Fillet boards can be made from a variety of materials, however the feature they have in common 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 fish cleaning tool is the one that allows you to clean your fish safely, consistently and easily, ending with no bones and clean fillets. Anglers say their biggest concern is preventing the fish from slipping or sliding amidst all the slime, in order to meet this goal.
Over the years we have tested and used many different fillet boards. Flat wooden boards, flat HDPE boards, the old stand by clip board type clip meant to hold the tail of your fish and scale them, a board with a nail, and many more. Recently we have begun using TWO WAY Fillet®. We find it easy, safer (no slipping) and we consistent;y get more meat and cleaner fillets. Read more about it and try one out. Fillet A Better Way®.
We have just received a memo from Crappie Dan Dannenmueller telling us he agrees! He is now using and fully endorses TWO WAY Fillet®.
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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 Evans Sports 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 gift from a close friend of PFT.
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.
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 informative pages that discuss a variety of topics important for cleaning your fish: