Northern pike, also known as jackfish, is a bony game fish found in freshwater bodies of water in the United States, Canada and Great Britain. For the fisherman, these are a great fish to catch because they put up a tremendous fight. For the cook, however, these fish can be challenging because there is not a lot of meat on them and they are extremely bony. With a sharp knife and some practice, you can get nice fillets free of bones from northern pike.
Things You'll Need
- Sharp boning knife
- Cutting board
- Cut-resistant gloves (optional)
- Pliers or large tweezers
- Container and ice (if you are filleting while still on the boat)
Rinse the jackfish with water and blot it dry. Lay it on the cutting board with the tail on the same side as your knife hand. Grab the jackfish by the mouth and, with the other hand, slide the blade of the boning knife below the gill.
Slide the knife along the fish's side with the knife just brushing against the backbone along the length of the fish. When you get to the tail, slant the blade upward. Leave the skin on the fillet. Repeat the process for the other side of the fish and discard the carcass or save it to use for bait.
On the fillet, you will find what are known as "y-bones" along what was the rib section of the jackfish. Begin removing the y-bones, located along the middle of the fillet, by sliding under the bones of the jackfish fillet, then remove a thin strip of flesh from the bottom--discard this strip of meat or save it for a small fillet.
With the y-bones exposed, slide the knife underneath the bony flesh and cut the bones from the fillet, using short upward cuts away from you. Discard the bony flesh strip or use for bait.
Check for any missed bones. Feel along the exposed flesh of the jackfish fillet and, if you come across any, use pliers or large tweezers to pull them from the fillet. Determine which direction the bones are going in and pull the bone out in the opposite direction to limit tearing the flesh.
Put the fillet skin side down on the cutting board. Slide the blade of the knife between the skin and flesh. Slowly drag the blade across the jackfish flesh and along the cutting board, removing the skin.
Repeat the process for the other fillet. Cut into serving portion and, if necessary, put in a container over ice.
Tips & Warnings
- To protect your hands and to aid in gripping the fish, consider wearing cut-resistant gloves.
- Always use caution when using knives.
- Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images