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Merwin: On Favorite Fishing Knives

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October 23, 2009

Merwin: On Favorite Fishing Knives

By John Merwin

Let’s talk fishing knives. Everybody has at least one; many will have several. And it’s a sure bet these knives are as varied as fishermen themselves.

The idea for this topic came up last Wednesday, when I posted about the list of things I needed to bring on board my boat. One reader suggested a serious rescue-style knife to be carried on one’s person at all times. A good idea. The Spyderco Atlantic Salt shown here is one such--the heavy duty serrated blade will cut through ropes and lines quickly anytime a tangle means imminent disaster. One-hand opening is a plus.

The pocket knife I most often carry is one of the smaller Swiss Army styles. The scissors are good for trimming leaders or cutting down flies. And they or the knife point work well for clearing the eyes of painted jigheads. The included screwdriver heads, meanwhile, let me sometimes tighten any errant screws on a reel. It’s much too small for filleting even a bluegill, though.

If I have to fillet a mess of crappies, a good electric fillet knife saves lots of time. For only a larger fish or two, a regular fillet knife is just as easy, as long as it is really sharp. Dull fillet knives are abominations.

Everybody has a favorite fishing knife. Curious minds want to know: What’s yours?

Comments (18)

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from Joe_Cermele wrote 4 years 25 weeks ago

John, the Spyderco Salt Series knives are tremendous. My absolute favorite. Good grip for wet hands and they WILL NOT rust. I have one on me always. For a fillet knife, gimme an old-school wood-handle Dexter Russell. I have one with a blade the width of a needle from being sharpened so much.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Big O wrote 4 years 25 weeks ago

A favorite is a Ra'Pa'La, or is it Rap'a'La, or even Rep'ala. No matter how you say it. It's a FINE blade for "working" fisher(people).

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from timromano wrote 4 years 25 weeks ago

Mr. Merwin,

I too own this knife and keep it on my raft at all times. It basically spent an entire season soaking on my PFD and never showed a spot of rust. It's my rescue knife and as such I never will use it unless I have to, keeping it razor sharp for that emergency situation. They are amazing knives.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from 2Poppa wrote 4 years 25 weeks ago

I used the Ra'Pa'La for years and still have it.

While on vacation several years ago I got the Browning fillet knife and even use it to cut up deer.

The knife in this article certainly looks like a winner the way it folds!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from MLH wrote 4 years 25 weeks ago

A.G. Russell Seamaster. It's more a boater's knife because of the marlin spike. Also nice to have a partially serrated blade.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from WVOtter wrote 4 years 25 weeks ago

I always end up with what seems like a half dozen bladed items on me when I fish, especially in my kayak. Leatherman wave, regular pocket knife, sheath knife, serated river knife, small llbean carabeaner knife, etc. Usually a result of having one stashed permanently in all my vests/bags, so they all go with me. I usually use none or one, but you know the saying, better to have than not need than need and not have.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Walt Smith wrote 4 years 25 weeks ago

My favorite is a nice little filet knife made by Buck a few years ago, the model 125. It also doubles nicely as a trimming knife for venison.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Walt Smith wrote 4 years 25 weeks ago

Mine is the Buck 125 that I bought a few years ago. It is a wonderful short fillet knife that holds its edge and doubles as my venison trimming knife each fall.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Walt Smith wrote 4 years 25 weeks ago

That was weird! sorry about the double post.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 4 years 25 weeks ago

I really don't carry a knife when I fish. Just nippers and forceps.

I do have a Case XX fixed blade that can take a deer from the field to a freezer.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from 35wailin wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

I used to carry a Rapala filet knife. By the way it is pronounced Ra'pa la'. And don't forget to roll the 'R'! It is a Finnish name and I am of Finnish decent. That being said, I bought a Gerber 7.5" filet knife a few years ago and I LOVE it! The blade has good flexibility, is sharp, stays sharp and the Gator grip finish on the handles means it doesn't slip in your heand when everything is wet and covered in fish slime. It is not a great knife for any other purpose than filleting fish, except perhaps trimming a tag end, but it serves it's purpose well. I also have a Gerber multitool on my belt at almost all times, so that gets used for the other cutting chores when I'm fishing.

I won't get into my favourite knives for hunting, general outdoors work, etc. I could drag down the website with descriptions of them all!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jim in Mo wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

John, I can see how that knife could be a lifesaver especially to any mariner whose life consists of ropes that could save your life or when tangled could kill you. Cool looking and nothing of quality is cheap.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jim in Mo wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

35wailin,
I used to have a fillet knife that had a very slick finished wooden handle. It was worthless once I got fish slime on my hands. I now have a fillet made by Chicago cutlery. It's a folder with a 5" blade and a very rough wooden handle. It's my favorite of any I've tried and easy to fit in the tackle box. I'd like to get one with a fixed 6" blade and a rubber handle with pimples.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from country road wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

I favor the Normark fillet knife as it is easy to sharpen. I like the Rapala fine, but find the shape of the edge more difficult for me to touch up. Back when I commercial fished for red snapper I wore out several Russell Green River knives that were used for everything from cutting bait to gutting to filleting---they were easy to sharpen and cheap enough so that when you lost one overboard it didn't hurt. They were terrible to rust, though.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dean Oh wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

My favorite fillet knife is a Case with contoured plastic handle for a sure grip and flexible surgical steel blade. Mine came with a leather sheath. Most affordable Case knife I know of.

