The Best Fillet Knives for Fishing

These knives are a cut above the rest when it comes to preparing your catch

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For the anglers who like to bring home some of their catch for a tasty dinner, there is one tool that is vital – the fillet knife. If you like to eat what you catch, you need the best fillet knife you can get to ensure that you waste nothing. Fillet knives come in handy for lots of things, but you have to have one for cleaning fish. Other knives just don’t cut it. I’ve used many fillet knives over the years and I have come across what I feel are the best fillet knives for fishing when it comes to what to carry in your tackle bag for cleaning fish.

Fillet knives are generally characterized by a couple of things. They tend to have thinner, more flexible blades, with an elongated tip for precise cuts. Now, this is not always the case, as the Ulu is a knife you simply must have, and it is not a traditional fillet knife at all. More on that in a moment. The best fillet knives are made from a corrosion-resistant steel, as they will be around water much of the time, including salt water, so the best fillet knives have an extra coating to ensure long life in salty environments. They will also have a good, non-slip handle with an ergonomic shape for the best grip.

Best Fillet Knives for Fishing

 Outdoor Edge ReelFlex PakBuck Knives Silver CreekBubba Blade Ulu
editors choice
Blade Length:6”, 7.5” and 9.5”6-3/8"5.75”
Metal Type:German 4116 stainless steelTitanium coated 420HC SteelTiN-coated steel
Handle type:Ergonomic TPE non-slipShaped rubberized handle with stainless steel guardBubba handle design
Sheath included:NoYesblade protector
Special Features:Molded, plastic case and ceramic sharpener includedWrist lanyardBottle opener built into blade

Cover image by Derrek Sigler

Quick Answer: Best Fillet Knives

  1. Outdoor Edge ReelFlex Pak
  2. Buck Knives Silver Creek
  3. Bubba Blade Ulu
  4. Bubba Li-Ion Cordless Electric Fillet Knife
  5. Rapala Deluxe Falcon
  6. Gerber Controller

Outdoor Edge ReelFlex Pak – Editor’s Choice

Outdoor Edge ReelFlex Pak
Photo by Derrek Sigler


  • Blade Length: 6”, 7.5” and 9.5”
  • Metal Type: German 4116 stainless steel
  • Handle type: Ergonomic TPE non-slip
  • Sheath included: No
  • Special Features: Molded, plastic case and ceramic sharpener included

I was thrilled once I got my hands on the Outdoor Edge ReelFlex Pax, a set of 3 professional-grade fillet knives, a sharpener setup for them, and a plastic case to carry them in. The cost is outstanding for three knives, and to be honest, you’d expect just one for the price you pay for all three. The knives are made from 4116 stainless steel and have rubberized TPR handles. The blade lengths are 9.5 inches, 7.5 inches and 6 inches, so you’re completely covered for whatever cut you’re making, or fish you’re catching.

ReelFlex Pak

This set is perfect for cleaning panfish to walleyes and salmon, which is a big bonus for me, as I make sure I catch a few every year to replenish the smoked salmon supply. The sharpener seems to do a great job of restoring the super sharp edge they come with, something the brand is well known for. The plastic case is ok, although I have found that I rarely keep them in it anymore simply because they find their way into use for more than just cleaning fish. This is et is also amazing for processing your own deer, if you’re a hunter.

  • Pro – Great knives that feel good, and you have every knife you need
  • Con – Would have liked to have more flex in the shorter blade

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Buck Knives Silver Creek – Best Single Knife

Buck Fillet Knives


  • Blade Length: 6-3/8″
  • Metal Type: Titanium coated 420HC Stee
  • Handle type: Shaped rubberized handle with stainless steel guard
  • Sheath included: Yes
  • Special Features: Wrist lanyard


I was pretty happy when I found the Silver Creek Fillet knife. It has a Titanium-coated 420J2 stainless steel blade that gives just the right amount of flex for a great fillet knife, with enough backbone that you don’t make the wrong cut. The handle is fiberglass reinforced with textured molding over the top and a stainless-steel guard. The blade metal peeks out of the end enough for a wrist loop to be fastened. This is a nice feature for anglers trying to cut bait on the boat as the waves are pitching back and forth, or if you’re trying to fillet 25 bluegills for lunch and you’re just starting to wear out. Been, there, done that.

Another nice feature is the molded plastic sheath with a drain hole at the bottom and a clip to let you adhere it to anything, including drawstring shorts. There are two sizes of the fixed blade version, a 6 ⅜ inch and a 9 and ⅜ inch. I loved the feel of the handle and ended up buying both. There is a folding version of these knives that is nice, but I prefer fixed blades. The folder would fit into a tackle box much easier though.

  • Pro – Titanium-coated blade holds an edge better than most stainless blades
  • Con – The handles are good, but could be a tiny bit better

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Bubba Blade Ulu – The Knife You Didn’t Know You Needed, But You Do

Bubba Ulu


  • Blade Length: 5.75”
  • Metal Type: TiN-coated steel
  • Handle type: Bubba handle design
  • Sheath included: blade protector
  • Special Features: Bottle opener built into blade

If you know what an Ulu is, then you probably already have one in at least some form. If you don’t know, then you’re in luck, as I’m about to fill you in on the handiest knife you’ll ever own. An ulu is a traditional Alaskan knife with a short, flat blade with a handle on the back this makes the knife spectacular for shopping, and a wonder for filleting fish and cutting just about any meat out there. The shape of the blade lets you lay it right along the rib and bone lines of the fish, making it a breeze to cut out the boneless fillet. The traditional Alaskan use is for cutting up just about everything in the kitchen, and the standard cutting board is a slightly bowled base. Want to cut up veggies or something for your chili recipe? Just rock the knife back and forth in the cutting bowl and it’s all done. I consider the Ulu to be as much of a required piece of gear for fishing, camping and cooking as a reusable ice pack is for the cooler – it just makes sense once you try it.

I’ve been using ulus for decades and can’t imagine not having one, so imagine how pleased I was when I found Bubba Blade makes a stellar Ulu. It has a wide handle using the amazing Bubba Blade rubberized coating that is non-slip and sturdy in the hand. Then Bubba uses a higher grade steel that is coated for edge retention and anti-corrosion. They added in a convenient bottle opener, I guess because they tend to know what goes hand-in-hand with fishing. Besides, you can’t make beer batter without the beer, right?

  • Pro – Everything. You need this knife and should buy one for your family and friends, too
  • Con – I wish Bubba had started making these sooner

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Bubba Li-Ion Cordless Electric Fillet Knife – Best Electric

Bubba Li Ion


  • Blade Length: : 7” E-FLEX, 9” E-FLEX, 9” E-STIFF and 12” E-STIFF blades
  • Metal Type: Flexible, TiN-coated steel
  • Handle type: Bubba
  • Sheath included: No
  • Special Features: Carry case included

An electric fillet knife can be pretty cool, especially if you have a lot of fish to get through. The best option that I’ve seen, far and away, is the Bubba Li-Ion knife. It comes with 4 different blade options that work with just about every fish you’re going to catch, and the handle of course has the famous Bubba-brand rubberized handle that is going to stay in your hand no matter how much fish slime you get into. Bubba uses a higher-grade steel that they coat for corrosion resistance and durability. It’ll hold an edge very well. I have yet to have a Bubba blade not take an edge after a pass or two through a sharpener.

There are a few considerations to an electric fillet knife. If you have a ton of fish to work though, they are a dream come true. It takes a lot of time off your plate and helps get tasty fillets onto it. My only gripe is that there does exist a tiny amount of waste that can happen with an electric fillet knife, as you give up a small amount of blade control for the sake of speed.It’s not a huge deal, especially when you recycle your fish waste back into the earth. I either compost my fish guts, etc, or leave them in the water to keep the biodiversity up. And let’s not forget that the cost of an electric fillet knife is going to be higher.

