’t any method of water or debris absorption so they can become a little slick.

The blade edge is slightly thicker to provide you with a longer-lasting, sharper cutting edge. The end result is a fish fillet knife with a decent weight, comfortable grip, and a sharp, flexible edge. The flex isn't as deep as some of the thinner blades, though, so smaller fish may prove more challenging to fillet for the novice fish cleaner. Once you get the hang of the blade edge and flex, though, even panfish separate with ease.

Like most kitchen knives, the Henckels 4 Star fillet knife doesn't come with a sheath or safety cover. This isn't designed to be out of the kitchen. While you can buy plastic safety covers that allow you to take the knife anywhere with you, even on the boat, you may find that it is better left at home.

Suitable Fish For Filleting
  • Catfish
  • Bass
  • Saltwater
  • Freshwater
Not Suitable
  • Small/Bait fish

2. American Angler PRO

Best Electric Fish Fillet Knife

Knife Type

Electric

Blade Material

Stainless Steel/Titanium

Blade Length

8 Inches

Blade Edge

Serrated

Safety Cover Included

Yes

The American Angler PRO is the best electric fish fillet knife for large fish. This 8-inch stainless steel blade also comes in a titanium option, offering you prolonged use, season after season. The serrated, interchangeable blades rarely need sharpening and are designed to last for years.

The high torque motor helps the blades cut through the skin, meat, and even bones for larger game like shark and marlin. For the deep-sea fisherman, having this knife on board means you won’t waste a single ounce of meat.

The titanium blade option is ideal for saltwater fish as it helps stave off corrosion from the salt better than the stainless steel model. However, both will be perfect for your large fish, no matter which body of water you pull them from.

If you like to catch smaller fish, panfish, crappie and the like, you may want to opt for a smaller model. While the fish will get filleted, the serrated knife moves pretty fast and can tear and grind the smaller, more delicate fillets of these smaller fish.

The entire knife and blades will fit in the included safety pouch. This knife won’t fit in a holster, of course, but the pouch is durable enough to help prevent holes being poked or cuts being made while you are storing or retrieving the knife.

Suitable Fish For Filleting
  • Large fish
  • Saltwater
  • Shark/Marlin
  • Bass
Not Suitable
  • Small fish
  • panfish

3. Rapala Lithium Ion Cordless

Best Cordless Fish Fillet Knife

Knife Type

Electric

Blade Material

Stainless steel

Blade Length

6 & 7.5 Inches

Blade Edge

Serrated

Safety Cover Included

Yes

If you are looking for the best cordless fish fillet knife, look no further than Rapala. This lithium ion battery powered cordless knife will fillet almost any fish without hand fatigue or worry. You don’t even need to think about battery life much either.

The kit includes a battery charger and two lithium-ion battery packs. You can keep a battery in the knife and one on the charger and take care of the day’s catch without having to stop and recharge. You also get a choice of blades.

Each kit comes with a 6-inch stainless steel blade with a more rigid slice as well as a 7.5-inch blade with more flex. Aside from very large fish, like deep-sea catches, this knife will cut through anything.

Rapala, a brand we all know and trust, also thought of the convenience of portability. The ergonomic handle, blades, and batteries all fit in the carrying case so you can take it with you on the boat, kayak, or keep it with the rest of your camping gear.

When you are ready for your next fish fry, camping trip, or just a day on the lake, make sure you have this cordless fillet knife to enjoy the day's catch while they are still fresh.

Suitable Fish For Filleting
  • Small fish
  • Saltwater
  • Freshwater
  • Panfish
Not Suitable
  • Deep Sea fish

4. Mercer Culinary Millennia

Best Budget Fishing Fillet Knife

Knife Type

Manual

Blade Material

High-carbon steel

Blade Length

8 Inches

Blade Edge

Smooth

Safety Cover Included

No (Leather or Plastic optional)

Mercer Culinary offers you the Millennia collection that includes the best budget fishing fillet knife around. This 8-inch slight-curved blade is made from high-carbon stainless steel from Japan and offers a great cutting edge.

Because it isn’t a top-tier model, the blade will need regular sharpening. However, with proper care, the knife will last you several years and will cut through thousands of fish. The handle is ergonomic to help reduce hand fatigue and is made from a high-density polymer that has grips and a finger guard.

You won’t have to worry about slipping with wet hands here. If you are new to filleting fish, this is a great knife to learn with as it makes precision cuts with little effort and allows for small mistakes while you learn how to pull the skin and slice over bones.

