How to Clean and Fillet a Northern Pike
The pike is an excellent eating fish, but it is so bony that it scares off many fishermen. By removing the Y-bones you make a good meal even better. The technique for getting the Y-bones out of northern pike is easy, and you can avoid most of the bone to get five clean fillets off of one fish.
Filleting the Top
Lay the pike on it's belly and cut about half inch down right behind the head.You'll want a nice, at least 6-inch fillet knife to work with. Cut right behind where the head of the pike meets the body, slicing down until your hit resistance. This is the fish's backbone.
Angle the blade towards the tail and cut all the way towards the fin.Use the backbone as a guide, running down to the top fin. Your entire blade should be in the fish, removing a 1-1/2 inch fillet of flesh from the fish's "back."
Cut upwards, mimicking the angle of the back fin, to remove the top fillet.As you reach the dorsal fin, start curving up so that your knife exits right before you hit the fin. This top fillet should be boneless, as you can stay above all the bones using this method. That said, don't worry if there is bone running down the center.
Use pliers, your fingers, or careful knife work to remove any center bones from the fillet.There shouldn't be many, but take care of them now. If they are deeply embedded, which is more common with larger fish, you may need a set of clean pliers to remove them.
Skin the fillet, if desired, while still fresh.To do so, slide the knife between the skin and flesh, pushing it through the other side. Holding the top of the fish down with one hand, slice all the way down the fillet to remove the fish. Go slowly to prevent accidentally cutting off the meat.
- Some people like to keep the knife still, and actually pull on the skin, ripping it off by keeping the knife between the flesh and skin.
Removing The Side Fillets
Use a finger feel out the Y-shaped bones poking out of the top of the fish.These will be your guides as you cut into the side of the fish. If necessary, use your knife to cut lightly into them, exposing the tops so that you can see your guides as you get into the side fillets.
Flip the fish on its side and plunge the knife in behind the head.This will be right in line with the cut you made on the top of the fish. Again, cut until you hit the bones, which you exposed in the last step. It won't be quite as deep as you went in the top fillet, as the sides are a bit thinner.
Turn the knife and cut down to the dorsal fin, using the Y-bones as you guide.Cut as close to these bones as possible without hitting them to get the most meat. Keep the knife parallel to the cutting board to get a nice, flat fillet.
Pull up as you reach the dorsal fins to complete the fillet.If you want, use your knife to square off any of the edges for a more restaurant-quality fillet. If you'd like, now is also the time to skin the fish.
Check for any stray bones, pulling away with pliers or your fingers.This usually happens if you cut too deep, or at an accidental angle. That said, there are worse problems to have, as you can easily pull a few stray bones out of the fish.
Flip the fish over and repeat on the opposite side.The process is the same, though it can be a little harder to keep the fish balanced with its other side missing. Remember to go slow and use a sharp knife, trying to stay parallel to the cutting board the entire time.
Removing the Tail Fillets and Extra Meet
Locate the vent, a small hole on the underside of the fish.This little hole, the fish's anus, is located on the belly of the fish near the tail. Locate it as the starting point for your fish.
- Cutting the tail fillets of a pike is just like any other fish. If you already know what you're doing, there are no extra bones or steps to worry about with northern pike.
Plunge the knife in just behind the vent, towards the tail.Cut down until you hit the remains of the backbone, then angle the knife back towards the tail. You want to be just tail-side of the vent, so that it is not in your fillet. This hole only provides your starting point -- you don't want to cook it!
Cut along the fish until you just about reach the end.You don't want to totally cut the fillet off. It should have a small "hinge" of skin right where the flesh meets the tail, so you can pull the meat off the fish like an opening door.
Starting at this hinge, get the knife between the skin and meat to easily remove the skin and scales.Leaving the fillet just barely on the fish makes it much easier to skin, as the tail forms a natural hinge.
Use a spoon to scoop out any extra meat around the bones if making a stew, fish patties, meat balls, etc.There is plenty of good meat left on the fish if you're not only interested in the fillets. Simply use a spoon and your knife to pull the meat off the bones and sort out any last bits of bone.
QuestionHow do I clean a walleye?PaulyoutdoorsCommunity AnswerTo clean a walleye is a lot simpler than cleaning a northern pike. Make the incision behind the gill plate, down to the spine. Run the knife along the spine, down to the tail. Remove skin and ribs, and you have a bone-free fillet.Thanks!
- A filleting glove for extra grip can be used while cleaning northern pike.
- The "ridge of bones" will look like white dots running down the fillet. These are the Y-bones. The ones you want to remove.
- Invite your friends and impress them how good northern pike tastes with no bones!
- Make sure you have a sharp knife. If you are working on a number of fish, have a good sharpener with you.
Video: Cleaning A Northern Pike, No Bones, No Slime, No Kidding
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