  • Pro – Speed and functionality
  • Con – Loss of a small amount of control, and cost

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Rapala Deluxe Falcon – Budget Pick

Rapala Falcon Fillet Knife


  • Blade Length: 6”
  • Metal Type: Stainless steel
  • Handle type: Molded plastic
  • Sheath included: Yes
  • Special Features: Built-in sharpener

Most all of us have at least one Rapala fillet knife. I have a couple, including a slightly older version of this one that has a different colored handle. I’ll admit right off that this fillet knife isn’t all that remarkable. It has a 4-inch stainless steel blade and a polymer handle that does a decent job of helping you make your cuts without slipping. The knife comes with a resin sheath, too. There are, however, some really nice features to this fillet knife that definitely help it make this list. For one, the price is hard to beat. I found this knife for under $10! Another plus is, it works pretty good. In fact, it works better than you’d expect for the price. And for what it costs, you can throw one in the tackle bag for shore lunches, and if you lose it, you’re not going to be too upset.

  • Pro – For the money, a really good knife
  • Con – It doesn’t hold an edge as well as higher quality blades

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Gerber Controller – Mid-Level Pick

Gerber Controller Fillet KNife


  • Blade Length: 10”
  • Metal Type: Steel
  • Handle type: HydroTread Grip
  • Sheath included: Yes
  • Special Features: Built-in sharpener[/checklist]

Gerber is well known for high quality knives and the Controller Fillet Knives are no exception. Gerber designed this knife, not with a preconceived notion of what a fillet knife should be. They talked to hardcore anglers from all over North America like you and I, about what we want in a fillet knife. This knife is the end result. The Controller has a contoured non-slip grip. The blade holds an edge while being able to withstand the abuse anglers can dish out. Gerber uses 9Cr steel, widely known for being tough and corrosion resistant. These knives are kind of a sleeper pick. Some people don’t know they exist, but those that have them love them.

  • Pro – Gerber quality and attention to detail in a knife with a great handle
  • Con – Not as easy to find

Best Fillet Knives for Fishing Comparison Table

Best Fillet Knives for Fishing Blade LengthMetal TypeHandle typeSheath includedSpecial Features
Outdoor Edge ReelFlex Pak6”, 7.5” and 9.5”German 4116 stainless steelErgonomic TPE non-slipNoMolded, plastic case and ceramic sharpener included
Buck Knives Silver Creek6-3/8"Titanium coated 420HC SteelShaped rubberized handle with stainless steel guardYesWrist lanyard
Bubba Blade Ulu5.75”TiN-coated steelBubba handle designblade protectorBottle opener built into blade
Bubba Li-Ion Cordless Electric Fillet Knife7” E-FLEX, 9” E-FLEX, 9” E-STIFF and 12” E-STIFF bladesFlexible, TiN-coated steelBubbaNoCarry case included
Rapala Deluxe Falcon6”Stainless steelMolded plasticYesBuilt-in sharpener
Gerber Controller10”SteelHydroTread GripYesBuilt-in sharpener

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Tips on picking a fillet knife

There are two main things I look for in a fillet knife – It has to feel good in my hand, and it has to be the right type of blade for the fish at hand. Because of this, I have a wide range of fillet knives I use for different fish species and uses.

Buck Knives Fillet Knives Blade Steel
Picking the right fishing fillet knife is a matter of steel, length and flexibility. Photo by Derrek Sigler

Fillet knife blade length

You want several fillet knives of different lengths to match differ sized fish. If the blade is too long, you’re not going to make a precision cut. I like a lot of flex to the blade for the smaller fish, like panfish and crappie. Build your own set based on what you want and you’ll have the best fillet knives for every fish you catch.

If you’re working with big fish, look for a fillet knife that has a longer blade, preferably curved, so you can make as few cuts as possible for a smooth fillet. If it’s a straight blade, make sure there’s some flex to it and it has to be extremely sharp.

