Knives are essential in sea fishing. They are used to cut and prepare various types of sea fishing bait and also to gut and fillet fish which are being retained to eat. A simple filleting knife is all most anglers need, although it is important to sharpen the blade from time to time as many anglers fail to realise how blunt the blade of their knife has become after years of use.
Related article: Legal Issues of Carrying Knives for Fishing
Types of Knife
The vast majority of sea anglers use a filleting knife. This is a knife with a long and thin blade, designed for slicing, making it ideal for preparing bait and filleting fish. Filleting knives designed specifically for sea fishing are usually made with a plastic handle and supplied in a hard plastic or heavy-duty nylon sheath, although more traditional filleting knives with a wooden handle and leather sheath are still commonly used.
The main uses of a knife are bait preparation and fish filleting. While some baits such as ragworm and lugworm can be presented on the hook whole, other baits such as mackerel, bluey, herring, large peeler crab and squid will need to be cut to the correct size before an angler can use them. Mackerel, for example, can be cut into very small strips to make bait for species such as dab or presented as large flappers for conger eels or shark species. Whichever size is used a sharp, high-quality knife will be necessary to prepare the bait. Most anglers also fillet fish which are being taken home to eat at the area where they are fishing to avoid having to dispose of smelly fish heads, tails and guts at home.
A chopping board is an essential item for anglers as they provide a solid base on which it cut bait and fillet fish. Using knives on rock, sand, shingle or any other unstable surface is dangerous due to the risk of slipping when using the knife and will also blunt the blade of the knife. Plastic chopping boards are available from supermarkets for just a few pounds and are ideal for anglers.
While a thin-bladed filleting knife will be the only type of knife the vast majority of anglers need there are other types of knife available. Some manufacturers make a short-bladed bait knife which some anglers may prefer if they are only cutting bait and have no need to fillet fish. Anglers using mussels as bait may also use a specialist shellfish knife. These are short-bladed knives that are relatively blunt and used to open the shells of mussels and remove the flesh inside. It is dangerous to try and force mussel shells open with a filleting knife due to the risk of slipping and causing a self-inflicted injury.
Cuda Outdoor Knife available in Blue – 6 inch This is a great all-round knife for sea fishing. It has a six-inch blade made out of corrosion-resistant stainless steel. It has a non-slip handle with a fish scale pattern and comes complete with a lightweight sheath. The sheath has a drainage system built-in which means it can be fully immersed in water to be cleaned after use. This knife is reasonably priced and ideal for anglers needing a simple and effective knife for sea fishing.
Orient 15 cm Filleting Knife – with Sheath & Gift Box This is a fairly expensive but extremely high-quality filleting knife from the manufacturer Orient. This knife features a six-inch (15cm) blade which is made from high-grade stainless steel and an Ergo-Grip handle which offers great grip while also being comfortable to hold. A lockable sheath for this knife is also included. This is an excellent knife for anglers fishing around the UK.
Rapala 4-Inch Bait Knife This bait knife from Rapala has a relatively short four-inch blade making it small and compact meaning it is ideal for anglers who want to travel light. It features a stainless steel blade with a serrated upper section and plastic handle. The plastic sheath is of an open design which means it can be easily cleaned.
Sharpening and Maintaining a Knife
As discussed above, knives become blunt over time and many anglers who have used the same knife for a long time may not be aware of how blunt their knife has become. Furthermore, some newly bought knives are not particularly sharp and would benefit from additional sharpening prior to use. Blunt knives produce poorly presented bait and badly filleted fish as it is impossible to cut smoothly and cleanly with such a knife. In extreme cases anglers can use knives so blunt that they have to hack with the knife, potentially damaging or destroying the bait or fish they are trying to cut through. Blunt knives can also be dangerous as anglers have to put so much pressure on the blade to cut the risk or slipping and cutting themselves is increased.
The best way to maintain a knife is by sharpening it after it has been used several times. By far the best way to sharpen a knife is with a whetstone (which is also sometimes referred to as a waterstone or sharpening stone).
A whetstone is simply an artificial stone which provides a solid surface to sharpen a knife on. The stone is soaked in water prior to use to reduce friction and then the blade of a knife is drawn across this surface of the stone, grinding away the minuscule dents and imperfections of the blade and restoring sharpness. There are different grit ratings of whetstones, with rough grit used to sharpen a very blunt knife, and finer grit used to finish a near-completed blade. The maintenance, honing and sharpening of blades is a skill in itself, but a simple double-sided whetstone allows anglers to maintain the sharpness of their knives. View whetstones on Amazon by clicking here. Electric knife sharpeners are also available and many anglers find that these are quicker and easier to use than sharpening knives with using whetstones. Click here to view electric knife sharpeners on Amazon. There are also a number of gimmicky devices for sharpening knives (such as sharpeners built into the sheath of a knife) which are best avoided.
It is perfectly legal to carry a knife around if you are fishing or travelling to or from a fishing session. An article going into more detail on the legalities of carrying knives when fishing is available by clicking here.