Northern pike are a toothy mainstay of Michigan ice fishers. Whether you prefer to jig, spear or set tip ups with shiners or dead smelt, these predators are present in many Michigan waters. A coldwater fish by nature, pike feed throughout winter on both live and dead prey, including suckers, bass and smaller pike. Once you've retrieved a hook from inside the bony maw of one of these water wolves, you realize not much escapes the mass of raked back, razor-sharp teeth that line those wide, heavy jaws. For this reason, savvy anglers rig terminal gear with a heavy fluorocarbon leader (40-50# test). This material isn't cutproof, but it disappears in water (unlike steel) and is much more nick- and abrasion-resistant than standard mono. Few things are more disappointing than an extended tug of war with Mr. Esox, only to have your leader get sliced when trying to land the beast.
Another place where pike have a well-deserved reputation on the dinner table. Often maligned due to the heavy coating of mucus on their skin and the Y-bones that line their flanks, pike have thick white fillets that are firm and mild-flavored. A decent-sized pike, cleaned properly, can provide three large fillets - one from each side and one from the back/dorsal area. Also - a word on size. It's been estimated that 90% of pike over five pounds are females. Keeping a few smaller (legal) fish and releasing the big girls is a good way to enjoy a meal or two while NOT overharvesting the prespawn females that will soon produce another year-class of baby pike.
Baked pike loaf is a great way to enjoy pike without deep-frying. I love cold beer and a good fish fry, but winter weather can force you to fry indoors or in your garage - not an ideal situation. Get these simple ingredients together and put a new dish on the table.
- 1.5 lbs boneless, skinless pike fillets chopped into small pieces/shredded
- 2 cups baked potatoes - thinly sliced
- 4 tablespoons butter - softened
- 2 eggs - well beaten
- 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons green onions - chopped small
- 1/2 cup celery - chopped
- black pepper
Easy tartar sauce - mix the following and allow to stand for 30 minutes before serving
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons dill pickle relish
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 x 13 cake pan.
Cover bottom of pan with sliced potatoes (overlapped), then season with salt and pepper.
Mix eggs with cream and nutmeg, then stir in cheese, breadcrumbs, onions and celery. Once that is thoroughly mixed, fold in fish.
Cover with foil and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the egg and cream has set. Remove from oven.
Loosen the edges with a butter knife or spatula. Invert pan onto a serving tray. Slice into squares and serve with easy tartar sauce (above) and lemon wedges.