image of several small fishing-related gifts

12 favorite gifts for anglers

From coolers to fillet knives
Amanda Boyles
November 20, 2020

If you're looking for the perfect gift for the angler on your holiday list, we’ve got you covered. Here are a dozen gift ideas for an angler, compiled by a lover all of things fishing.

1. Fillet mat and/or table

image of a black rubber mat used to clean fish on
A fish cleaning mat keeps fish from sliding on the counter and fish scales from going all over.

Cleaning fish can be a messy, awkward activity – but totally necessary if you want to eat your catch. A nice cleaning table for the field or deck, or a non-slip cleaning mat for the kitchen counter are game-changing. They certainly beat getting fish scales all over the kitchen or using the uneven tailgate on your truck to clean fish on.

Here are examples of each depending on your use and budget:

Economy: Fillet Away Fish Mat

Deluxe: fish cleaning table (check Amazon for lots of options)

2. Fillet knife

A photo of several kinds fillet knives
A good fillet knife makes quick work of filleting fish.

A good fillet knife with a long flexible blade can make short work of filleting fish. If the angler in your life has been making due with a kitchen paring knife to fillet fish, they’ll love a dedicated fillet knife.

A little web research, or a conversation with someone at the local tackle store will reveal many options. Here are just a couple of ideas.

Rapala fillet knives
Dexter Russel Fillet Knife

Bubba Blade
Marttiini Salmon Filleting Knife (perfect for the angler  who really does have everything)

3. Knife sharpener

Photo showing both electric and stone knife sharpeners.
Sharpening stones are effective but tricky to master. Powered sharpeners do the work for you.

Fish scales can be hard on a knife blade. And using a dull knife can be dangerous to your fingers. A good knife sharpener can go a long ways toward preventing the swearing and cursing associated with using a dull knife.

Pull-through sharpeners are versatile, inexpensive and small.
Smith’s Handheld Pull Through Knife Sharpener
AccuSharp Gloss Tungsten Carbide 1 Knife and Tool Sharpener

Stones – Stone sharpeners can get expensive and take a bit of practice to master. But, wow, are they nice. They can even give you a razor edge if you work at it.  DMT 10" Dia-Sharp Diamond Stone

Powered sharpener – This kind of sharpener takes the guesswork out of shaping your own edge -- the belt will do it [quickly] for you. Work Sharp Original Knife and Tool Sharpener

4. Fillet gloves.

Photo of two types of fillet gloves
A fillet glove protects your fingers and makes it easier to hold the fish.

Sharp knife + slippery fish = band aids. A good fillet glove will make it easier to hold onto a slippery fish, and protect hands and fingers from the knife’s blade.

Here’s a list of highly-rated fillet glovesRapala fish gloves are a popular choice because they come in different sizes, but this less expensive option is fine, too.




If you’ve got a REALLY special angler in your life, a fillet matt/table, knife and sharpener, and glove can make a nifty gift package.

photo of fishing cleaning tools -- fillet mat, glove, knife and sharpener

Image of an assortment of pre-loaded and self-loaded fly boxes.
You can buy a fly box preloaded with flies (lower right) or buy an empty box and load it with flies yourself.

5. Loaded fly box

There is definitely one thing a fly angler can never have too much of, and that’s FLIES! And more flies can mean a new fly box to put them in.

Putting together a box of flies is a lot easier if you ask for help at the local fly-fishing shop or sporting goods store that sells flies. These experts will know the local waters – and insect hatches – and can help you compile a box of flies suited to local conditions.

You also can find pre-loaded fly boxes filled with popular patterns. Often these collections are more generic than a box of local favorites, but it also can be a great way to try some new things.

The cost of a loaded fly box will depend on the type of fly box and how many flies you put in it.

Economy: You can buy a pre-assembled assortment of flies, and either gift them as is or load them into a fly box of your choosing.

Deluxe:  Wild Water Fly Fishing Most Popular Flies Mini-Mega Assortment, 60 Flies with Small Fly Box

6. Lanyard

image showing two kinds of fishing lanyards
Lanyards keep streamside tools handy, and can hang around the neck or loop over wader straps.

Every fly angler needs a nice lanyard on which to hang their favorite streamside tools such as nippers, hemostats, fly floatant, tippet spool, tippet threader and maybe even a small fly box. Having all these tools on a lanyard makes them convenient and easy to find, even when standing in the water. Most lanyards have a least five hooks to hang tools from, but some may have more.

You can buy a plain lanyard without any tools on it, or a fully loaded lanyard for someone who’s been more nice than naughty this year.

Lanyard only: White River Fly Shop Lanyard
Fully-loaded lanyard: Creative Angler Lanyard with Tools

Lanyard only: Orvis Lanyard – unloaded  
Fully-loaded lanyard: Dr. Slick Fully Loaded Necklace

7. Pliers or multi-tool

image of three different kinds of multi-tools
For many anglers, a multi-tool is a must-have. They come in an array of sizes and features.

