You might associate pickled northern pike with something from yesteryear, but take it from us, there’s nothing old-time about it – still tastes great today – prepared right, of course.
And you can pat yourself on the back for putting up some jars for the holidays. Fact is, you’re doing a service by keeping and pickling pike in many places throughout the upper Midwest.
Many North-Central Zone Minnesota waters are overrun with small pike that do nothing but eat everything they can find. For that reason, the Minnesota DNR has put some very liberal limits in place throughout each region across the state. For example, during the MN open season from May 13-February 24, anglers can keep the following in the state’s three designated zones (updated as of November 2023):
- North-central Zone: 10 (not more than 2 over 26”, all from 22-26” must be immediately released)
- Northeast Zone: 2 (not more than 1 over 40” in possession, all from 30-40” must be immediately released)
- Southern Zone: 2 (minimum size 24”)
FYI, the North-central/Southern Boundary runs from the South Dakota Border-State Highway 7 at Ortonville—east past Hutchinson, south on State Highway 22 to Glencoe, easy on U.S. Highway 212 to Chaska, south on State Highway 31 to the Minnesota River to the Mississippi River to the Wisconsin border. The Northeast Zone is defined as north and east of U.S. Highway 53 from Duluth to International Falls.
Okay, so you can keep 10 pike in Minnesota’s North-central zone…but they’re small. When it comes to pickling, that’s no roadblock. In fact, 10 pike under 22-inches makes for quick a batch of pickling meat. And remember, when pickling pike, you don’t have to fillet out the Y-bones! You simply fillet the pike like a walleye, cut into cubes, and the bones dissolve in the brine and syrup over the time 2-week period picking in the refrigerator.
Simple Holiday Pickled Pike
Pickling Solution / "Syrup"
Preparing The Meat
Fillet pike in same manner as walleyes, then slice into 1- to 2-inch cubes/pieces, rinse, place in Zip-Loc freezer bag and freeze overnight. This kills any chance the pike may harbor parasites.
Mix brine to pour over pike meat for initial 48-hour refrigeration period. The brine solution will cover mason jars containing roughly 1 ½ pounds of pike (about 10-12 pints). Old timers used to just eyeball the mix, adding enough salt to water that it would just float an egg. Mix thoroughly to dissolve salt.
Fill jars with pike and pour over salt brine solution, twist on jar caps, and refrigerate for 48 hours.
Boil all pickling solution ingredients until the sugar has dissolved. Cool and add 1 cup white port wine/white cooking wine to syrup solution and stir.
Fill each jar 2/3 full of pike, alternating sliced raw onion, and pike.
Pour cooled syrup over pike/onions, top with two halves of a lemon slice, tighten lids, and refrigerate for 7-10 days.
Yields 10-12 pints of pickled pike, perfect for the holidays! Serve with crackers or use in your favorite pickled fish recipe.