How to Filet a Pike

How to Filet a Pike

pike-ready-for-filleting-lgPhotos by Holly A. Heyser

The ornery northern pike is one of the great game fish of the Upper Midwest and Canada. Anyone who's ever caught one can tell you stories about their fighting prowess. But when it comes to the table, in most places you will get a raised eyebrow and some expression of disbelief that you can actually eat them: "Don't they have a lot of bones?"

Actually, yes they do. But in Canada and in other places where the not-so-secret knowledge of how to fillet a pike hasn't been lost, the northern's reputation as table fare exceeds even that of the sacred walleye. I happen to agree. Pike to me has a tighter flake and a denser, richer flavor without being oily or fishy. As far as shore lunch goes, it has no equal.

But the trick is to get boneless pieces to fry up. There are any number of ways to do this.


First, with small pike about 14 inches or thereabouts, you can fillet like a regular fish, removing the ribs of course, and then slice the fillets into little fingers vertically—i.e., perpendicular to where the backbone was—and fry anyway. This process opens up the little "Y" bones to the hot oil and softens them enough to where you will barely notice them. Extra calcium, anyone?


This won't work with a decent-sized pike, though. For that you really do need to deal with the "Y" bones. I was recently up at Gods Lake in Manitoba, Canada, where we fished pike with Cree Indian guides. The guides filleted the northerns in the usual way, then sliced out the "Y" bones in a strip, leaving a normal-looking fillet (more or less).


This is a perfectly good way to do the job. But the problem is that even though the pike fillet looks like that of, say, a walleye, it isn't—it is of many different thicknesses, so cooking it whole will be a challenge. The Cree get around this by cutting the fillets into pieces and frying them up for shore lunch.

I prefer a different method. My method I learned from reading the late, great A. J. McClane's Encyclopedia of Fish Cookery many years ago. It results in not two fillets, but five. I've also improved on McClane's method by borrowing a trick from salmon anglers: using a spoon to scrape out all the extra meat from the carcass as well as from in between those "Y" bones.

Here's how to do it:


Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

Recommended for You

Try these tips to improve your wild boar hunting skill set. Hogs

Quick Tips: How to Spot and Stalk a Hog

Ian Nance - May 28, 2019

Try these tips to improve your wild boar hunting skill set.

Adam Heggenstaller takes over after 14 years with NRA Publications. News

Game & Fish Magazine Names New Editorial Director

G&F Online Staff - May 23, 2019

Adam Heggenstaller takes over after 14 years with NRA Publications.

Our picks for stuffable protection against any weather.

Field Tested: Lightweight Raingear

David Draper - May 30, 2019

Our picks for stuffable protection against any weather.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Lowrance Enters Trolling-Motor Market with Ghost

Lowrance Enters Trolling-Motor Market with Ghost

Lowrance's Lucas Steward shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead what all of the fuss is about in the brand new Ghost trolling motor being brought to market by the Tulsa, Okla.-based fishing equipment manufacturer.

Berkley

Berkley's New Terminal Tackle

OSG's Lynn Burkhead and Chad LaChance, host of World Fishing Network's Fishful Thinker television show, talk about Berkley's new innovative terminal tackle being introduced at ICAST 2019.

As KVD tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead, innovative Humminbird products and cutting-edge technology like that found in the new Mega 360 Imaging sonar are major reasons contributing to his unparalleled success.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

 Catfish tend to be found in shallower water at night, but they are still active during the day; Catfish

Catfish Night & Day: How to Catch 'Em Both Ways

Terry Madewell - April 04, 2018

Catfish tend to be found in shallower water at night, but they are still active during the...

As most catfish anglers know, blue cats, channel cats and flatheads will eat darn near anything that fits in their mouths. Catfish

5 Ways To Catch Catfish on Lures

Keith Sutton - September 16, 2015

As most catfish anglers know, blue cats, channel cats and flatheads will eat darn near...

Unlike many game fish, catfish can be harder to catch during the spawn. Here are some strategies. Catfish

Understanding Catfish Spawning

Keith Sutton - June 06, 2006

Unlike many game fish, catfish can be harder to catch during the spawn. Here are some...

See More Stories

More Other Freshwater

 New fishing waders, boots and storm gear are featured. (Shutterstock image)

Game & Fish looks Other Freshwater

Trout Waders, Boots, Storm Gear for '18

David Paul Williams - July 23, 2018

New fishing waders, boots and storm gear are featured. (Shutterstock image) Game & Fish...

Dead baits under a float provide an easy meal for early-spring northern pike. Other Freshwater

Killer Tips for Catching Pike with Dead Baits

Mike Gnatkowski

Dead baits under a float provide an easy meal for early-spring northern pike.

He was fishing for catfish when the Missouri record struck. Records

Angler Doesn't Miss 2nd Chance at State Record

G&F Online Staff - July 25, 2019

He was fishing for catfish when the Missouri record struck.

See More Other Freshwater

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

×