Filleting a northern pike with an electric knife requires time and patience.
Prepare and organize a workspace first, with a container to preserve the fillets in ice and water. Bleed and scale the pike before cutting out the top fillet from the head to the dorsal fin. Move on to the side fillets while avoiding the Y bones and rib bones. Then, cut out the tail fillets and use a spoon to scoop out some of the meat to avoid wasting anything. Skin the fillets, and place them in the container until you get home and cook them.
Using an electric fish fillet knife to fillet northern pike makes the process faster, usually taking one or two minutes. Plus, it requires minimal effort than filleting fish with a manual knife. If you’re on the water and have a lucky day, electric knives will help you fillet more than ten northern pike without breaking a sweat.
Are Northern Pike Hard to Clean?
Cleaning northern pike is easy, but it takes time and patience. This fish species is large and bony. As a result, many anglers avoid this fish or don’t know how to clean it properly. Thorough attention and the right technique are necessary to remove all bones and make the fillets comfortably edible. In this guide, I will demonstrate how to easily fillet northern pike.
- Rapala R12 HD lithium fillet knife with a 6-inch blade.
- A container with ice and water to preserve the fish. If you’re on a boat, a live well works.
- A flat cutting board.
- A bucket or trash can to throw away the carcass.
- Pliers to remove the Y Bones.
- Spoon to remove meat.
- A scaler, if you prefer to fry the fillets with skin.
Filleting Northern Pike with an Electric Fillet Knife – Step-By-Step Guide
Follow these steps to turn a bony pike into completely edible boneless fillets.
Step 1: Preparations
Set up your cleaning station by placing a cutting board over a stable surface. If you’re outdoors, a log may do the trick. Additionally, fill a bucket with ice and water to preserve the fillets. Keep a trash can or bucket near to throw away the carcass after filleting.
Step 2: Prepare to Cut the Top Fillet
Use your non-dominant hand to hold the fish by the head with its belly over the table and the top section facing you. Place the knife approximately half an inch behind the head, and activate the electric fillet knife. Cut down and stop when you feel the resistance of the backbone.
Turn the blade horizontally with the cutting edge in the direction of the tail. Activate the knife, and run it down using the backbone as a guide. Let the electric fillet knife do the work. When you’re close to the dorsal fin, angle the blade upwards to cut out the fillet while avoiding cutting through the fin.
If you follow this method correctly, the top fillet shouldn’t have any bones in it. However, learn how to remove them in the following step if there are any.
Step 3: Remove the Center Bones from the Top Fillet
Evaluate the fillet to determine if there are any bones. Then, you can use your fingers or the tip of the knife to remove them. If the bones are deep into the meat and you can’t get them out, use pliers to get them out.
Step 4: Skin the Top Fillet (Optional)
Place the knife at an angle on one of the fillet’s ends to make a separation between meat and skin. After making an initial cut, use your non-dominant hand to hold the skin, and bring the knife to the other end of the fillet. The blade must be horizontal to separate the meat from the skin without damage.
Rinse the fillet with clean water and store it in a container with water and ice.
Step 5: Identify the Location of the Y Bones
Check out the cut top section of the fish and use your finger to sense the location of the Y-shaped bones. Y bones are big, inedible, and pose a choking hazard.
Y bones will be your guide while cutting the side fillets. You can use the tip of the electric knife to cut them out slightly. Expose the bones to get a better look during filleting.
Step 6: Lay the Fish Over the Cutting Board
Lay the northern pike over one of its sides, with the head toward your non-dominant hand, and the belly away from you. Place the knife behind the gill plate, at an angle towards the head. Turn on the knife and cut into the fish until you hit the bones exposed in the previous step.
Cut the side fillets similarly to how you cut the top fillet in step 2. Run the blade along the backbone, and bring it up near the dorsal fin.
Skin the fillet as explained in step 6 if you prefer skinless filet.
Step 7: Spot Bones
Run your finger over the fillet meat to spot any bones. If there are any, use your fingers or pliers to remove them and produce boneless pieces. Cut out any belly fat, too.
Flip the fish over and repeat steps 6 and 7 on the other lateral fillet.
Step 8: Spot a Vent on the Fish’s Belly to Use it as a Guide
Check the bottom of the fish to spot a small vent or little hole, which is the anus. This point will be where you start the next cut.
Step 9: Make the First Cut to Separate the Tail Fillet
Lay the fish on one of its sides again. Then, place the knife slightly past the vent. Turn on the electric fish fillet knife until you hit the backbone. Angle the knife cutting edge toward the tail, and run down the blade to separate the first tail fillet.
The vent or anus must not be a part of the fillet. You will only use it as a guide to know where to start cutting.
Remove the skin like in the previous steps.
Flip the northern pike over, and repeat the process.
Step 10: Remove Additional Meat
You can remove some of the meat on the lateral sides with a spoon. This meat makes for an excellent ingredient for stew, meatballs, and other recipes.
Tips for Avoiding Common Mistakes When Filleting
- Take the time to remove Y bones and make the fillet edible. Leaving these bones embedded into the fish meat may become a choking risk.
- Use a spoon to save the most meat. The side fillets of a northern pike won’t be as thick as the top fillet. Nonetheless, you can still remove some of the meat from the fish body after filleting.
- Wear your protective gloves to avoid pricking your fingers with this bony fish species.
- Avoid filleting a northern pike as you would fillet other fish with an electric fillet knife. In those cases, you would simply cut through the rib cage bones. This procedure is more elaborate to save the most meat while avoiding or removing the bones.
Should you bleed out northern pike?
Bleeding out northern pike reduces the mess and clean-up while filleting them. Some anglers argue that the taste is much better this way. Bleed out a northern pike by using the tip of the knife to make a cut into the belly over the gills. Bring the knife up to the nose. This method cuts through an artery that makes the pike bleed out while alive. Make sure to keep the fish in a live well or container with water and ice as it bleeds.
How do you scale a northern pike?
Grab the fish by the tail and hold it firmly with your non-dominant hand. Then, use the scaler or the spine of a pocket knife to remove the scales by moving it upwards from the tail to the head pressing against the skin. Some people enjoy fried fish with the skin still attached to get a crispy layer and more flavor. If you like northern pike this way, you must remove the scales first.
Does the northern pike have a lot of bones?
Northern pike has a lot of bones, which is the reason why many anglers avoid it. Fortunately, cleaning northern pike without bones is easy with an electric fillet knife.