Can You Eat Northern Pike Eggs?

Heading north to chase a big trophy northern pike is a dream trip for many anglers. My brother and I treasured family trips to Lac de Mille Lacs in Ontario where the pike fishing was always next level, but since we never went in the very early spring before spawning, we never found a female pike that still had some eggs in it. We didn’t put much thought into it, but when it comes to the question of whether you can eat northern pike eggs or not,

You should never eat raw northern pike eggs, as there are many freshwater diseases that can be in water. However, properly cooked northern pike eggs are not only edible but are a delicious delicacy prized for their deep yellow color and delicious taste.

Let’s take a deeper look at northern pike roe, how the eggs can be prepared, and everything else you need to know about this potential delicacy.

pike roe
Close up of pike caviar in a serving dish. Very good color and already prepped, but gives you an idea of what pike roe looks like.

Why Northern Pike Eggs Are Popular to Eat

There are many anglers who absolutely love eating northern pike eggs (aka pike roe), and in Eastern Europe these are even considered a special delicacy that is quite a treat when it is available thanks to an early season catch.

The look, texture, and feel of pike eggs are similar to the famous sturgeon caviar, which is renowned worldwide for being an upper class delicacy that is synonymous with good taste, wealth, and sophistication.

Many anglers who have eaten northern pike eggs have described the experience in a positive way, and the following descriptions often come up:

  • Texture of cous cous
  • Can taste delicious individually or mixed
  • Good salted or fried
  • Multiple similarities to sturgeon caviar

Most anglers I talked to who love to eat northern pike eggs are firm believers that the way to prepared them are either through salt curing or pan frying them up. One friend I have who loves pike roe swears by frying them lightly in heavy butter with scrambled eggs then adding a very light pinch of salt.

Personal taste goes a long way towards whether or not you’re going to like northern pike caviar or not, or if you maybe only like it prepared one way versus another, but there are plenty of anglers I know who love the stuff. I’ve found more who haven’t tried it compared to those who have, so it’s hard to make a blanket statement about whether it’s good or not, but I recommend giving it a try.

I’m mostly had it lightly pan fried in a lot of butter, and made that way with the lightest of frying, I enjoyed it a lot and thought it was delicious. The combination of saltiness and butter was great. I could see how the texture might throw some picky eaters off but it didn’t bother me at all.

I was told that the age of the eggs makes a difference in taste and you can generally tell that by the shade of color whether the eggs are more a bright yellow or a deep orange. Most anglers I talked to who like eating pike roe prefer it yellow to yellow with a tinge of orange versus deep orange.

Whether you like them as a delicacy or frying them up as a side to the fillet, they can be a delicious addition to the dinner plate.

How to Cook Northern Pike Eggs

There are several ways to cook northern pike eggs and one of the first things to decide on is how you want to prepare them. Are you looking for a conventional caviar type of experience as most people imagine it or are you looking for something not too far out that mixes well with how you already tend to prepare pike caught right out of the water?

Salted Pike Caviar Preparation

  • Making sure to have pickling salt on hand so you can dissolve 1/3 to 1/2 of the pickling salt in 2 cups of cold water (if in doubt, go with just under 1/2)
  • Rinse the pike eggs gently
  • Remove them from the membrane, scraping with the backside of a butter knife if they are sticking
  • Put the pike eggs in the brine and refrigerate the mixture for half an hour so they can harden up slightly
  • Use a clean cloth over a colander or a very fine sieve to separate the salted pike eggs from the liquid
  • Put the eggs back into a glass jar and seal it
  • Keep in the fridge for approximately 2-3 hours
  • The eggs are ready, though using them sooner rather than later is better

Once the pike roe has been salted and prepared, then it can be used in any way that you want to. As a topping to crackers and cream cheese, a fine side to some snacks, however you like your caviar is a good way to use this version of it to get the most out of your first experience eating northern pike eggs.

Pan Fried Pike Egg Preparation

  • Clean and scrape the eggs from the membrane to get them separate (or as much as possible)
  • Rinse gently to get as much blood off as possible
  • Have pan on low heat, melt butter
  • When the butter is melted, cook the pike eggs for a minute
  • Flip the pike caviar
  • Then lightly fry the other side
  • Roll around the melted butter and remove from pan
  • If the eggs are sticking, you’re cooking too hot, too long, or both

Admittedly I might be a bit biased because:

  1. This is the way I’ve had pike roe each time – lightly fried in butter eaten with a fresh fillet of pike right out of the water over the camp fire cast iron
  2. It’s just hard to beat pan fried in butter, especially in cast iron, and especially if you grew up in places like the Midwest where that cooking was common

That said, I’m a huge fan of pike eggs in this style and they make for an interesting side/mix to the main fix of the fish itself and so far I’m a fan. If you have any interest in trying northern pike eggs I would recommend it. They can be a wonderful addition to a fish that honestly doesn’t get enough credit for how tasty it is.

Another Great Recipe from the Papers

If you want an amazing pike roe recipe, trust this great one from The Pioneer Press that goes in-depth at the end about how to prepare the pike eggs for a delicious treat that anglers who always love another fish meal will be sure to enjoy.

Considering that paper is right from the middle of northern country, it’s a pretty safe bet they have a handle on what makes a good recipe for pike roe.

There are multiple local variations of both the instructions in this article, as well as the other recipes and treatments in this article. Find the one that works for you and enjoy this underrated and undervalued delicacy.

Video for Simple How to Make Pike Caviar Recipe from Freshwater Phil

This is pretty easy to follow and if you’re from the Midwest like I am, you also appreciate the accent as it is just a little bit of home in video form.

Another Angler’s Preparation of Pike Eggs

These are two examples from videos, but if you want more in-depth recipes then the good news is that those resources are readily available.

Pike Roe: What’s the Verdict?

When it comes to northern pike, most anglers aren’t thinking about the eggs they are all about the meaty delicious texture that comes from a good fillet of northern pike. Especially from a properly cleaned pike where the Y-Bone has been properly removed to avoid the boniness that many people complain about when it comes to this awesome freshwater fish.

There seem to be three types of opinions when it comes down to whether or not pike eggs taste good:

  1. Pike eggs taste terrible as do all other fish eggs (probably not the best opinion if you enjoy any type of caviar)
  2. Pike eggs are delicious and surprisingly comparable to the more expensive and famous sturgeon roe
  3. Pike eggs can taste good, but they’re better in very early winter before they get a deep orange as they come closer to maturing

This does come down to taste, but I know many pike anglers who love the taste of pike roe and a half dozen anglers will have a half dozen suggestions about the best way to fix them up for a delicious meal – a surprise extra treat from that very early season northern you managed to bring into the boat.

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