How to Take the Y Bone Out of a Northern Pike

How to Take the Y Bone Out of a Northern Pike
Some people believe Northern pike are difficult to clean because they have Y-bones that must be removed from each fillet. These Y-bones, which are actually L-shaped, are located between the centerline and the top of the fillet. Despite the fish's reputation for difficult cleaning, though, you can quickly remove these bones with a fillet knife, as long as you keep your knife sharp and follow the proper technique.


Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
  • Sharp fillet knife
  • Bucket of water
  • Large freezer bags
Step 1
Place the Northern on its side and make a cut down to the backbone just behind the head and gills. Do not cut through the backbone--instead, turn you knife sideways and cut along the backbone all the way down to the tail. Leave the skin on the fillet because it will make it easier to remove the Y-bones.
Step 2
Remove the ribs from the fillet. Make a cut along the top of the ribs near the center of the fillet. Work the knife down along the ribs, keeping it as close as you can to the bones to avoid unnecessarily removing meat.
Step 3
Locate the Y-bones between the centerline and the top of the fillet. You can find them either by looking for a line of faint white dots or feeling for a series of spiny bumps protruding from the thickest part of the fillet.
Step 4
Make a cut along the top side of the Y-bones until you can feel them with the tip of your fillet knife. Continue your cut following the curve of the bones, taking care not to cut through them.
Step 5
Once you have made your top cut, make another cut on the side of the Y-bones closest to the fillet's centerline. Cut upwards at a 45-degree angle, keeping the knife as close to the Y-bones as possible, just like when removing the ribs.
Step 6
Grab the line of Y-bones. They will be held together by a thin strip of flesh. Pull and cut them free with your knife if necessary. With practice, it should become easier to pull the Y-bones right out after your first two cuts.
Step 7
Remove the skin from the fillet. Starting at the tail, work the knife down the entire length of the fillet cutting the skin away from the meat. Once the skin has been removed, rinse the fillet in clean water and place it in a large freezer bag.

Tips & Warnings

Always make sure to use a sharp fillet, and have a sharping stone on hand for when it becomes dull. Working with a sharp knife is always much safer than working with a dull one.
A pair of filleting gloves will help protect your hands and provide you with extra grip.
Put down newspaper on the cleaning surface to keep the fish from sliding around on what could become a very slick surface.

Article Written By Richard Hansen

Richard Hansen grew up and currently resides in Minnesota. He graduated from Dartmouth College and has traveled extensively in Africa and South America, including the Amazon jungle. He has worked as a wilderness guide in Yellowstone and northern Minnesota, and written for Fur-Fish-Game, Dartmouth Alumni Magazine and

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