I picked up a Marbles bird and trout knife a few years back and have yet to use it, but expect it to be handy to dress smaller trout.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from cgfrisch@bellso... wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

Mine is a 21/2" Mel Pardue Benchmade, which got the top choice in a recent F&S column on folding knives. I also like my Forschner fillet knife which is really sharp.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jacob wrote 4 years 18 weeks ago

my leatherman blast is the absolute best fishing knife ever

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from crm3006 wrote 4 years 18 weeks ago

My favorite fishing knife is a yellow handle Case XX with a thin, pointed blade, hook hone, bottle opener, scaler and hook remover. Very slim design, and stays in my pocket 24/7/365. Doubles as a fine onion, tater and tomato slicer in deer/elk camps.
Others I carry are a Cutco serrated for bait and ropes, and a Dexter Russel fillet, as well as an Uncle Henry bone handled fillet knife that takes the sharpest edge of any fillet knife I've ever used.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Joe_Cermele wrote 4 years 25 weeks ago

John, the Spyderco Salt Series knives are tremendous. My absolute favorite. Good grip for wet hands and they WILL NOT rust. I have one on me always. For a fillet knife, gimme an old-school wood-handle Dexter Russell. I have one with a blade the width of a needle from being sharpened so much.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from MLH wrote 4 years 25 weeks ago

A.G. Russell Seamaster. It's more a boater's knife because of the marlin spike. Also nice to have a partially serrated blade.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Big O wrote 4 years 25 weeks ago

A favorite is a Ra'Pa'La, or is it Rap'a'La, or even Rep'ala. No matter how you say it. It's a FINE blade for "working" fisher(people).

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from timromano wrote 4 years 25 weeks ago

Mr. Merwin,

I too own this knife and keep it on my raft at all times. It basically spent an entire season soaking on my PFD and never showed a spot of rust. It's my rescue knife and as such I never will use it unless I have to, keeping it razor sharp for that emergency situation. They are amazing knives.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from 2Poppa wrote 4 years 25 weeks ago

I used the Ra'Pa'La for years and still have it.

While on vacation several years ago I got the Browning fillet knife and even use it to cut up deer.

The knife in this article certainly looks like a winner the way it folds!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from WVOtter wrote 4 years 25 weeks ago

I always end up with what seems like a half dozen bladed items on me when I fish, especially in my kayak. Leatherman wave, regular pocket knife, sheath knife, serated river knife, small llbean carabeaner knife, etc. Usually a result of having one stashed permanently in all my vests/bags, so they all go with me. I usually use none or one, but you know the saying, better to have than not need than need and not have.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Walt Smith wrote 4 years 25 weeks ago

My favorite is a nice little filet knife made by Buck a few years ago, the model 125. It also doubles nicely as a trimming knife for venison.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Walt Smith wrote 4 years 25 weeks ago

Mine is the Buck 125 that I bought a few years ago. It is a wonderful short fillet knife that holds its edge and doubles as my venison trimming knife each fall.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Walt Smith wrote 4 years 25 weeks ago

That was weird! sorry about the double post.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 4 years 25 weeks ago

I really don't carry a knife when I fish. Just nippers and forceps.

I do have a Case XX fixed blade that can take a deer from the field to a freezer.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jim in Mo wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

John, I can see how that knife could be a lifesaver especially to any mariner whose life consists of ropes that could save your life or when tangled could kill you. Cool looking and nothing of quality is cheap.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from country road wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

I favor the Normark fillet knife as it is easy to sharpen. I like the Rapala fine, but find the shape of the edge more difficult for me to touch up. Back when I commercial fished for red snapper I wore out several Russell Green River knives that were used for everything from cutting bait to gutting to filleting---they were easy to sharpen and cheap enough so that when you lost one overboard it didn't hurt. They were terrible to rust, though.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from crm3006 wrote 4 years 18 weeks ago

My favorite fishing knife is a yellow handle Case XX with a thin, pointed blade, hook hone, bottle opener, scaler and hook remover. Very slim design, and stays in my pocket 24/7/365. Doubles as a fine onion, tater and tomato slicer in deer/elk camps.
Others I carry are a Cutco serrated for bait and ropes, and a Dexter Russel fillet, as well as an Uncle Henry bone handled fillet knife that takes the sharpest edge of any fillet knife I've ever used.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from 35wailin wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

I used to carry a Rapala filet knife. By the way it is pronounced Ra'pa la'. And don't forget to roll the 'R'! It is a Finnish name and I am of Finnish decent. That being said, I bought a Gerber 7.5" filet knife a few years ago and I LOVE it! The blade has good flexibility, is sharp, stays sharp and the Gator grip finish on the handles means it doesn't slip in your heand when everything is wet and covered in fish slime. It is not a great knife for any other purpose than filleting fish, except perhaps trimming a tag end, but it serves it's purpose well. I also have a Gerber multitool on my belt at almost all times, so that gets used for the other cutting chores when I'm fishing.

I won't get into my favourite knives for hunting, general outdoors work, etc. I could drag down the website with descriptions of them all!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jim in Mo wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

35wailin,
I used to have a fillet knife that had a very slick finished wooden handle. It was worthless once I got fish slime on my hands. I now have a fillet made by Chicago cutlery. It's a folder with a 5" blade and a very rough wooden handle. It's my favorite of any I've tried and easy to fit in the tackle box. I'd like to get one with a fixed 6" blade and a rubber handle with pimples.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dean Oh wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

My favorite fillet knife is a Case with contoured plastic handle for a sure grip and flexible surgical steel blade. Mine came with a leather sheath. Most affordable Case knife I know of.

I picked up a Marbles bird and trout knife a few years back and have yet to use it, but expect it to be handy to dress smaller trout.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from cgfrisch@bellso... wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

Mine is a 21/2" Mel Pardue Benchmade, which got the top choice in a recent F&S column on folding knives. I also like my Forschner fillet knife which is really sharp.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jacob wrote 4 years 18 weeks ago

my leatherman blast is the absolute best fishing knife ever

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

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