Have you ever tried eating pike? If you have, you’ll probably agree that it’s delicious. Baked, batter fried or grilled are some ways to enjoy this fish. Many pike which are caught by anglers are quickly released, knowing that pike are too bony and therefore not worth cleaning. Another reason for not cleaning a pike is the simple fact that many anglers just don’t know how to.
Here’s how to clean them:
- Place pike belly down onto cutting board.
- With a pointy, sharp filleting knife, make a vertical cut behind the head and straight down to the backbone (don’t cut through the back bone – you should be able to feel the backbone with the knife blade).
- With the knife still in the fish, rotate the knife blade 90 degrees away from the head, and with knife tip exposed, work the knife back & forth to make a horizontal cut along the top of the backbone. Stop cutting when the cutting edge of blade is in-line with the beginning of the dorsal fin. Make a vertical cut from the beginning of the dorsal fin straight down to meet the horizontal cut. You should now have a fillet of the “back” of the pike.
- Lay the pike on its side. Make a vertical cut (beginning at the cut from behind the head) down to the back bone all across the pike’s side (again not through the back bone). Repeat the same cut starting at the vertical cut from the dorsal fin end. Then, turn the pike back on its belly again. If you look closely down on the flesh, you’ll notice a row of tiny “dots” – these are the tips of the “y” bones.
- Insert the knife tip, (from head end) into the flesh beside the “skin side” of the “y” bone and make a shallow cut all along the length of the exposed flesh along the “y” bones. Repeat making the same cut always hugging the “y” bones with the tip of your knife. Continue cutting deeper & along the length, eventually hugging the rib cage with your knife tip. While doing so, you will constantly be pulling the fillet away from the carcass. When you have reached a point where the ribs end, (close to the pike’s belly), pierce through the flesh and skin (start from behind head of pike) and make a cut along the pike’s length just above the belly. You should now have a long fillet of the pike’s “side”.
- Next, lay the pike on its side (exposing cut-up side). You now have a small “tail” portion of meat left. With your knife blade parallel with the cutting board and touching the back bone, make a horizontal cut into the flesh (knife tip should always be exposed) along the backbone. Work towards the tail fin and cut the fillet completely off of the carcass. You now have a “tail” fillet.
- Now turn the fish over on its opposite side and repeat the same steps to produce the other two fillets. When you’re done, you should now have five fillets.
- Finally you can remove the skin off of the fillets by laying the fillet (skin- side down) onto your cutting board. With your fingers (or a fork), clamp down on the edge of the skin. Again, your knife blade should be parallel with the cutting board and position the cutting edge between the skin and the flesh. With knife tip always exposed, work the knife back & forth to the end of the fillet.
- After removing the skin from the “back” fillet, you will notice a thin membrane running along the center and throughout the length of the fillet. You can remove this membrane by simply separating the meat from the membrane with your fingers by pulling them apart.
And that’s how it’s done. It does take practice to get great looking fillets though, but you’ll see it’s well worth the effort when you taste this delicious fish.
Good luck with your next pike,
and don’t forget to watch the how to fillet a pike video