You know that I am always getting up on a “soap box” to promote catch & release fishing: It is a fact of life for sport anglers nowadays. You will either be required by regulation to release at least some of the fish you catch or you will choose to voluntarily release some of your catch; it is important for developing and maintaining quality fishing.. I believe the best practice is what has been termed “selective harvest”–choosing to harvest a few fish for a meal of fresh fish now and then, NOT filling the freezer, and when choosing to harvest, harvesting those species and sizes of fish that are most abundant and can withstand the harvest. Big fish are hard to catch not because they are so smart, but because they are rare. Large specimens of all species, including panfish, are some of the best candidates for release–they are worth more in the water than in a skillet or on the wall and they can be caught again (Fish Recycling).
So, I rarely say much about harvesting fish, cleaning fish, or preparing them. You do not need me to tell you those things because you can find all kinds of that information from all kinds of other anglers. I will continue to promote catch & release and selective harvest whenever I can. But, let me diverge from that today. . . .
Northern pike are actually a very fine fish on the table, but many anglers look down their noses at pike because, well, they are slimy and they have some extra bones in their flesh. However, there are some techniques to clean pike to get around those bones. And, in spite of northern pike being top-of-the-food-chain, apex predators, there are Nebraska fisheries where a person sure could selectively harvest some small- to medium-size pike.
So here is some information on cleaning and utilizing pike. There are several ways to clean ’em; start here, In-Fisherman Y-Bone Removal Techniques.
Here is the way I like to do it:
Here is the same technique in another longer video. The video is long and the quick tutorial on cleaning pike is at about the 9-minute mark. Watch it, see how quick and easy it is.
If you get those extra “Y-bones” out of a pike fillet, they are just as tasty as any of your other favorite fish on the table. Yes, I am saying that they are even as good as walleyes. However, if you are looking for some other options, and again there are a lot of different species of fish with different qualities and it is best to prepare them in different ways (Viva La Difference!), I have had pickled pike that was excellent, a great snack while sitting on the ice waiting for a tip-up flag to go up. Here is a recipe, Pickled Fish.
Keep some small- to medium-size pike where they are abundant and can be legally-harvested. They really are fine dining. And of course, turn the big ones loose!