Hey there my fellow fishing enthusiasts and welcome to my post covering an often asked question when it comes to Pike fishing… can you eat Northern Pike? Now, the short answer is absolutely, if fact, it is actually a nice tasting table fish if skinned and prepared correctly
It is however not as common to keep them for the table as many of the saltwater species we see in most restaurants so let’s check out the ins and outs of the consumption of this species below…
What are Northern Pike?
So, before we start, let’s just quickly recap what we are talking about here.
Northern Pike are an aggressive, carnivorous freshwater gamefish found in lakes and river systems right across the northern hemisphere. Also referred to as Northern, Great Northern Pike, Jack or just Pike, they are the second largest member of the Pike family and live predominately in shallow, slow moving lakes and rivers where there is generally a lot of structure such as weed (they love weed) and fallen logs etc.
The have long, torpedo shaped bodies that are most often olive green with shading from yellow to white along the belly. Their flanks are dotted with yellow or white bean-shaped spots or short bars with round fins and with flat snouts that are almost alligator like in appearance with razor sharp teeth.
Can you eat Northern Pike?
Although not as common as many saltwater species, Northern Pike can definitely be eaten with a flaky texture and sweet taste. Many are put off however by its slimy skin and strong odors when caught and the quality of tis flesh can be reduced dramatically if they are caught in muddy or stagnant water or not consumed immediately after catching.
Are they any good?
Look, as above, the smell and feel of these species can be a real turn off when caught leading to many chasing them purely for their size as a sports fish. If however you can get past that they have a white or pinkish flesh (depending on location) that is sweet to taste.
As with most freshwater species however they will take on many of the characteristics of their environment such as:
- They will take on the flavor of their surroundings – so avoid eating if they are caught in murky, stagnant or dirty water.
- The older varieties tend to taste a lot stronger or ‘fishier’ so if you are planning to keep one for dinner, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the biggest one you catch.
- Larger varieties are also more susceptible to worms, parasites and increased absorbsion of waterway contaminants.
In most cases, as long as the water is clean and you are within your slot limit, then you are generally ok.
As a rule of thumb, most white meated fish do not need to be bled upon capture – however if you wanted to keep a larger catch, then it might be worthwhile giving it a quick cut and then place them on ice as soon as possible after it is landed. Many use an ice slurry in a cooler which is generally a ratio of 2 parts ice to 1 part water for this purpose.
Due to their eating habits, freshwater fish must be thoroughly cleaned and rinsed prior to consumption. And in the case of Northern Pike – they will need to be skinned too. Keep the meat refrigerated or on ice at all times before and after preparation.
From here, preparation will be determined by your planned consumption. If you plan to pan fry, then you can fillet and skin or if deep frying, you can chop into smaller pieces and cover in breadcrumbs etc. Oh, and Northern Pike are a particularly boney species as well so take some extra time when filleting if you can.
Can you freeze uncooked fillets?
Yes – Raw Northern Pike can be frozen for up to 5 months. It must at the very least be gutted and cleaned and placed in an airtight bag (ziplock bags are good here) and covered in water prior to being placed in the freezer.
Note: I have read in a few places however that the flesh is not as ‘fresh’ as other species when thawed again.
Can they be eaten raw?
No – This is not a good species for the sushi or sashimi wheel.
How to cook Northern Pike
At the end of the day, due to its whitish flesh, Northern Pike can be prepared in the same manner as most other fish varieties of this type (such as Largemouth Bass for example) in that they can be:
Northern Pike fillets can be cooked over charcoal or gas grills with any and all spices and seasonings as you see fit. Below is a common recipe:
- Heat a grill hot but not smoking.
- Pat fillets dry then spread butter or oil over both sides of the fillet along with salt and pepper.
- Grill fillets until just cooked (fillets start to flake) – Do not overcook as the meat will go dry.
- Consume with salad or grilled vegetables.
You can of course use any other herbs or spices on the flesh to taste.
As above, but in a pan – I like to add garlic to the butter when I pan fry white fish fillets with the salt and pepper as well. I have seen many Pike recipes with Asian or Mexican spices used too (they make great fish tacos) so that is also worth a try. Of course, they can also be crumbed as well which entails:
- Gather three bowls and in the first, place some flour, eggs (beaten) in the second and breadcrumbs in the third.
- Pat dry each fillet (skin on or off to preference) and then cover in flour.
- Sink the flour covered fillets into the egg mixture and then cover in breadcrumbs
- Shallow fry in the oil of your choice in a pan large enough to hold the full size of the fillet.
- Spritz with lemon juice and consume with fries (chips), salad or whatever else takes your fancy.
Note: For extra flavor, add salt and pepper – or any of the spices above – to the flour or even some grated Parmesan cheese to the breadcrumbs. I have even seen some good recipes using BBQ rubs on the fillets as well.
Often referred to as “poor man’s lobster”, boiled Northern pike flesh is an extremely popular meal in some countries as well. Here is a basic recipe for boiled Pike:
- Fillet and skin then cut the fillets into small chunks – roughly 1inch cubes or slices
- Bring a large pot to the boil and add salt, sugar and herbs of your choice – some add lemon or vinegar here as well
- Add the fish chunks to the boiling water and leave in for around 5 mins – depending on size
- Once cooked, dip in melted butter and garlic and consume with a sauce of your choice
In mt research I also found a couple of other popular options such as:
- Pickled – this is popular in easter European countries
- Baked whole in the oven – popular in Asia and the U.K. but not so much elsewhere due to all the bones
- Fish curry – a very good fish for a curry – as long as it is fresh
And there you go – my response to the question of whether you can eat Northern Pike. I hope it has been helpful and as usual, please let me know of your experiences – or recipes – would love to see your recipes below too.
Also, please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any questions, concerns, corrections, or would like me to check anything else out for you.
Until next time