I know I was supposed to talk about boat safety and being prepared for rough weather this week, but when I caught wind of Krista’s featured pike recipe I figured it was a good excuse to talk about fishing for northerns. Northern pike are awesome game fish on any sort of hook and line. I enjoy catching pike on fly gear and have a personal record of 46-inches. A pike of 50-inches or better is on my bucket list. Of course a pike of that size should be handled cautiously, revived and released to fight again. But smaller pike can be awesome table fare. This comes as quite a surprise to many anglers who are discouraged from harvesting pike because of the slime and those nasty y-bones. But if you choose the right size of pike and take a little care in cleaning them, they are just as tasty – or even tastier – than walleye.
First of all, the right pike to invite for dinner is one that is just under the slot size – say 24- to 26.5 inches. Pike that are smaller than 24-inches (even by an inch) are often too small and slender to have much fillet left after removing the y-bones and rib cage, but a chunky 26-incher is perfect. One pike of this size will provide as much meat as four 15-inch walleye!
I fillet my pike and then remove the strip of meat containing the y-bone from the fillet before I skin. I chop the fillet into large bite-size chunks, dip them in egg and then some kind of flour-based batter.
I must say I make a dandy plate of fried pike. Over the years, I have learned several tips from Wilderness North’s First Nations’ guides. The oil needs to be piping hot to yield golden pike-poppers. Hot oil is also not absorbed by the batter. (One method for ensuring your oil is hot enough is to place the butt-end of a wooden spoon handle into the oil. If bubbles are emitted by the wooden spoon, the oil is hot enough for your fish.) Add a squeezed lemon wedge and some “tartar sauce” made from mayo and sweet relish to your fried fish, and you are “golden”.
I carry a single-burner Peak stove in my boat along with a wok, some frying oil and a few cans of beans. I can have lunch ready in about 30-minutes from the time I start filleting the pike. Other useful items to include are: some paper plates, plastic cutlery, napkins, hand-wipes and sanitizing gel in your kit. Sanitizing gel doubles as fire starter if you choose to cook your meal over an open fire.
Remember that whenever you eat fish for lunch, the fish you consume counts towards your daily possession limit. So eating a chunky pike makes sense if you want to bring a few walleye back to the lodge at the end of the day.