By Darl Black
Where the Baracuta Fillet Knife Is At Its Best
“I haven’t used a hand fillet knife in some time,” remarked Dan Wielobob, during his family’s annual week-long fishing outing held on western Pennsylvania’s Pymatuning Lake in May.
I had stopped by the cabin just as younger members of the group were breaking out an electric fillet knife to clean the day’s crappie catch. Laying the Havalon Baracuta-Edge Fillet Knife on the table, I asked if someone would like to test it.
“These youngsters have never used a hand-fillet knife. Maybe it’s time I gave them a lesson on the correct way to clean fish,” cajoled Dan as he picked up the Baracuta and started filleting a crappie. “A hand fillet knife does a much better job than scissor-like blades of an electric knife – especially on panfish. You can make precise cuts and get much closer to the rib cage. A hand fillet knife requires a bit more effort – but it’s worth it in terms of the amount of additional meat on a fillet when done.”
After demonstrating on several crappies, Dan handed the knife off to a cousin and offered the following analysis.
“I really like the Havalon fillet knife. It has an incredibly sharp blade – likely the sharpest fillet blade I’ve ever used! It went through the flesh and skin of those crappies effortlessly. Being small and lightweight, the knife feels good in my hand – certainly far better than a cumbersome electric knife.
“Although I had never heard of an interchangeable blade hand fillet knife before, I can clearly see advantages. First, if the blade becomes dull when cleaning a mess of fish, you don’t have to stop and sharpen the blade. It’s simple to swap it out for a new blade. Second, sharpening a fillet knife requires special tools, a skill set, and time – if you don’t do it right, your knife will not hold an edge or the blade may be completely ruined. From my viewpoint, a replaceable super-sharp blade is now the way to go.
“Furthermore, the tough skin and scales on yellow perch can quickly dull a hand fillet knife blade, which is why I’ve been using an electric knife to cut through them. But with a replaceable blade, I can go back to using a hand fillet knife and achieve a better fillet job. Blade dulled? Change it!
“I guess my only concern might be the length of the blade. I would have absolutely no trouble cleaning panfish, trout and the majority of walleyes I catch. However, on those big 30-inch Lake Erie walleye, I’m thinking the blade may not be long enough. I would really need to test it out on bigger fish before I can say one way or the other,” concluded Wielobob.
Although Dan Wielobob and Dave Richter prefer to slice the fillet from the rib cage before cutting the fillet free, other anglers opt to cut through the rib bones with fillet attached and remove the rib bones as a last step, as demonstrated in this series of photos. For each side of a panfish:
A few weeks later I received an evening phone call from Dave Richter, owner of a local tackle shop and an extraordinary walleye fisherman. “I made it out for an afternoon on the lake today, and I’ve got a limit of ’eye on ice waiting to be cleaned. Do you need someone to field test that replaceable blade fillet knife you were talking about in the shop the other day?”
I was out the door and headed for Dave’s place.
“I’ve always used a hand fillet knife,” Dave commented when I arrived. “Never thought much of those electric knives – they leave too much meat on the bones because the blades cannot trim close enough. Besides, the blades dull rather quickly.”
Dave examined the blade visually, and then lightly touched it with his thumb. I winced – not a sharpness check I endorse!
With a couple cuts and a few additional short strokes, he had separated the meat from the rib cage, and was preparing to remove the skin from the fillet. In a matter of minutes, he had finished filleting six walleyes ranging from 15 to 22 inches.
“Like slicing through butter with a warm knife,” exclaimed Dave. “I’ve never had such a sharp fillet knife in my hand before. This is a remarkable little knife. It seems every bit as sharp after six walleyes as it was when I started. I wonder how long one of these blades will remain sharp?”
“I really can’t say for sure, but I can tell you this blade has already cleaned a mess of crappies this spring,” I added. “Since you cut around the rib cage with a hand knife rather than through the rib bones as they do with an electric knife, I expect a longer life to a Havalon blade.”
Really Big Fish
“However,” I went on, “I’ve got a question for you. How do think this knife will perform on larger fish? Some fishermen have suggested the blade isn’t long enough.”
“Well, they may be having a perception problem,” explains Dave. “When filleting a fish with a hand knife, I do not cut through the body top to bottom at its widest section. Rather, I make a cut along the dorsal fin down to the rib cage, and only push the blade all the way through the fish once I clear the ribs and stomach cavity. Then I use little slicing cuts to remove the flesh from the rib cage, keeping the fillet intact. Next, it’s a shallow cut through the skin around the stomach cavity to yield a fillet. Finally, flip the fillet skin side down, insert the blade between skin and fillet at the tail, then angle the blade and slide it forward to remove the skin.
“Bottom line, you don’t need a huge blade to fillet a big walleye. I can’t speak to certain large freshwater fish such as a musky or catfish because I never clean those species, but this knife will handle anything I catch and want to eat!”
A lifelong freshwater angler and veteran writer and photographer, Darl tackles a wide variety of fishing related stories for print publications and websites. Of all fishing, angling for smallmouth bass is his favorite pastime. He may be reached for assignment at email@example.com.[hs_action id=”7720″]
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