You can catch your fish and eat some too! To make the most of your stringer when its time for shore lunch, pack a Rapala® fillet knife, fork and board and follow the tips below for fashioning beautiful fillets.
1. Choose The Right Tool For The Job
When shore lunch is on the menu, a classic Fish’N Fillet® or Fish’N Fillet® Superflex knife will fit the bill for fish cleaned not far from where they were caught.
For cleaning fish back at the cabin or cottage, where you have power, an electric Rapala® knife can improve efficiency, especially for limits landed by a big group.
Either way, as long as the knife is a Rapala, you’ll be using the best, says Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame Legendary Guide Tom Neustrom. “I’ve used these for almost 40 years,” Neustrom says. “I’ve seen a lot of other knives in that time, but there’s no other knives available like Rapala knives. They’re the guide’s choice.”
Rapala’s powered knives come with cords or battery packs. They all deliver the quality Rapala is famous for, Neustrom says. “Other manufacturers have a blunt blade at the tip, where Rapala has a pointed blade, like a regular fillet knife,” he explains. “Rapala not only created a better cutting instrument, but it also makes more sense – it’s design complements its use.”
2. Size Matters
On a walleye trip? Pack a 6-inch Rapala fillet knife. Patterning panfish? Scale down to a 4-inch blade. Targeting big trout or salmon? Step up to a 7 1/2 or 9-inch Rapala knife.
“Fish of different sizes create fillets of different sizes, each with their own unique challenges,” Neustrom says. “So the right size knife makes your job much easier.”
Both the classic, birch-handled Fish’N Fillet Knife and the texture plastic-handled Soft Grip® Fillet Knife are available with four blade sizes — 4, 6, 7 1/2 and 9 inches. Featuring a textured baked-birch handle and a non-stick coated blade, the Fish’N Fillet Superflex comes with three blade sizes — 4, 6, and 7 1/2 inches.
Rapala’s Deluxe Cordless Fillet Knife Set, Deluxe Electric Fillet Knife Set and Electric Fillet Knife Set all come with interchangeable 6-inch and 7 1/2-inch reciprocating blades. An interchangeable 9-inch blade can be purchased separately. The Heavy Duty Electric Fillet Knife and Lithium Ion Cordless come in 7-inch models.
3. Stick A Fork In It
A Rapala Fish Fork is an indispensable tool for creating the best fillets. Proving its worth when removing the skin from a fish fillet, the fork “ensures a good grip of the fish or fillet, without having to worry that the knife will slip onto your fingers,” Neustrom explains. The Fish Fork’s no-slip, soft-grip handle enables you to get the best possible grip.
“What I like to do with the fork with crappies — because the skin is so thin — is cheat forward a little bit,” Neustrom explains. This involves moving the fork up under the portion of the fillet that’s already been removed, securing the skin to the cutting board closer to the middle of the fillet, “so it holds it really nice and firm.”
4. Stay Sharp
With a dull knife in hand, you’re likely to hack your fillet into ragged chunks. Only a sharp knife affords you the control to fashion beautiful fillets.
Additionally, a dull knife is a dangerous knife. Sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s true. A dull knife is more likely to slip and slice where you don’t want it to, whereas a sharp knife will reliably move where you direct it.
While Rapala blades are legendarily razor-sharp out of the package, regular sharpening will keep them in tip top shape. One of several available Rapala sharpeners will fit the bill for your tackle bag or fish house.
Designed to restore damaged blades back to a sharp, cutting edge, Rapala’s Two-Stage Ceramic Sharpener is a pocket-sized solution every angler should own. Draw your blade through the coarse side to smooth out nicks and bumps, then draw it through the fine side to hone the edge.
Featuring micro-diamond chips permanently adhered to stainless steel, Rapala’s 8-inch Diamond Steel Sharpener provides the most efficient way to maintain a razor-sharp cutting edge. “Knife experts recommend a quick honing of your knife every time you use it to maintain its ultimate cutting edge,” Neustrom says.
Designed with a comfort-grip handle and safety guard, this dishwasher-safe sharpener is built to provide years of service in the field and kitchen.
