Northern Pike (scientifically known as Esox Lucius) is a carnivorous fish generally found in brackish or fresh waters of the northern hemisphere. Colloquially known simply as ‘pike’ in the better part of Europe, Canada, and the United States is a very delicious dish to have if made properly.
As the name suggests, Northern Pike is mainly found in the northern hemisphere, including Russia, North America, and Europe. ‘Great Lake Pike’ is another name for these fish. They are aggressive and resort to cannibalism when food is scarce. However, these fish can grow to huge proportions. While the average length is 16 to 22 inches, the maximum recorded length is below a whopping 5 feet. The Northern Pike generally weighs around sixteen kilograms and is caught for sport fishing.
The most common color found in these fish is olive green – ranging from yellow to white along the underside belly. Their sides are beautifully patterned with spots, and their fins can sometimes be reddish. Along with scales, the lower half of its jaw and its head has huge sensory pores. As mentioned before, these fish are carnivores. Young pike generally feeds on smaller invertebrates like daphnia.
Here are some fun facts about the northern pike.
The northern pike is not endangered and is a delicacy in many regions. People are reluctant to eat the Northern pike because its flesh and very bony, and without proper treatment, these bones can become an inconvenience. However, when properly done, they can be a delicious treat. This article will tell you how to catch a Northern pike, treat it properly, and good ways to cook it.
Is Northern Pike a Good Fish to Eat?
How to Catch a Northern Pike?
The ideal place for fishing a pike is a freshwater lake during spring. During spring, pikes come to the shallow waters to lay eggs, and hence, shore fishing is best suited for this time.
In summers, female pikes retire to the deeper and cooler waters, so boat fishing is better here.
The most effective ways of baiting a Northern pike are dead baits, lure fishing, and jerk baiting. Using live fish as bait is illegal in many countries; however, dead fish is as effective as Northern pikes sense for prey by smell. Just take care while unhooking the hook from the jaw of a northern pike as it has very sharp teeth.
How to Properly Pick Bones Out of a Northern Pike?
Bones are the main reason people are reluctant to consume pike. Even though its flesh is delicious, its bones make it inconvenient. Even though it is a tedious process, it is necessary to do this before cooking it.
You will need a sharp knife for most of it. The most difficult bone to pick from the fish is the infamous Y-bone.
- Firstly, start by laying the fish sideways, making an incision of medium depth from the bottom of its head, and dragging it along its belly to its hind side.
- Then, securing the fish firmly, cut off the head of the fish.
- Next, make a cut along the backbone of the fish till its tail. Now, extract the fillet from the fish, doing the same once again to the other. Now, you will have two nice fillets on your hand.
In this step, you have to take the bones from the rib cage of the northern pike. This is a fairly easy task because the rib cage in Northern pikes is not too deep into the flesh compared to other fish.
- Align your knife to the white cavity line on the bottom of the fillet. The line is visible. Now, push your knife gently into the flesh, keeping in mind not to go too deep into the body. Keep pushing in gently till it clears the ribs and then cut through the line where the ribs end.
All ribs have been removed now.
- The next part is cutting the fins of which is even easier. All you have to do is make a V-shaped notch where the V’s two points are at the points where the fin meets the body. That is it. You can now throw them away.
Now comes the nastiest part of picking the bones out of a northern pike – properly removing the Y-bones. Y bones can be difficult to remove, and in many methods, a lot of good flesh is cut away. However, in this method, the flesh loss is minimum. Rest easy, this is the last step in this process, and then, you will have great pieces of pike to cook.
- Look closely at your pike. Just above the line where you cut through to take the ribs out, you will see a “dotted line.” This line will run for almost the entire length of the fish. Use your knife to cut straight above the line. Keep pushing till you hit the bone. If unsure, fish, you can make a small incision along the dotted line to make it easier to guide your knife. It will look similar to the picture above.
- Follow the length of the bone parallelly with the knife so that the bones separate from the flesh. Keep cutting till the end of the Y bone.
- Next, do the same for the bottom side of the bone. This part is slightly tricky so do this next part very carefully.
- Cut in and then under the Y bone from the top part. Just like you did with the rib cage, push till you clear the set of Y bones and bring the knife out the other side.
- Gently life the strip containing the bones, and you can now discard it. Be sure that the fish is completely deboned.
It should look similar to this. Now, you have two good pieces of northern pike without any bones to cook and eat without any worries. Now, we move on to the next section of this article.
How to Properly Cook a Northern Pike
I will talk about several recipes in this segment so that there are various ways to choose from. Without further ado, let us get right into it.
1. Roasted Pike with Lemon and Butter Sauce
Ingredients: Northern Pike fish, butter, parsley, a clove, lemons, and onions.
Time Required: 45 minutes.
