Key Features of a Fishing Fillet Knife

Updated on November 9, 2022 by
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The most important features of a fishing fillet knife includes its length, flexibility, material, and a non-slip handle.

There are a lot of different features available on each of these knives and it can be difficult to figure out what means what. I have put together a simple buyer’s guide to help you to understand the terminology and understand exactly what you will need for your own situation. This will allow you to pick the perfect fishing fillet knife that you serve you for years to come.

I have also added this video on instructions on how to fillet fish so that you can see exactly what it entails and how the knife behaves.

Fishing Fillet Knife

Blade Length

The size of the blade that you require really depends on what species of fish you are targeting and the expected size.

If you are going after big ocean fish like Tuna then you will need to get one of the longest blades available, which are generally in the 9 to 12-inch range.

If you are targeting smaller freshwater fish, you could consider a cheaper 5 to 7-inch blade.

And anything in between like salmon or trout would suit a 6 to 9-inch blade.

Think about how versatile you want your blade to be. If you are just going to be using it to cut up baitfish then you don’t need to waste your money on a large blade.

There are also kits of blades from 5 to 9 inches so that you can use the perfect blade for whatever fish you have caught.

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What Size Fillet Knife for Different Fish Species:

Type of FishRecommended Fillet Knife Length
Baitfish4-6 inch blade
Freshwater Panfish5-7 inch blade
Medium Size Fish6-9 inch blade
Large Saltwater Fish9-12 inch blade
Table of the recommended fillet knife length for different types of fish
My personal Scanpan fishing knife that I use for baitfish
My personal Scanpan fishing knife that I use for baitfish

Blade Material

Depending on where you will be fishing, your knife will often contact water, fresh and salt, fish guts, etc. Making sure it is durable and will not rust is crucial to getting value for money and making sure it lasts a long time.

The most common blade material is stainless steel. This is highly rust-resistant and will not corrode even when kept in humid conditions.

You can also get different grades of stainless steel – high carbon stainless steel has different properties regarding hardness and blade flexibility.

Blade Flexibility

Depending on the fish species you are filleting, the flexibility of your knife is crucial. This allows the tip to move around the backbone and pin bones. This allows you to recover more meat and get larger fillets.

The more flexible the blade the more likely it is to snap as well – so you need to make a balanced decision about what suits your personal requirements the most.

The flex of the blade is dictated by the material it is made from. Softer metal blades are often more flexible but they don’t hold their edge for very long. Harder metal blades are not as flexible but stay sharper for longer.

German vs Japanese Design

There are two common designs for fish fillet knives that can be split into German and Japanese styles.

German designs are often heavier and thicker with edges on both sides of the blade (double-beveled). The steel is often softer and is better suited for copping.

Japanese designs are lighter and thinner with a single edge. The steel is harder which keeps the edge sharper for longer and is better suited for slicing.

Protective Sheath

Keeping your knife sharp is important to make sure it will be functional for a long time and the most common way to damage your blade is to have it bouncing around the bottom of your boat. Getting a high-quality protective sheath is a great way to keep your blade sharp.

A lot of knives come with their own sheath, but they are of varying qualities from leather to plastic to fabric. Make sure you don’t overlook the sheath or you may need to purchase a replacement as soon as you see it.


Finally, the last thing to consider is the sharpener – some knives come with dedicated sharpeners which might not be of the same quality as the knife. If you are going to be using your knife a lot then you should consider a dedicated sharpener.

If the knife you select doesn’t come with its own sharpener then understand that this is a separate purchase you will need to make in the future and is an additional cost.

Handle Material

The most common materials on the market are either plastic or rubber, but you can also get wooden handles. This impacts both the aesthetics of the knife but also how non-slip it is. The last thing you want is to slip when your blade hits a bone and cut your hand.

I prefer non-slip rubber grips. They are easy to clean, highly durable, and look great.

Handle Shape

Always make sure you select a knife handle with a molded grip (or bolster) – this is often called a pistol grip or trigger guard. This protects your fingers from getting cut if you slip.

Also, consider the size of the handle for your hands – if you have smaller hands then a thick, long handle can be uncomfortable and unwieldy. Being comfortable while holding your knife is important especially if you are filleting large numbers of large fish at the end of your fishing trip.

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Russ Egan

Russ is an avid fisherman. He has fished all over the world for more than two decades, primarily for saltwater game fish but also for local trophy fish. Russ writes reviews for all of his fishing gear to help others achieve their own fishing goals. His favorite reel is a Shimano Curado Baitcaster. His dream is to catch a Black Marlin.