If a stranger in a fish-cleaning station offers to fillet your fish for you, he may just be saving his own skin.
“An old, dull fillet knife can be dangerous — and not just to the person holding it, but to people filleting their own fish nearby in the close confines of a cleaning station,” notes Tom Neustrom, a Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame Legendary Guide. “You try to pull a bad blade through a fillet and it can snag. Then all of a sudden, when you put more pressure on it, that blade can jump and you can cut your hand or wrist — or someone else’s.”
So Neustrom, who sharpens his classic birch-handled Rapala Fish’N Fillet Knife every other time he uses it, has shared his fish-skin-removal skills more times that he can count over the years — a Good Samaritan gesture that keeps his own skin safe as well.
“I’ve filleted a lot of fish for people in the fish-cleaning house that had a dull knife,” Neustrom says. “So I’ll say ‘Do you mind if I do your fish for you?’ And then I’ll show them the difference between my knife and theirs. And then they’ll either say ‘I guess I need to sharpen my knife,’ or ‘It’s time to buy a new one.’”
If you don’t own a Rapala fillet knife, it’s time to get one. If you have a Rapala blade but can’t remember the last time you honed it, it’s time to find your sharpener. And if you’ve had a Rapala knife for more than a few years and filleted a lot of fish, it might be time for a replacement.
“The quality of Rapala knives is, without question, the best in the business, but there is a time when you need to replace one,” Neustrom says. “If the handles becomes loose, or if the blade — especially the top three inches — becomes ground down due to repeated sharpening, it’s time for a new knife.”
If shore lunch is often on your menu, a classic, birch-handled Fish’N Fillet® or Fish’N Fillet Superflex knife will fit the bill. 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. “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.”
Both the birch-handled Fish ’N Fillet knives and Rapala’s textured-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.
Pro tip: Don’t wash a birch-handled Rapala knife in a dishwasher too often. It can ruin the finish and crack the handle. Instead, wash it by hand and always dry it off completely immediately after use. “That will preserve it for years to come,” Neustrom says.
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. 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.
You’ll know it’s time to sharpen or replace the blades on an electric fillet knife “because they’ll seem to drag through the fillet a little bit,” Neustrom says. “You’ll just feel that they’re not cutting through cleanly.” The only way to sharpen the serrated blades of an electric fillet knife is with a chainsaw file.
Check your electric knife’s cord also, Neustrom says. “Look right where it connects to the knife and make sure that it isn’t split,” he says. “If it is, it’s time to replace it.”
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.