The Millennia knife doesn’t come with a safety case, but there are two options available, including a plastic sheath and a leather belt holster. Each is a separate purchase, though, so make sure you include that cost in your budget. Experienced fillet chefs will love the flex in this blade but may find the 8-inch steel to be a bit much for more delicate cuts on smaller fish.

Suitable Fish For Filleting
  • Large fish
  • Crappie
  • Carp
  • Freshwater
Not Suitable
  • Small fish
  • Panfish

5. KastKing Fillet Knife

Best Value For Money

Knife Type

Manual

Blade Material

Stainless steel

Blade Length

6, 7 or 9 Inches

Blade Edge

Smooth

Safety Cover Included

Yes

KastKing supplies anglers with virtually everything they need for a day on the lake. From reels and tackle to the fish fillet knife that is the best value for the money. The German-engineered black stainless steel blades on these fillet knives will capture attention and give you precision cuts.

You have your choice of blade lengths, too. Each length is full flex and offers great support for carving the best fillets from the toughest fish. Easily gliding over bones of panfish and other small species, you won’t have any trouble using this knife.

For broader cuts, you can choose the 6-inch blade, though there is the more popular 7-inch available for a wider range of fish types. For the expert that wants more control and longer cut strokes, they also offer a 9-inch blade.

Each knife also comes with a safety case that locks the knife in place so you can toss it in your tackle box or your pocket without worry. The handle isn't ergonomic, but it is slip-resistant so you can use wet, gloved hands and still get even cuts every time.

Suitable Fish For Filleting
  • Freshwater
  • Saltwater
  • Catfish
  • Crappie
Not Suitable
  • Large game fish

6. Morakniv Fishing Comfort

Best Fillet Knife For Saltwater Fish

Knife Type

Manual

Blade Material

Stainless steel

Blade Length

6.1 or 3.5Inches

Blade Edge

Smooth

Safety Cover Included

Yes

If you prefer to pull your fish from the oceans or other saltwater inlets, then you need a fillet knife that has a high anti-corrosion factor. The Morakniv Fishing Comfort fillet knives are just such a knife.

The blades are made from Sandvik 12C27 stainless steel, which holds an excellent edge and is renowned for its anti-corrosion features. No matter how many fish you plan to gut and slice, this knife will be there through them all.

Regular care and maintenance are needed, of course. However, you won't have to sharpen this blade as often as some of the other brands, and when you do, it takes less time and effort to return the edge to like-new sharpness.

The handle is made of a molded, grooved plastic that resists odors and has a grip that even the slickest hands can grasp. The blades are designed for smaller fish, coming in two sizes. You can choose from the more standard 6.1-inch for you panfish and larger type fish.

If you want quicker cuts and a smaller surface to save room in your tackle box or pocket, there is also a 3.5-inch bladed model. Both types come with a safety sheath that has two clips for belt or clip-on mounting. No matter where you go, the knife is protected and within arms reach, whenever you need it.

Suitable Fish For Filleting
  • Saltwater fish
  • Small fish
  • Panfish
Not Suitable
  • Large fish
  • Catfish

7. Rapala Heavy Duty

Best Heavy Duty Electric Fish Fillet Knife

Knife Type

Electric

Blade Material

Stainless steel

Blade Length

7.5 Inches

Blade Edge

Serrated

Safety Cover Included

No

If you work in a kitchen or need to fillet a lot of fish regularly, then you want the power and reliability of a great electric fillet knife. Rapala has the answer. The corded model is the best heavy-duty electric fish fillet knife on the market, and it is easy to see why.

Not only is the 7.5-inch blade ideal for almost every type of fish (big game fish like shark aside), you don’t have to worry about precision, hand fatigue, or slipping. From panfish to flounder to bass and catfish, this knife will slice them all.

Of course, it is unlikely you can take it with you on the kayak or boat, or even camping unless you are using a trailer or have a generator. The cord is extra long and won’t get in your way while you fillet fish after fish.

The blade is dishwasher safe and serrated. However, it is still best if you wash the blades by hand to help prolong their life and keep them sharper longer. When it does come time to sharpen the blades, an electric sharpener is recommended as it will be easier to maintain the serrated edge of these blades.

Suitable Fish For Filleting
  • Large fish
  • Small fish
  • Freshwater
  • Saltwater
Not Suitable
  • Bait fish
  • Game fish

8. Buck 0220BLS

Best Folding Fishing Fillet Knife

Knife Type

Manual

Blade Material

Stainless steel

Blade Length

6.375 Inches

Blade Edge

Smooth

Safety Cover Included

No

There is a word that is synonymous with quality, durability, and longevity. That word is Buck. The knife brand we all know has the best folding fishing fillet knife you can find.

