Fillet boards can be made from a variety of materials, however the feature they all offer is a flat surface on which you can clean your fish without dulling your knife. Regardless of which one you pick up or find available at a cleaning station, when you are ready to clean you fish it is also time to start thinking about what those fillets are going to taste like when fixed for dinner, whether deep fried, pan fried, grilled or baked.
The best cleaning board for you is the one that allows you to clean or fillet the fish you catch efficiently, safely and naturally. Billions of fish have been cleaned over the centuries with anglers using just their hands, a knife and a flat surface - even a rock. Most will tell you that they have had an occasional fin stick or accidental cut with the knife. PFT has field tested prototypes of a brand new patented cleaning system (called TWO WAY Fillet®) that uses a clamp to hold the lower jaw instead of the tail of your fish. This clamp then snaps onto the fillet board anchoring the fish. We found less slipping, fin sticks, gill sticks, and more efficiency. We have used a wide variety of fillet boards over the years and are excited to see its introduction.
TWO WAY Fillet® is now on the market. Their tagline - Fillet A Better Way® - has us all here at PFT agreeing, TWO WAY Fillet® is a great addition to any anglers tackle.
Key feature: The TWO WAY Fillet clamp holds your fish by the lower lip instead of by the tail, then snaps onto the board with fish on its side. Unsnap the clip with one hand and turn over for side two. The fish is anchored to the board which gives you a free hand. The clamp replaces your hand around the head, mouth and gill plate which means less to no abrasions/road rash on your hand. Because of the anchored position the fish will not slip, slide or get away from the angler which means more accuracy. Our feedback is the following: this is one of the best additions in the fillet process in years.
2x8 Cleaning Station Board, and 3/4 Inch Board from Store
Wooden cutting boards are in widespread use and are most common, primarily because wood is so easily available. Shown above left is a 24 inch section of a 2"x 8" wooden board commonly found at fish cleaning stations. The picture on the right is a wooden kitchen cutting board purchased from a local kitchen store. Wood can get scored by your knife blade in the cleaning process but will cause minimum dulling of your blade edge. A two inch thick board is ideal because this thickness raises the fish cleaning process high enough so that the anglers knife blade can remain parallel to the board surface, and allow the anglers hand and knuckles to glide smoothly without hitting the surface below.
This Rapala board features a metal clamp designed to hold the fish by the tail so that you could remove the scales from your fish.
Larger wooden boards are available on the market. Many of these can be found made from fine wood like oak, maple, cherry or other hardwoods. Local craftsmen and women also can be found that will custom make you a fillet board. Pictured below is a nice board a close friend of PFT gave us.
Ron's Custom made Cutting Board
Becoming increasingly popular are cutting boards made from HDPE. HDPE (High-density polyethylene) is a polyethylene thermoplastic. You are familiar with plastic bags used by many retail companies. These are also made of polyethylene but are of course very thin. When HDPE is used to make fillet boards means you get a board that will be impact, wear and chemical resistant. Even though they resist abrasion, they will not dull your fillet knife. Most commercially available cutting surfaces that are not made of wood but are made from HDPE. HDPE is excellent for restaurant quality food preparation and is able to meet all the requirements of the FDA for that purpose. It is also heat resistant and safe in dishwashers. HDPE won't crack or weather like wood does when it ages.
The most common features that can be found on fillet boards are:
The majority of clamps found on commercial cutting boards have a hinge that is parallel to the board's surface. (Think of a common clip board.) This easily clamps onto the tail of the fish, and is a hold over from the days of cleaning fish when the first step was to remove the scales. These clamps most often appear on boards that are 6-8 inches wide and 18-24 inches long. Because many anglers prefer to hold the fishes mouth with their hand and thumb they also prefer to simply use a cutting board without this type of clamp. This enables you to fillet the fish, without it slipping onto the floor, and also helps you keep from cutting yourself with your knife. This does not completely do away with the mess, because a fish reflex can still occur and their tail flip up in the air when about half done. This is especially a problem when you have to turn it over to fillet the other side.
Plain - many fillet boards sold today are simply plain - do not have any special clamps or pins. It is common for fillet boards to have a ruler and a groove around the edge to collect drippings. These plain boards can be small or large depending on the needs of the angler and the size of the fish expected to be caught and cleaned.
Check out these other fine pages that discuss a variety of topics important for cleaning your fish: