Not all knives are created equal for tackling saltwater species. Spanning a wide variety of body types, bones and cartilage, choosing the right or wrong blade for the right saltwater species can make the task easy or difficult.
Of course, anglers will have their preference on brands, but more importantly, it’s the model and type of knife blade tailor suited to the fish you plan on cleaning and filleting that makes all the difference. You’re not going to break out a thin blade to loin a tuna or unsheathe a chunk knife to fillet a flounder.
Here are a few tips for selecting the proper blade for the job and the low down on some blades we use in the Northeast.
A thicker, wide blade with enough power in the tang is desired when having to cut through thick tuna loins or cutting big striped bass fillets into chunks. Two knives in the quiver to perform the tasks are the Bubba 9-inch Tapered Flex if cutting fillets off striped bass or skinning tuna off the loin, and the Bubba 9-inch Flex wide blade to loin the tuna and cut the bass fillets into chunks. Both have high carbon stainless steel Teflon coated blades, a lanyard hole, non-slip grip and a finger guard so if things get slippery on bloody tuna loins, you can rest assured your digits will be protected.
Anyone who has fished on party boats see the mates slicing through fluke like Wolverine, fillets sliding super smooth onto the board in a seamless fashion. That’s usually because they are using the thinnest blade available, long enough to cover the flank of an average size keeper class fish, but slick enough to slice quickly. The most prominent knife you see is the inexpensive wood handled Dexter Russell 8-inch fillet knife carbon steel as the blade is thin enough to hug those backbones so tight and slickly slice right up the meat. A thin, pliable flex blade runs the backbone effectively. Dexter also makes an 8-inch Flexible fillet knife with a moldable handle tailor made for your personal grip when things get slippery.
Some fish are too large to effectively use standard blades, though you can if you don’t mind the time and effort. Electric knives pretty much do the work for you and when steaking up larger game. Next time try plugging in a Rapala Heavy Duty Electric Fillet Knife or 110-volt Berkley Electric Fillet Knife; if power to your cleaning station is an issue, charge up a serrated Bubba Blade Lithium Ion Cordless fillet knife with a 12-inch serrated blade, or the 12-inch Flex knife. A little bit of downward pressure will make quick work of sawing through heavy cartilage of the backbone and collaring tuna.
Chunking up sardines, butterfish, and bunker baits on the fishing side of things offshore or inshore, you need a knife to cut through frozen baits effortlessly to throw into the slick. Cuda’s 9-inch Titanium Chunk knife blasts through frozen baits, cubing and dicing chunk baits by the bucketful. The serrated blade rips through the hard meat without getting hung up in sticky skin.
Regardless of what knife you use for whatever purpose, it’s always best to choose those with non-slip grips, always don a pair of fillet gloves for a firm grip on both fish and knife, and have a knife sharpener on hand to keep the blade razor sharp so you don’t have to hack at anything. Understand the task at hand, then choose the blade wisely.