Saturday, August 7, 2010






Other than filet knives, I like having a variety of fishing knives in my tackle box and nearby when I'm fishing. Ropes might need cutting, as might snagged lines. A good knife can make short work of cleaning fish if you're not fileting them. My family has a cornmeal based recipe that goes back decades for fried speckled trout, that involves not fileting but scaling, deheading and gutting and then frying the fish, bones in and skin on.

These days, I'm not as keen on keeping what I catch, and for several reasons. Pollution, shortage of game fish and just general attitudes about life of all kinds and conservationship are the main reasons. I love certain kinds of fish, particularly freshwater blue catfish, specks, red snapper and rainbow trout are my personal favorites, although a large part of my youth involved catching and eating en masse various crappie and perch species. One of my East Texas Uncles "owned" Lake Palestine back then, as far as I was concerned, because he never came in with less than two large fish baskets jammed full of prime crappie.

That Uncle used some sort of Buck belt knife when cutting bait, or ropes, or fishing line. He carried some sort of folding knife that had long seen better days in his tacklebox as a spare. If were were running trotlines for catfish in Palestine at night, he'd use his belt knife to cut hunks of chicken liver and various other smelly live and dead baits that might need some kind of cutting. Of course, perch and other fish that were caught on the trotline became bait themselves, unless it was a nice largemouth, but smaller bass got cut into pieces for the trotline.

Likewise, if you're boating in the lakes that I am, which are primarily East Texas lakes like Conroe, Livingston, Lake Fork, Lake of the Pines, Lake Murval, Lake Fairfield and other lakes in the Eastern part of Texas, you're going to be fishing in areas people call "The Jungle" because of trees standing in the water, all kinds of vegetation, old ropes, old trotlines and lines tied to trees hanging over and into the water, and stuff like water weeds, lilly pads and the like growing in shallower shoreline and swampy areas. That means you fishing lines and possibly boat and anchor lines might get snagged some time, and no amount of gyrating and pulling will free the snag.

I carry a pair of wire cutters in my tackle box as well as a knife, for two reasons. If you come across abandoned barbed wire that has strayed into a river, creek or lake from erosion, and need to cut it, you can cut it. Also, if someone gets hooked on their person, a pair of wire cutters to cut the barb off of the hook makes backing a hook out of a body part much easier and much more tolerable for the impaled party.

Also, sometimes it's necessary to hack vines and such when traversing either shallow waters, shoreline areas or the swampy backwater areas of the upper end of East Texas lakes formed on rivers that hold so many black bass. Abandoned and littered mono line is not uncommon to encounter in huge clumps that sometimes need to be cut to get through a passage.

I've had to build an emergency shelter on dry land when a huge unexpected and unpredicted lightning and thunder storm came over Lake Conroe years ago. We beached the boat in a heavily wooded area and sought safety on shore. Fortunately, there were several of us, and all of had knives to build a quick "lean to" frame of tree limbs and rope covered with leafy branches from oak, pecan and pine trees on top of some cheap rain panchos as a roof and sides to give us some shelter from the storm.

So a knife is handy on a fishing trip for myriad reasons. Because there are so many reasons and uses for a knife, either on a small boat, a larger boat, a kayak or canoe or a shorebound angler, I've been looking for the "perfect" knife for fishing.

As a kid, I had one of the hokey fishing knives that came in cased in a wooden rectangle, resembling a fat 12" ruler, about 1" x 1.5" by 12". It came apart in the middle and had a 3" or 4" knife inside of it. It was called a Fisherman's Liar Ruler because on one side it had an accurate ruler and on the other it had hugely exaggerated measurements, so that a 10" fish became a 30" fish on the lying side of the ruler.

My dad brought it back from a road trip for business. I still have it and treasure it although the knife ain't so great in holding an edge after all these years. But in it's day, it cleaned a lot of fish.
One side was a sharp side and the other side was sort of a scalloped blade for scaling.

Interestingly, the canvas and rubber shoulder creels that were sold at K Mart and Gibson's in the 60's and 70's had a compartment at the top that was just the right size to fit the Fisherman's Liar Knife. It is a snap compartment that runs the length of the top of the fabric creel, with three snaps to secure the knife in the compartment. Nowadays, I carry a Rapala filet knife in that compartment when fishing, but the Rapala is fixing to have some company.

I've come across a knife made by the Columbia River Knife and Tool Company. It's a great knife and the only drawbacks are that it doesn't have a hilt guard and it does not come with a sheath, just a plastic blade protector. I'd rather have a plastic or kydex or heavy ballistic fabric shealth, but even a leather one would be better than none. It's the CRKT Marine Utility Knife (M.U.K.), with a "veff edge", meaning designed by some fellow named Tom Veff.

It looks great for chopping bait, including hard frozen bait like mullet and shrimp, and it looks as if it'd be a great addition to the tackle box.

When I did a lot of canoe and kayak fishing in the 1990's on the Medina and Guadalupe rivers, I carried a Gerber River Shorty knife, which has a serrated edge, a blunt end (like a diver's knife) and a unique form fitting plastic sheath that could be clipped onto a life vest with one of the accessory clips often found on river running life vests. I can see the use of the blunt end for cutting rope and fishing line tangles one might encounter on the river, but as a fisherman a point is nice to have on a knife. I often use the point of the knife to break up frozen mullet that are frozen to each other.

If you are surf or saltwater fishing, and you happen to hook a shark, a knife is a mighty nice thing to have to cut that seriously hard to cut braided line I use with saltwater baitcasting gear. A hook will rust out or fall out of a sharks mouth relatively quickly, and although I catch and release the sharks I catch, I'm afraid I don't do any hook removal inside the sharks mount. I cut the wire leader a reasonable and safe distance from the sharks mount in such a way it can't snag anything. I'm sorry to the animal lovers that I don't dehook the mouth of the shark, but I've yet to figure out a safe way to do that.

I'm on the lookout for great belt knives for fishing, and would welcome any suggestions. For a fishing knife, a hilt to prevent a hand slipping down to the blade area and a rubber handle with a lanyard hole is considered mandatory by me.

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