On a recent winter camping trip in Canada (more on this in a later post) I was shown a really great way of filleting a pike.
If you’ve ever filleted a pike, or otherwise prepared a pike for eating, you’ll know these fish contain awkward Y-shaped bones that are hard to remove from the flesh.
The Three-Fillet Method For A Pike
In the past, when preparing a pike I have usually used the method of taking three bone-free strips off the fish, one from from the top and one from each side, avoiding the Y-bones and leaving them on the fish. I was shown this “three-fillet” method many years ago and I’m sure it is known to many. It’s quick and easy. But it can be quite wasteful, however, particularly on a bigger pike.
Is Pike Worth Eating, Though?
There is a misguided belief that pike is not good eating. Quite the contrary. All you need is some oil or butter, a bit of salt and pepper, along with a fry pan. Plus, the fish has given its life so you can eat. So, it’s worth making as much use of the fish’s flesh as possible.
An approach you can take to making the most of a pike is the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall approach, boiling a pike to make a terrine or jellied pike, as he does in one of the early episodes of River Cottage, and shown in the original River Cottage Cookbook. This is a nice method of using the whole fish if you have a country kitchen and the relevant implements but it’s not field expedient and certainly not practical for a summer canoe trip or a winter hot-tenting trip.
Ice Fishing For Pike
While in Canada, I was on a trip with Lure of the North, participating in their Life On The Trapline course. Jesse Hutchinson was our instructor and he was teaching us much about trapping (again, more on this at a later date). Jesse is also a prodigious fisherman.
Mid-week, we spent an afternoon ice fishing. David, one of the other guys on the course, caught a decent-sized pike.
David’s acquisition of a northern pike provided a great opportunity for Jesse to later show us a superior method of filleting a pike.
The Best Way To Fillet A Pike (I have seen)
This method more carefully dismantles the fish than the three-fillet method, and tidily removes the Y-bones in the process. As a result, there is minimal waste of flesh. This is good ethically, as well as nutritionally.
Jesse showed us this method of filleting a pike using his bush knife and the underside of a toboggan, which he had brought into the Snowtrekker tent to use as his cutting board. It wasn’t the most level set-up but Jesse did a tidy job regardless. We sat on comfy boughs of balsam fir while we watched the demonstration, illuminating his workspace with our headlamps.
In this method, no top strip is taken. Rather, two side fillets are taken that are thicker than in the three-fillet method.
Then a series of neat and carefully-placed cuts allows each side fillet to be dismantled, with the Y-bones finally being removed, with only a small amount of flesh wasted.
Watch A Video Of Jesse’s Pike Filleting Method
It was hard to capture every step of the process on a phone camera in a dark tent, as well as take in all the details that Jesse was describing.
Fortunately for all of us, Jesse has a video of the method, including all the techniques, on his YouTube channel, which is embedded below. It’s certainly worth 12 minutes of your time.
If you enjoyed this video, give Jesse a thumbs-up, and maybe even subscribe.
Plus let me know what you think of this article, any thoughts or observations you might have, in the comments section below.