The blade is long with a lot of flex for skinning even the smallest fish, and the ergonomic handle feels full and comfortable in your hands. The 6 3/8th-inch blade folds nicely into the handle and locks in place. The handle is also equipped with a down-angled drip hole, so water doesn't stay in and ruin the folding mechanism or blade.

The stainless steel blade has incredible flex, too, surpassing some models with 8 or 9-inch blades. However, you won’t have to worry about slipping or your grip, either. The handle is made of glass-reinforced polypropylene and rubber. It has a nice width in the center that fills your palm to help reduce hand fatigue.

When you use the knife, you will notice that the weight is nice and balanced, too, which helps you maintain control of the blade for quick, even cuts. While it may not be the best option for deep sea catches, the lake, stream, and pond anglers will love the versatility this blade offers.

Suitable Fish For Filleting
  • Freshwater Fish
  • Small fish
  • Panfish
Not Suitable
  • Saltwater Fish

9. Rada Cutlery

Best Lightweight Fillet Knife

Knife Type

Manual

Blade Material

High Carbon Stainless Steel

Blade Length

7.125 Inches

Blade Edge

Smooth

Safety Cover Included

Yes

If you want the most portable fillet knife to carry with you wherever you go, Rada Cutlery has the answer. This is the best lightweight fillet knife around and comes in at a measly 4 ounces. You can sling it around the fish or the tackle box and not think twice about it.

The lightweight knife also allows you to manipulate the blade and slice through all types and sizes of fish. The blade is flexible, though not as flexible as other blades in the 7-inch range. This makes it more difficult for filleting smaller fish, but with practice and patience, you can get the hang of it.

The blade is made from high-carbon stainless steel, so it resists corrosion pretty well. However, you will need to rinse it off after every use and clean it properly when you are done using it for the day.

Other than that, the maintenance is pretty simple. It doesn't seem to hold a sharp edge as long as some of the other blades on this list, but it is one of the easier steels to sharpen. If there are ever any defects or quality concerns with the blade, Rada will replace the knife when you send it back to them for life.

Suitable Fish For Filleting
  • Small fish
  • Panfish
  • Crappie
  • Catfish
Not Suitable
  • Deep Sea fish

10. Shun Cutlery Classic

Best Japanese Fish Fillet Knife

Knife Type

Manual

Blade Material

Damascus Stainless steel

Blade Length

6 Inches

Blade Edge

Smooth

Safety Cover Included

Yes

Shun Cutlery brings you a classic design with the best Japanese fish fillet knife. The D-handle fits well in the palm and feels sturdy in the hand. When making cuts and slices, the blade glides smoothly thanks to the heat-treated Damascus steel.

The 6-inch blade cuts through the most stubborn skins and is ideal for smaller panfish and your daily catches of crappie, sunfish, catfish, and bass. If you like fishing in the ocean, though, you may find that this blade is a bit too small to get the proper flex and depth required for the thicker-skinned and thicker meat of deep-sea fish.

While the biggest draw is the aesthetics and the double-honed blade, it is also known for its reliability and longevity. The edges take a little longer to sharpen because of the double-beveled edge, but when it is sharp, it will stay sharp longer than almost any other knife on this list.

The one downside here is that this knife is designed to stay in the kitchen. If you put it in your tackle box or take it with you fishing, you may find that the handle holds odors since it cannot be adequately cleaned. It is also more susceptible to damage, which shortens the life of the steel and the edge.

Suitable Fish For Filleting
  • Panfish
  • Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Freshwater fish
Not Suitable
  • Large fish
  • Saltwater fish

Knife Type Comparison Guide

With the various knife types out there, how do you know which one to pick? Is there one that is better than the other options? Let’s take a quick look and try to help you figure that out.

