REVIEWED BY: Capt. Mike Schoonveld

         I used to be a filet knife knucklehead. I owned only one medium sized (very sharp) filet knife and used it to turn anything from a tiny trout to a wicked tuna into boneless, serving sized fish flesh.

Last year I switched to a two-knife system for most of my fish cutting chores. I used a rechargeable electric knife to cut the filets off of the king salmon, steelhead, lake trout and walleyes I put on the cleaning table, then I switched to a manual blade to complete the boning and skinning process. I wish I’d made that switch years earlier. I was a knucklehead.

If I’d remained a knucklehead, when I saw Church Tackle’s “reinvention” of the filet knife I’d have laughed it off. With my new-found open mindedness about fish cleaning knives, I decided to give the Church Filet Knife a closer look.

Now I realize not only was I a knucklehead, I was a knuckle-dragger. So are you, most likely when you filet small fish or remove the skin from any of your filets unless you move them to the edge of the filet table or cutting board. The Church Filet Knife should be named the Knuckle-Saver.

The handle is molded with an offset so when the blade is against the cutting board the knuckles on my hand aren’t dragging on the surface of the board. That’s different, but even more different is how the blade is turned 90 degrees from the direction every other knife is positioned. When the holding the knife, blade down on the cutting surface, knuckles positioned nicely above the slime and blood on the filet table, the blade is flat on the board. What sort of knucklehead wants that?

The truth is, for skinning a fish, the configuration of this knife is perfect – conventional knives, not so much. Sure, I’ve skinned thousands of perch, walleye, bluegills and other fish over the years with a normal knife by sliding the fish to the edge of the cutting board so I can get the knife blade parallel to the cutting surface, slice off the skin and not be a knuckle-dragger fish skinner. I’ve also cleaned up buckets full of fish garbage from the floor of the fish cleaning station where it dripped off the edge of the table while cutting and skinning my filets.

One more departure from normal is the knuckle-knife is only honed sharp on one side (the top side), much like you should sharpen mower blades. When skinning a fish, that ensures the blade cuts razor close to the skin, less likely to slice through the skin and doesn’t leave any excess meat on the skin.

I did filet a few fish, first cut to last with the knife. Other than feeling a bit weird in my hand, the filets came out just fine. I’ve pounded nails with a rock before and the nails stuck in the wood just fine. If you want to be a knife snob and just use one knife, start to finish, this isn’t the knife for you. However, if like a carpenter, you recognize certain tools are better than others for specific jobs, having the Church “Knuckle-Saver” Filet Knife for skinning your catch makes sense.

The Church Filet Knife is currently available only for right-handers and has an 8-inch blade complete with a snug fitting sheath that won’t slip partially off when bouncing around in a boat or vehicle. Available at retail outlets, online retailers or order from

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