Fishing Knife Types January 06 2015, 0 Comments

There is little variety in the market for fishing knives; they come as fix blade and folding knives.

  • The fish fillet knife (can be folding or fixed blade) is generally thought of when talking about fishing knives.

There are different models for smaller fish with 6-8” long blades which are mostly curved and flexible. The blade is fairly thin. Quite often they come with a very pointed tip (which is seldom used unless you use this knife for gutting the fish) and some have an edge on the back of the blade for rougher work like descaling and cutting bones.

Terrier Blades general filet knife, 440C stainless steel and tri-colored G10 handle.

For bigger fish like salmon, halibut and even tuna the commercial filet knives usually have a dull, well rounded tip, are usually straight bladed and have a 12-13” blade length, They are fairly big, sturdy knives and have less flexibility in bending the blade. Actually the scinistre or butcher knife is widely used there as it has a long curved blade. It is mostly used for filet work (separating the filet from the skin) as well as cutting larger fish into manageable pieces. On big fish it is also used for cutting the fillets from the bones. This is classic fish butcher work. 

  • The trout and bird knife (also called 3 finger knife) is a small knife which even as a fixed blade can be carried in your pocket. It is usually a slender blade not longer than 6 1/2” and the handle is usually just long enough for 3 fingers to hold it, giving it its nickname 3-finger knife.
  • The all-purpose/utility knife which is mostly used for gutting smaller trout size fish. This all purpose knife can be used for many other uses too.   


  • Modern fishing knife blades should be made out of stainless steel, as they are always used where it is wet. The term stainless steel does not mean corrosion free, it means corrosion resistant. Any knife used in salt water should be rinsed with fresh water. 
  • The handle should be a moisture resistant material like plastic, nylon, G10 or Micarta etc. Quite often they are extrusion molded around the tang of the knife. Traditional knives often have hard wood handles, for example the Scandinavian filet knives with the well known birch root handle.
  • Modern sheaths should be made out of plastics like Nylon, Kydex etc.Unlike leather, plastic sheaths do not contain residual acid from the tanning process. Traditionally the sheath was made out of leather. Today if leather is still preferred, then a plastic insert is provided to prevent the knife cutting through. This is popular for Scandinavian style filet knives.

Terrier Blades filet knives sheath work in progress, Kydex insert making, leather cladding



Fish fillet knives all have a long blade. Some are flexible (the smaller models) but bigger knives are more rigid in the spine. Ideally, they should have a deep finger groove to prevent accidental slipping onto the cutting edge, although the traditional  Scandinavian knives seldom have this.

The handle usually looks over sized to the blade as you need a solid grip when working in a watery environment. The handle surface is normally textured in some way to help create a good grip.

Terrier Blades Trout Fillet knife


Using a filet knife

Generally there are 3 different uses:

  • Gutting, splitting open the belly and removing the guts. This is important if you want to freeze the whole fish or cook it as a whole fish. A short bladed knife (~ 3-4”) will be sufficient for this task. This knife would also be sufficient for cutting steaks or rounds from a bigger salmon.
  • Filleting or de-boning. For this process you will need a long bladed knife. The size and type of fish will determine the length of the blade you need. On larger fish you will peel/cut the fillets away in large chunks or for a salmon you peel the fillet away and leave the tail on. This way you can have both fillets hanging on the tail fin, skin still on.
  • Skinning; now you certainly need the sharp and long blade according to the size of fish you have. After removing the fillet you place it with the skin down on a flat surface, hold it at the tail and from the tail end cut and remove the skin. You will cut through the fish and then level the blade above the skin flat to the table, the blade being above the skin but below the fish. At a slight angle you move the blade forward separating the fish from the skin. The blade should be very sharp so that you only slide the blade. Avoid any saw-cutting motion otherwise you will cut through the skin and end up with a messy fillet. 


Pricing vs quality

You get what you pay for. With a cheaper knife you will need to frequently sharpen and are more likely to have messy looking fillets. Cheap blades will certainly not stand up to a saltwater environment. 

Terrier Blades Fillet knife