Friday, May 24th, 2024

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Friday, May 24th, 2024

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Even for ‘old school’ anglers, electric knives provide an enlightening cleaning experience

Morally opposed to using an electric or cordless electric knife? So was the author. Now he believes every angler should include a cordless in his or her fish-cleaning gear kit. (Photo by Mike Schoonveld)

I learned how to fillet fish when I was in the Boy Scouts, and the Scouts also taught me how to sharpen my fillet knife and keep it sharp.

Since then, I couldn’t count the number of fish I’ve cleaned using a standard fillet knife. I’ve cut up tiny bluegills with them and bluefin tuna that took two men to flop onto the fish-cleaning table.

The first time I saw a guy with an electric knife at a fish cleaning station, I thought, “Humf, that guy must have never been a Boy Scout.”

Over the years I ran into increasing numbers of fish cleaners using electric knives. I still thought they were probably lacking in knife sharpening skills. And when looking at the cord plugged into the wall socket and glancing down at the wet floor where they were standing, I was certain there must have been some missed electrical safety lessons along the way, too.

Then one day, while sharing the fish-cleaning facility with another fisherman, he pulled out a cordless electric knife. Score one for electrical safety. I’m sure there is some hazard associated with using a battery-operated power tool in wet conditions, but it has to be safer than using one plugged into a 120V receptacle.


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It just so happened that both of us were cleaning some lake trout that day – not one of my favorite fish to clean since they are extra-slippery and even with my sharp fillet knife, their rib bones seem to be made from some sort of metal alloy. I watched the other fish cleaner slab off a couple of laker fillets almost effortlessly with his cordless knife.

“Wow!” I commented. “That electric knife makes cutting through the ribs look easy.”

“It is,” he told me and then he added. “I’m a carpenter and I have hand saws and other hand tools that are perfect for some applications, but most of my work is done with power tools. A cordless knife makes as much sense as a cordless drill. Here, try it.”

It was an enlightening experience. So enlightening, I bought the same popular model cordless electric knife later that day.

I still bring a conventional fillet knife to the fish cleaning station and I use it for some kinds of fish and some parts of the cleaning process. But I use the electric knife for most of the heavy-duty cutting, especially for cutting through fish ribs – like those laker and walleye ribs – bluegills, too.

The knife wasn’t totally trouble-free. I clean more fish in a month than many anglers do in a year, and after a month or so one of the batteries conked out. The second battery that came with the knife lasted longer and I purchased a spare, but by the end of the season the on/off trigger started going wonky.

I didn’t replace that knife with an identical one because by then Bubba, maker of Bubba Blade knives – one of my favorite “standard” fillet knives – had come up with their version of a cordless fillet knife. That was my next purchase and new favorite. It worked well, but I don’t use it anymore, either.

I walked up to a fish cleaning station one day and as I was unloading my catch, I heard the familiar sound of an electric knife powering on but with a difference. The knife sounded as if the blades were oscillating at twice the speed. Indeed, they were!

The knife was a new model from Rapala called the R12. I’d have called it the 2X since the blades actually do reciprocate twice as fast as other cordless knives.

I borrowed the knife from the owner and filleted a couple of fish with it, but I was sold after I slabbed off the first fillet. The extra speed made a tremendous difference. Again, I ordered one from an online source that afternoon. I’ve been using my own Rapala R12 cordless knife for two years now.

Bubba now makes a “faster” model with a brushless motor – all the rage in power tools. I’ve not seen or used it, so can’t comment. Other companies offer cordless fillet knives as well, but I have no experience with them.

I still know my way around a fresh fish with a conventional fillet knife and I keep them sharp. They are an important tool in a fish cleaning kit, but they shouldn’t be the only tool.

Still a skeptic? The next time you are at a fish cleaning station, see if you can borrow one from an “enlightened” fish cleaner.

It will likely change your mind.

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