While Pike might not be the most delicious fish, it’s full of nutritional benefits and a treasured food source in many communities. Pike are generally thought of as being good to eat, with a surprisingly good flavor for freshwater fish.
What Does Pike Taste Like?
Taste is directly related to preparation, so if you’re cleaning and fileting your Pike correctly, it’ll taste great. Some people complain that Pike taste too “fishy,” however they aren’t overly so and have a pretty firm flesh and texture. Other anglers claim that larger fish have tastier meat on them (any Pike over 5 lbs). When cooked correctly this species has a mild, but very distinct, flavor.
Does Pike Have a Lot Of Bones?
Yes, Pike are a very bony species. Fishermen who catch Pike and intend to eat them should be prepared to clean and filet the fish properly to avoid accidentally eating bones, which could cause injury or become a choking hazard. Pike are known for the “Y” bones, a serious of Y-shaped bones running over the ribs. Despite their boniness, Pike still have a lot of meat on them and are therefore a prized food fish.
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Does Pike Have a Lot of Mercury?
This can be a tough question to answer as it’s relative. Pike, like most other fish, do contain mercury, and due to their size you’re likely ingesting more than you would if you ate a smaller fish. However Pike have less mercury than most saltwater fish. Many people worry about mercury in fish because it’s a neurotoxin, meaning that at high levels it can cause a lot of damage to developing babies and children.
However most experts agree that only women who are or can become pregnant, nursing moms, and children under the age of 12 need to worry about mercury consumption. If you’re not in any of the categories above, it’s perfectly safe to eat Pike.
Do Pike Have Worms?
All fish have worms, and they’re actually a good sign! While you might initially be grossed out seeing a worm wriggle around on your filet, this means that the meat is very fresh. You won’t see a worm on every fish you catch, but be assured that they’re even in supermarket fish – employees just clean the filets up before selling them, the same way you’ll clean yours up before cooking. Simply pick the worms out or, if you’re worried about missing one or two, make sure to cook the fish properly, which will kill the worms.
How to Clean Northern Pike
Cleaning a fish properly goes a long way in making it taste good when it finally comes to fishing. Pike in particular can be tough to clean, as they’re a little more intensive than other species. Here are some of the key points you want to hit when cleaning your Pike:
- Bleed – This is arguably the most important part of the process. Bleed a fish as soon as you can; for some fishermen, that might mean right when they catch it. For others, when they get home. Blood in a fish’s meat will drastically change the taste, most times for the worse.
- Filet without y bones – Y-bones run down a Pike’s rib cage and can be removed during a careful process when fileting your fish. This will create less worry when you’re sitting down to eat.
- Filet with y bones – You can also choose to keep the Y-bones, but most people don’t choose to go this route as you’ll end up picking bones out as you eat.
- Remove y bones – Removing the bones after fileting will go a long way in safety and ease.
Do You Need To Bleed Northern Pike?
While you don’t have to bleed Northern Pike, it is highly recommended by most game fishermen. Bleeding your fish goes a long way in getting a “cleaner” taste, as the blood won’t sit in the veins and create a poor flavor. It’s the same concept as bleeding game mammals when you hunt.
To bleed your fish, simply make a deep cut in the throat right after catching them. If you don’t want to make a mess, do this over a bucket. You’ll know when you hit the right spot – blood should gush out almost immediately in a steady stream. This will also put the fish out of its misery faster and make for an ethical catch.
How Do You Filet Pike?
There are several debated ways to filet a Pike. If this is your first time, follow the steps below:
- Sharpen your filet knife.
- Lay the fish on its belly and cut just behind the head, about a half inch deep.
- Starting back at the head, angle the blade down and toward the tail. Follow the backbone, making a long cut that should give you a filet about 1.5 inches deep from the “back” of the fish.
- As you reach the posterior dorsal fin, curve your knife upwards. You want to finish the cut before you reach this fin. This top filet is boneless, but if you do spot any bones running down the center of the filet, remove them carefully with the knife, pliers, or your fingers.
- If you don’t want skin on your filet, place it skin-side down on the cutting board. Work the knife carefully between the skin and the meat. Holding the meat down at one end, carefully slide your knife toward the other end between the skin and flesh.
- To cut the side filets, first check for those Y-shaped bones by feeling along the top of the fish.
- Flip the fish on one side and cut down just behind the head/gill area once more. You’ll hit bone; this is where you’ll begin cutting along the body, following those bones. Use the Y-shaped bones as your guide, cutting above them to keep as much meat as possible, but to keep the bones out.
- Once you reach the dorsal fin, pull your knife upwards once more.
- Skin if desired.
- Flip the fish over and do the other filet.
How to Remove Y Bones on a Pike
If you’d rather try a different way to filet Pike, check out the method below, which includes removing the Y-bones in one cut.
- With the fish on its side, make a cut just behind the head under the jaw. Run your knife down the fish’s belly (gut it if necessary, being careful not to pierce any organs).
- Stop this cut just before the posterior dorsal fins.
- Hold the Pike securely by the head and make another cut, this time down the center of the spine, all the way to the tail. This should be a deep cut that results in a filet.
- Make the same cut along the backbone on the other side, releasing the second filet.
- Now that you have two filets, find the Y-bones (kind of like a ribcage). These bones are attached by a white lining.
- Slide your knife beneath this lining and, very carefully, make a shallow cut down the length of the filet.
- Remove the lining. Now, when you run your knife down the filet, you’ll be able to see and hear the click of the Y-bones that have been exposed. You will also see a “dotted line.”
- Make a cut just above the dotted line, straight down and along the line until you hear the knife hit the Y-bones. Follow the shape of the bones as you cut, eventually cutting in and under the bones. Then follow the same line upwards and out of the filet. You are essentially cutting along the shape of a “Y”. Do this along the entire filet, and remove the Y-bones in one strip of flesh.
How to Cook Northern Pike
Thanks to its tender but firm flesh, Northern Pike can be cooked several different ways. This is part of what makes this species such a versatile, popular food source. Here are just a few of our favorite ways to cook Pike:
- Oven-baked (with or without breading)
- Battered & fried
- Pan fried
- Pike sandwiches
- Northern Pike tacos
No matter how you like your Pike, this fish has a great flavor that pairs well with other seasonings or can hold up on its own.
Does Pike Taste Like Muskie?
The Muskie, a close relative of Northern Pike (they’re from the same, larger, Pike family), grows much larger in size but still has that same aggression and, unfortunately, boniness. Compared to Muskie, Pike have a slightly different taste. Many anglers think Muskie tastes more similar to Bass than Pike, however the quality of the flesh is the same.
If you’ve finally gone out and found yourself a Pike, it’s hard not to take it home as a prize fish. This species gets huge, and it’s easy to see why it’s so well-loved as a source of food. One good-sized Pike will get you a few different dinners, so try out some of the recipes listed above. Happy fishing!