Fishing & Boating in the Northwoods

Knives for Boning and Filleting Fish  

My father told me that there was always “the right tool for the right job.” A wrong or inappropriate tool always leads to a poor result at best. And an unfortunate accident at worst. I learned that lesson the hard way…

WARNING: This article contains graphic images of fish filleting that some readers may find disturbing.

In my book, Filleting Freshwater Game Fish: Northern, Walleye, Bass and Bluegill, I have dedicated the very first chapter to knives. Why? Well, when it comes to filleting, the right tool is essential to getting the job done well! What sets a fish filleting knife apart is its blade, and a god blade is crucial to getting the job done right.

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If you have filleted as many fish as I have, you will eventually have access to and the opportunity to use a variety of different knives. Sooner or later, you are bound to find one brand that works best for you.

Over the years, I have tried numerous brands of filleting knives (Normark, Rapala, Wüsthof, Zwilling J.A. Henckels, and Chicago Cutlery, to name just a few of the dozens of choices out there) and found them all to be useful. I certainly would not “dis” any of them, as they all have a place and purpose in my personal collection.

knives for filleting
Preparing to fillet a northern pike with the Henckels Zwilling 7″ Fillet Knife

My passion for cooking however – as well as my years spent in restaurant kitchens – has led me to purchase a single brand of knife for a plethora of purposes: Henckels.

Henckels Knives

My first 9″ chef knife and sharpening steel were purchased way back in 1975 – making them now almost 50 years old. They are still like brand new… My point is this: a good knife is a great investment and, treated well, will last a lifetime. I take very good care of my knives.

I’ll be the first to say that Henckels knives are not inexpensive, by any stretch of the imagination. The 7″ fillet knife I mention below is now almost double what I paid for mine. But as I said, if taken care of properly, it will definitely last a lifetime.

My Recommendations

I have included some links in this article to the equipment that I have mentioned in my book; I also use these same knives both at home and while fishing in the Northwoods. If you’re not sure where to begin, try the 5.5-inch fillet knife first, as it is a bit easier to handle and a tad less expensive. Once you become more comfortable with the filleting methods, you can try the 7-inch fillet knife.

Many fishermen I have talked with obviously have their own preferences; they often prefer a six-inch blade over the seven-inch that I suggest. They also tend to shy away from Henckels because of the price. I understand that. But no matter what brand or blade-length you ultimately decide upon, keep one thing in mind: the old adage: “you get what you pay for” still rings true when purchasing a knife. Get a good quality knife, make certain to keep it clean and sharp, and it will serve you well and long.

I’ll see you On the Lake.

R. Karl

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R. Karl

Angler, Author & Epicure

Fishing since the age of eight.  Seriously writing since the age of 16. Chef and foodie from the age of 22 years… and counting. So much to learn and so little time. I have enjoyed every minute of it all.  Whether on the water (where I like it best), in the kitchen, or at the keyboard, churning out content, I feel like I have found my place.  I am sharing it with you in the hope that some of what I love to do will rub off on you. I hope to see you On the Lake!

R. Karl

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