Tuesday, January 31st, 2023
Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

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Filleting your fish: How to remove the Y-bones from a northern pike

Got pike? Then you’ve got Y-bones. They’re big, inedible, and many an angler has diced a perfectly good fillet to smithereens trying to remove them. Jon Geurkink, a certified U.S. Coast Guard captain and guide at Border View Lodge on the Rainy River and Lake of the Woods, cleans hundreds of northern pike every year. He can remove the Y-bones and produce some delicious, boneless fillets in just a few minutes. 

Check out the accompanying video and photos below for step-by-step instructions from Geurkink for removing Y-bones during the remainder of open-water angling or the upcoming ice-fishing season.

Note: Per the Minnesota Fishing Regulations, a fish may not be reduced to more than two fillets before transporting it. So follow the instructions here for removing Y-bones after you return home with your northern pike.

Geurkink uses an electric fillet knife for rapidly handling his sportfish, but a regular fillet knife will work, too. Whatever style you choose, make sure the knife is sharp.
Begin by removing the fillet as you would on a walleye – cutting with your fillet knife behind the gill plate down to the spine, then turning and running nearly the back of the fish. Keep the fillet attached to the skin near the tail.
Remove the rib bones and any belly fat.
Near the tail, slide your knife between the fillet and the skin and – cutting away from yourself – slice the two apart. Repeat steps 1 through 4 on the opposite side of your pike.
Two complete fillets ready to have the Y-bones removed.
Make a simple slice between the two halves of a filet, then gently tear them apart.

You now have two halves of the fillet. The piece on the left is bone; set it aside for rinsing. Follow steps 8 to 10 to remove the Y-bones from the piece on the right.
Run your finger along the fillet to where the Y-bones start. Below that point, cut off the boneless tail piece. Set it aside for rinsing.
Cut the remaining piece into two parts.
Run your finger along one piece to find the Y-bones, then run your fillet knife along the inside edge and curving toward the lower, inside portion of the piece. The piece you’ve removed is boneless. Set it aside for rinsing, then repeat this step on the final piece from the fillet.
You should have eight boneless pieces ready to rinse and prepare for dinner or shorelunch. As for the two pieces still containing Y-bones (inset) consider pickling these two chunks, which softens or dissolves the bones. Or you can cook them however you prefer fish, but be prepared to remove the Y-bones while you eat.
For more detail, watch Geurkink’s technique by clicking on the video atop this page.  


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