There’s a common saying among anglers that “even a bad day of fishing is still better than a good day at work,” and it would be tough to find an angler that disagrees with the sentiment. After all, it’s hard to be too upset after spending a whole day out on the lake or ocean, or sitting on the shore, fishing and taking in the scenery. But reeling in an abundance of fish is what really makes for a great day of fishing, although with it comes one unpleasant task: cleaning the fish. Thankfully, even that task can be made less unpleasant when anglers have the right set of tools. That doesn’t mean anglers should run out to buy a new set of knives; all it takes is a periodic knife sharpening to make the job easier.
Using a blunt knife is the quickest way for fishermen to fail at filleting fish, and it is perhaps the reason why so many dislike the chore. It makes the process difficult and adds an element of danger to the job, as cutting through the bones and flesh of the fish with a dull knife can lead to a blade through the hand. In fact, many anglers who have had difficulty with the filleting process in the past probably didn’t have the proper blade for the job. But there’s more to knife sharpening than just buying a tool from the store, as even sharpeners that come with a guarantee often don’t get the knife sharp enough to slice through the skin, scales, and bones. This is because many anglers lack the know-how to properly use these tools. While the process seems like it would be straightforward, there are a few tricks to knife sharpening that could make the difference between a clean cut and, well, a cut to the hand.
A proper knife sharpening session actually consists of two elements: sharpening and honing. The sharpening step involves grinding the blade, removing metal, and creating a feathered edge, while the honing step involves straightening out that already-sharp blade. Think of it this way: regular use of the instrument wears that straight edge down over time, knocking it slightly out of alignment and contributing to its dullness. The honing process re-aligns the edge, recreating that clean, sharp cut the knife originally had. The honing process is also quite quick and easy, although it does require the use of honing steel or a good, tough stone. Many anglers are able to do it themselves following one of many simple online video tutorials, but there are also tons of professionals that can perform the job quickly and safely for those that don’t want to take any chances.
When a knife is properly sharpened and honed, it’s much easier and safer to fillet the fish without unnecessary pushing and pulling or accidental slip-ups. There’s no better way to end a great day on the water than with dinner from those freshly filleted fish.