A multi-tool can help take fish hooks out of fish, fillet fish when you forget a fillet knife, cut line, sharpen hooks, fix battery connections when your boat won't start …. It’s absolutely, positively the most used tool for many anglers. 

There are a variety of multi-tools to choose from, including options for almost every budget. Here are just two examples of MANY options on the market:

Economy: Dewalt MT16 Multi-Tool

Deluxe: Leatherman Wave

8. Measuring tape

Not only will this keep an angler honest* but a measuring tape can help them stay legal and earn bragging rights when they get home.

You can find measuring tapes at local hardware and sporting goods stores; they don’t have to be fishing specific. Also a quick search can help you purchase one online.

Economy: Milwaukee 6 ft. Keychain Tape Measure

Deluxe: Rapala Retractable Ruler

9. Fish scale

A scale will quantify an angler’s bragging rights, while also keeping them honest.* Bass anglers, in particular, find a fish scale useful.  You can buy a digital or mechanical scale and, unless someone is fishing for halibut (which are ‘weighed’ by a length-chart anyways), they probably don’t need one that reads over 30 pounds.

Economy: Rapala Mini Digital Scale

Deluxe: Rapala 50 Pound High Contrast Digital Scale

*The angler in your life will still exaggerate. It's their duty as fishermen and women.

10. Net

image of four different kinds and sizes of landing nets
Nets come with a variety of bag sizes and handle lengths, depending on what you're fishing for.

A net makes landing a fish easier for both the angler and the fish. There are a variety of nets to choose from, and your choice will depend on whether your recipient fishes from a boat or the bank, as well as what they fish for. For example, boat anglers prefer a net with a long handle for reaching over the side of the boat. Salmon anglers will need a far bigger net than anglers chasing small trout in tiny streams. Anglers who catch-and-release their fish, prefer nets with rubber or plastic netting that helps protect the fish.

If this seems too overwhelming, the staff at most tackle and sporting goods stores can help you choose the right net.

Economy: Fraybill Landing Net

Collapsible net:  Frabill Folding Sturdy Lightweight Fishing Net

Deluxe: Ranger Nets Tournament Series Net

Measure net: Measure Net Rubber Net

11. Cooler

A cooler is one of those must-haves for a day out on the water – it’s right up there with a multi-tool! A cooler can start the day keeping beverages and snacks cold. And end the day keep your catch cold until you get home.

Top-end coolers can keep ice and food cold for several days, but may be overkill for a day of fishing. Think about size and insulating abilities when selecting a cooler.

image of different coolers
Hard-sided, soft-sided and backpack cooler.

A backpack cooler is perfect for anglers who are walking into their fishing spot, or just want a bag they can sling over their shoulder when they’re carrying a load of gear from the car to a boat.

Igloo Wheelie Cool 38 Quart Cooler
The Big Bobber® Floating Cooler

Ultra deluxe:
Yeti Coolers
RTIC Coolers

Backpack cooler: Igloo Gizmo 30-Can Backpack

12. Fishing license

Every adult angler needs one, and it's probably their least favorite thing to buy so it's sure to be appreciated. If your favorite angler also is a hunter, consider a Combination Angling/Hunting license or even a Sports Pac. Remember, children under 12 don't need a license to fish, and a youth license for kids 12-17 is only $10 and includes hunting, shellfishing and a Columbia River Endorsement. Check out the license options.

We haven’t even mentioned smaller do-dahs for Christmas stockings or other occasions. Our favorites include premium versions of everyday tools, or replacements for the things anglers lose all the time.

image of several small streamside tools
Tippet threader, spinners, hook sharpeners, Trout Mints, cap leash, deluxe nippers, lens cloth and braid scissors.

  • A handful of spinners for salmon and steelhead.
  • An assortment of plastic worms, grubs and crayfish for bass and other warmwater species.
  • A pair of premium nippers. The blades on higher-end nippers can be sharpened and even replaced. And they cut like a knife through butter.
  • Braid nippers/scissors. Most standard nippers do fine with monofilament but terribly with the braided line used by many steelhead and salmon anglers.
  • Fish mints. To freshen up after a day on the water – drinking coffee and eating beef jerky.
  • Water thermometer. Fish behavior and insect hatches are based, in part, on water temperatures.
  • Hook sharpener. A couple snags on the rocks, and a hook can lose its sharp point.
  • SPUDZ Microfiber Cloth Screen Cleaner and Lens Cleaner. This small eyeglass cloth tucks into its own bag that can hook on an angler’s vest, lanyard or belt loop.
  • Tippet threader. This nifty little gizmo is a boon to anglers with aging eyesight trying to thread tippet into tiny hook eyes.
  • Hat leash. This small leash clips your fishing hat to the collar of you shirt or jacket. Perfect for the angler who’s always losing their hat in the wind.

Finally, these suggestions make great gifts to give, but also to receive. If you’re an angler yourself, consider adding some of these to your own gift list.

The mention of specific products is used to illustrate a more general line of products or to demonstrate the range of gear available, and does not does not constitute a product endorsement by ODFW.

image of ODFW staff cleaning a salmon

Amanda Boyles is the ODFW Angler Education Coordinator.

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