5. Remove Pin Bones And Y Bones
Removing the pin bones from your walleye fillets and the Y bones from your northern pike fillets will greatly enhance your dining enjoyment.
Down the center of a walleye fillet, right along the lateral line, “you’ll feel a little bony area,” Neustrom says. “That’s called the pin bones.” To remove them, make an incision on either side of that line down to where the bones disappear, then lift up the bony area and cut it away from the fillet.
Watch Neustrom remove pin bones in the video above starting at the 3:57-minute mark.
To get the most meat with minimal waste from a Northern Pike, follow the steps below to remove the fillets’ Y bones:
Along the fish’s lateral line will be a natural division between the back and belly portions of the fillet. Using the tip of your Fish ’N Fillet knife, follow that line, cutting down through the fillet all the way from one end to the other. Set aside the belly section, which will not include any bones. Depending on its length, cut that section into two or three pieces.
In the back portion of the fillet, Y bones will be visibly protruding. Position the fillet with the bones pointing up. Angle the tip of your fillet knife slightly as you slice into the meat just outside of the bony area, cutting all the way from one end to the other. Remove that section of fillet and cut it into two or three pieces.
Next, flip over the remaining piece of meat, bones down. Insert your knife just above the bony section, blade parallel to your cutting board, and cut horizontally down the length of the fillet. Cut the resulting long piece in two and set it aside. Finally, dispose of the remaining, thin strip of meat that contains the bones.
Watch this Lindner’s Angling Edge video to see the above process demonstrated.
6. Gut And Gill Larger Fish So You Can “Steak ‘Em And Bake ‘Em”
Rather than filleting larger fish like trout and salmon in the way you would a walleye or crappie, Neustrom suggests gutting and gilling them to make steaks. A 7 1/2-inch to 9-inch blade will be your tool of choice for this process.
“With these larger fish, that first cut is really important,” Neustrom instructs. Insert your knife’s tip into fish’s anal opening and then — using just the first inch or two of the blade — “make a nice thin cut right between the fins and just follow right up the stomach wall.”
Then, instead of stopping at the gill plate like with other species, Neustrom instructs, “continue all the way up to the bottom of the head of the fish.” Next, cut away and pull out the fish’s internal organs and gills. After that, remove the bloodline.
“Just take your index finger and you sweep it forward [from back to front],” Neustrom instructs. “A couple strokes and you’ll clean it right out.”
Your fish is now ready to cut into steaks. Neustrom says two-inch steaks cook better than one-inch steaks, so make a vertical cut every two inches down the length of the fish. Your cut must be “nice and firm,” he says, “because you need to get through [the spine].”
7. Safety First!
Especially in the field, safety should be the angler’s foremost concern. Wear a Rapala Fillet Glove for peace of mind. You’ll be more confident when you fillet your catch, resulting in better knife control and more beautiful fillets.
Made of Tuff-Knit™ yarn — a comfy blend of natural and synthetic fibers entwined with stainless steel — the Rapala Fillet glove offers the best protection against an accidental injury while filleting. It fits either hand, with three sizes to choose from. Machine washable, it will remain clean and sanitary for years of safe use.
Another safety tip — always cut and sharpen your blade away from your body.
8. Get On Board
Although Rapala fillet knives hold a sharp edge, using them on a Rapala cutting board will help them stay sharper, longer. And a sharper blade creates a more beautiful fillet.
Rapala cutting boards are more sanitary than some of the things on which Neustrom has seen anglers clean their catch. “When you fillet your fish, it becomes food,” Neustrom notes. “You wouldn’t tenderize a chuck roast on a chunk of old lumber off your garage floor – why do essentially the same thing with your fish fillets?”
Neustrom favors a Fillet ’N Carry Board. Large enough for any filleting task, but not too big for a boat compartment, the Fillet ’N Carry features a unique, routed bottom which fits securely on 4, 5 and 6-gallon buckets, and a large oval hole to pass waste into your bucket. Made from FDA- and USDA-approved food-grade plastic, Rapala cutting boards clean up easy.
“Of course, you can’t pack everything but the kitchen sink when fishing, but a portable Fillet ’N Carry brings kitchen quality to your fish camp,” Neustrom says.