After the bones have been picked and the internal organs discarded, rinse the pike thoroughly with cold water. Keep the pike away as it is time to prepare the sauce.
You will need two ounces of butter, a half-cut lemon, a tablespoon of freshly chopped parsley, and a grated clove for the sauce. Now, melt the butter and keep heating until it is a little brown. Add the lemon juice from the half lemon, the parsley, and the clove. Keep heating it for a couple of minutes.
While the sauce is on the stove, take the pike you kept aside and make 4 slim diagonal slits on the fish. This will allow the sauce you prepared to penetrate the fish properly and give it the desired flavor. Now, slice onions and lemons and make a shallow bed of both slices on a baking tray. Take the sauce off the stove after two minutes. Apply the sauce on the fish and keep it on the bed of sliced onions and lemons. Make sure to apply ample quantities of sauce.
Leave the fish to absorb the sauce and the lemons’ flavor and onions for around fifteen minutes. Till then, preheat the oven to 190-degree Celsius. After fifteen minutes, wrap the top of the baking tray with aluminum foil and keep it in the oven for around half an hour at the same temperature.
Voila! Your northern pike is ready to be served and savored.
2. Northern Pike Chili
Ingredients: Northern Pike fish (preferably in fillets), olive oil, pepper, chili powder, parsley, red pepper, garlic, onions, tomatoes, kidney beans, cornstarch.
Time Required: 30 minutes.
Firstly, take some oil, garlic, pepper, and onions in a pan and keep it on the stove to heat it on medium flame. Saute till the onion turns a shade of brown. Reduce the flame and add two tablespoons of parsley, half a cup of red pepper, two crushed tomatoes, an ounce of kidney beans, two tablespoons of cornstarch, and finally, water. Keep heating on a slightly higher flame and keep stirring intermittently so that it simmers.
Now, cut the northern pike fillets into cubes of the desired size. After a couple of minutes, reduce the flame and add the fish to the gravy you have created.
Cover the saucepan and keep heating for ten minutes or till the fish gets cooked properly. Done! You have a delicious fish with gravy ready to serve. As you would have figured out, this is a very spicy dish. It would help if you served this dish with steamed rice or fresh bread.
3. Northern Pike Fingers
Ingredients: Northern Pike fillets, eggs, salted pretzels, a plastic bag, HP sauce, oil, and beer.
Time Required: Around 45 minutes.
Firstly, put the pretzels in the plastic bag and crush them into fine powder. This will be used later. Now, take a mixing bowl and crack two eggs. Beat the eggs thoroughly and after the yolk and egg white and mixed. Then, add beer and HP sauce to the mix and once again mix it thoroughly.
Next, take the fillets and wash them clean. Then, cut the fillets into strips that are roughly an inch thick. These strips give the recipe its name – northern pike ‘fingers.’ It is time to retrieve the bag of crushed pretzels. Pour the pretzel powder on a plate and then dip the fish strips into the egg, sauce, and beef mixture. Now, keep the strips on the bed of pretzel powder and coat the entire strip in it.
Put these coated strips in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. This will allow for the fish to dry up and make them a bit crunchy. Before taking the Northern pike strips out of the refrigerator, start heating the oil on a skillet. The strips have to be shallow fried. Take the strips out and wait till the oil is hot enough. Gently keep the strips in the skillet. Cook the strips and keep flipping them at regular intervals until they are golden brown. The fingers will be crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.
And just like that, another crunchy and delicious dish is made. You can have these with any chili or tomato sauce.
4. Fried Northern Pike
Lastly, how can we forget the oldest and the OG recipe for fish – deep frying.
Ingredients: Northern Pike fillets, oil, eggs, milk, flour.
Time Required: 30 minutes.
Firstly, break an egg and pour the contents into a mixing bowl. Then add a cup of milk. Stir the mixture thoroughly until they are well mixed. Next, take some flour on a plate. Clean the fish fillet and dip it in the egg-milk mixture and be sure that the fish is well coated, and allow it to soak the mixture for a couple of minutes. Then, keep the fish in the plate of flour and coat it in the powder. Do this for all the fillets you have. If you want the fish to be a little more crunchy, make the flour coating around the fish a bit thicker.
Now, fill a saucepan with oil (peanut oil) until it fully submerges the fish fillets. Heat the oil over medium flame for a few minutes and then gently lower the fillets in the oil. You can fry multiple fillets if the pan is large enough. Now, please wait till the fish is golden brown. Voila! Your dish is ready to serve!.
Northern pike is an underrated fish that tastes delicious cooked properly. We hope you enjoy your next Northern pike! Be careful while picking the bones out from the pike and once that is done, follow any of the recipes mentioned to prepare a delicious meal for the next treat.