  • Boning Vs. Fish Fillet Knife
    A boning knife usually has a straight blade that is thin but not as thin as a fillet knife. The boning knife is designed to get into small areas and remove the meat from the bones. There is little flex in the blades, and you use the tip more than the main part of the blade. A fillet knife, on the other hand, has a much thinner blade with a lot of flex. Its primary function is to remove the skin from the meat. While they are similar, the curved and flexible blade of the fillet knife is better suited for skin, and won’t deal with bones as well as a boning knife does.
  • Electric Fillet Knife Vs. Manual Blade
    The difference between a fillet knife and an electric fillet knife comes down to the learning curve and amount of use. An electric knife is a lot sharper than a manual blade and will stay sharper longer.The electric blades can be sharpened, but it takes more patience and is slightly more complicated. A manual knife is also lighter, and you can use them anywhere. Obviously, an electric knife needs to have a power supply nearby.
  • Corded Vs. Cordless Fillet Knife
    If you want a powered knife, then you also need to choose between corded power and battery power. The knife blades, weights, and other features are virtually the same; the difference is the battery and power supply.Both models take a bit of learning to get used to, but a battery powered option can go places a corded one cannot (like on your camping trip). However, once you are in the wilderness and the battery dies out, you have a sharp paperweight to look at until you can get home to recharge the battery.

How to Use a Fishing Fillet Knife

There are a few different filleting methods which will depend on the type of fish you are filleting. Panfish, or flatfish, for example, need an extra cut down the center to split the two fillets in half. On small fish, you leave the heads on and cut towards the gill, but the opposite with large fish, cutting towards the tail.

For the most part, you will cut the head off of the fish and then run the blade edge along the backbone to separate the fillet from the spine. Then, you will cut from head to tail in a few successive strokes towards the tail until the fillet is only attached by the dorsal scales.

From there, you simply pull the fillet off of the fish and lay it skin side down. Using your fillet knife, make a small cut about half an inch up from the tail, towards the tail, then flip the knife over and slice the skin off.

For a good demonstration of this procedure, you can check out this video from Robert Welch.


How to Safely Sharpen Fillet Knife Blades

Dull knives make terrible cuts. Because you have to work harder, you are also more prone to injuring yourself. Keeping your fillet knife sharp is something that every angler needs to do regularly.

Serrated blades stay sharp longer than smooth blades but are more difficult to sharpen manually. If you are skinning a lot of fish, it may be wise to invest in an electric sharpener. These will have guides and ridges for smooth and serrated blades.

A manual sharpener will also work, and you should avoid using a whetstone when possible. The delicate blade on a fillet knife needs a sharp tip and mid-ridge that whetstones can offer but may also dull.

The stone sharpeners and guides are simple to use. Lay the blade in the guide and lean one side against the stone. From there, you want to pull back all the way through the tip. Always sharpen in the same direction.

Repeat a few times on the same side, then lay the knife against the opposite guide and repeat the process. After a few strokes on each side, test the blade. Repeat the process until the edge is the desired sharpness.


Frequently Asked Questions

Can I fillet saltwater and freshwater fish using the same type of fillet knife?

You can. The type of fish and the water it comes from will determine which type of knife you should use. However, a fillet knife will fillet virtually any fish. The main thing to look for and take note of is the size of the fish versus the size of the knife. Saltwater fish tend to be larger and will require a longer blade.

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

Care and maintenance should be something you do for your fillet knife regularly. Cleaning and edge care are the most important. Before you put the knife away, you should clean it, by hand, every time. While most knives are dishwasher safe, they can take the edge down and shorten the blade's life. Hand wash, dry, and store in a sheath for the longest-lasting blade and edge possible.

What is the best size for a fillet knife?

A matter of preference, though the most common blade size is about 7 inches. This is good for most size fish and is light enough to be easy on your hands. Anything between 6 inches and 9 inches should be good enough for almost every angler, though having a shorter (6 or 7 inches) and larger (9 inch) knives at the ready is a better idea.

How flexible should a fillet knife be?

Fillet knives need to be extremely flexible. You should be able to put the side of the blade tip down on a cutting board and bend the knife to about 45 degrees or more. The blade needs to be strong and durable to maintain its flex and sharpness as it is gliding over the bones and through the skin.

Can you sharpen electric fillet knife blades?

You absolutely can sharpen electric fillet knife blades. You will need to remove the blade and sharpen each one individually, if possible, and if not, using an electric sharpener will make the process safer and faster.

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

Knife blades should be available wherever you buy outdoor gear. However, to ensure you always have the right blades, Amazon is the best option. The online retailer will carry options for electric knives that are older, that many stores stop carrying blades and replacement parts for. You can also buy in bulk to save even more and have the blades shipped right to your front porch.


Conclusion

Choosing the best fish fillet knife can be a difficult choice. Hopefully, this article helped you determine which size and type of knife is best suited for you. If you are still on the fence, take another look at the top pick.

The J.A. Henckels Four Star series fillet knife from ZWILLING is a German-made, hand-hones carbon steel blade with plenty of flex and a sharp edge that lasts a long time. Well worth it to add this great knife to your arsenal.

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