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Y-Bone Removal Techniques

The ability to clean fish with care and precision is a skill born of knowledge and practice.

Y-Bone Removal Techniques
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northern pike laying on cutting board with knife going up it

The ability to clean fish with care and precision is a skill born of knowledge and practice. Pike are among the best tasting freshwater fish, but surprisingly many anglers don't bother cleaning and eating them because of all the pesky Y-bones. But with a little practice, it's easy to clean pike and get a pile of perfectly bonenless fillets. Here are three of our favorite bone removal cleaning techniques.

Y-Bone Removal: Method One Step 1 of 8

Once a fillet has been removed, cut straight down and then back to remove the tail section of the fillet. The tail section does not contain bones. Continue to remove sections about 3 inches long. The filleted pieces and the skin are shown separated.

Y-Bone Removal: Method One Step 2 of 8

Remove the rib cage and a portion of belly fat from a chunk of the fillet.

Y-Bone Removal: Method One Step 3 of 8

This side view shows the approximate position of the Y-bones.

Y-Bone Removal: Method One Step 4 of 8

Find the Y-bones. Look and feel for a line of white bones protruding from the flesh. Placing the knife on the top side of the line of bones, cut straight down until you hit the Y-bones as they bend. Turn your knife toward the top of the fillet portion and continue to cut along the bones.

Y-Bone Removal: Method One Step 5 of 8

After you reach the end of the bones, one option is to cut straight down and remove the top boneless section of loin.

Y-Bone Removal: Method One Step 6 of 8

A distinct crease or cutline runs through the center of the fillet. Insert the knife into that line, cut straight down for about 1/4 inch and then continue to cut toward the top of the fillet. You should feel the Y-bones under the tip of your knife as your continue to cut beneath them.

Y-Bone Removal: Method One Step 7 of 8

The bones are removed, leaving two boneless sections plus the section of Y-bones (held here) to be discarded.

Y-Bone Removal: Method One Step 8 of 8

Another option with larger pike is to remove the Y-bones, leaving the pike portion in one piece.

Y-Bone Removal: Method Two Step 1 of 3

Another method leaves the fillet in one piece. Once you meet bone on the initial Y-bone cut, continue to cut along the bones until you reach the end of them.

Y-Bone Removal: Method Two Step 2 of 3

Now cut below them until you reach the end of the Y-bones.

Y-Bone Removal: Method Two Step 3 of 3

Remove them from the fillet. The portion of fillet is intact.

Y-Bone Removal: Method Three Step 1 of 8

Use the same technique illustrated in Method Two to cut along the top of the Y-bones. The ribcage has already been removed.

Y-Bone Removal: Method Three Step 2 of 8

Remove the top boneless portion of loin.

Y-Bone Removal: Method Three Step 3 of 8

Make a cut from the back of the rib cage by inserting the knife in the obvious crease line in the tail portion of the fillet.

Y-Bone Removal: Method Three Step 4 of 8

'Unzip ' the bottom portion of the fillet by pulling it forward. This portion is boneless.

Y-Bone Removal: Method Three Step 5 of 8

Another boneless portion can be removed by cutting the remaining part of the tail in back of the rib cage (the upper part of the tail above the crease in the fillet).

Y-Bone Removal: Method Three Step 6 of 8

Cut below the line of Y-bones to remove another small boneless strip.

Y-Bone Removal: Method Three Step 7 of 8

Segmented pieces to keep and discard.

Y-Bone Removal: Method Three

Y-Bone Removal: Method Two

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