  • A 6-inch blade is a common blade length for small to medium fish like panfish and trout because this length offers control and precision. You can also go with a knife of this size for making delicate cuts, like getting those tasty cheek muscles out.
  • The 7-inch blade is the do-it all blade size works great on most fish. This is far and away the most common blade length for fillet knives.
  • Fillet knife blades that are 9-inches or longer are great for bigger fish, obviously, but they also offer the rigidity for dealing with the structure of those bigger fish. If you have a 35-pound fish and you watch someone who knows what they are doing, a bigger knife can make short work of cutting out the fillets and other choice meat from your catch.

Keep your fillet knives sharp

This is such an important thing, as you need a sharp knife to get the right cut and not waste any of the delicious protein from your catch. Here are some tips to help keep your fillet knives sharp.

  • Always store with the blade covered so it doesn’t get bumped around
  • Clean after every use and store dry
  • Never use the dishwasher – always hand wash
  • Try not to use it for other uses – I try to keep a second set of knives for things like deer and birds
  • Use a proper cutting board when cleaning your fish will help you save the edge on your fillet knife

Types of steel and flexibility in blade types

Blade Materials
Most Fillet knives use a form of thin, flexible stainless steel for the blade material. Photo by Derrek Sigler

The steel used for fillet knives is a little different than that use for hunting and survival knives. The biggest reason, more than anything else, is corrosion resistance. Quite often when you see a truly high-end hunting knife, the accompanying price tag is due to the steel used to craft the blade. Stainless steel is the far and away most-popular choice for fillet knives due to the corrosion issue. It is simply carbon steel with chromium added to resist rust. These types of blades will resist the urge to oxidize (rust), but often the steel becomes softer, making edge retention not so great. This is why you should have a sharpener of some kind with your fillet knives.

The blades of a fillet knife are also often thinner and most will have some level of flexibility. A flexible blade that is thin and pointed works wonders on skinning fillets, making it a necessity when you are getting panfish ready for the frypan. With bigger fish, you want a little less flex to make sure you get the cut you want.

When you think of hunting knives, which can work for cutting up a fish, too, you often think of a thicker blade, too. Various tool steels are the premium steels used in the highest quality hunting knives. These precision steels hold an edge extremely well, and allow the knife makers to create some very cool things. When looking at the Rockwell hardness scale, the tool steel types fall into the 55-57 range most often, which is considered the sweet spot. This means the steel is extremely durable, but usable. They will hold an edge, but also allow you to resharpen when needed. Steel types that are harder can be harder to sharpen, but the edge is usually extremely durable.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions people have in regards to fillet knives.

How do I sharpen a fillet knife?

With all knives, you need to keep a good edge on the blade to make it work. The best way to sharpen a fillet knife is to start with a decent knife sharpener and work from the base of the blade to the tip in one fluid motion. Do this just enough to keep the edge, so only 1-3 passes though a sharpener. More than that, and you risk taking too much from the blade. If it need to be sharper still,  you should consider a multi-honing sharpening system.

How do I find a good fillet knife?

Finding a good fillet knife means looking at blade type, handle type and what the blade is made from. You want a fillet knife that will hold an edge while cleaning your fish, and one that won’t slip easily from your hand.

What fillet knife do I want for walleye?

Since walleye are popular table fare, getting the best fillet possible is important. Look for a knife with a 7.5-to 9-inch blade for most eating-size walleye, and if you’re not used to cleaning them, take your time.

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Derrek Sigler

Derrek Sigler has been a professional outdoor writer for more than two decades since earning his Master’s Degree in creative writing with a thesis about fishing humor. But if you ask anyone that knows him, he’s been telling fishin’ stories since he was old enough to hold a pole. He has written for Cabela’s and served as editorial director for Gun Digest books. Over the years, he has also written for Petersen’s Hunting, North American Whitetail Magazine, Wildfowl, Grand View Media, and has worked with Bass Pro Shops, Hard Core Brands and Bone Collector. Successful Farming had him write for their magazine and he has appeared on their TV show to discuss hunting and ATVs on multiple occasions. He writes about the things he loves – hunting, fishing, camping, trucks, ATVs, boating, snowmobiles and the outdoor lifestyle he enjoys with his family in their home state of Michigan and more as they adventure around North America.

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