Black bears and pike

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After considerable thought, I can’t come up with any similarity between black bears and pike except that a lot of people won’t eat either.

That is sad, as both are delicious and easy to prepare. I believe it’s a situation created by rumours and misinformation.

I’ve heard anglers originally from southern Canada speak about “slough sharks” aka pike. Often, they suggest that in the summer, the meat is mushy and tasteless. Pike are often wasted by being killed and thrown back into the water. Southern Canadian pike may be different, but I doubt it. Here in our always cold northern waters, pike are delicious, with firm white meat. Yes they are bony, but 10 minutes on Google, or watching someone who knows what they are doing will teach us to serve up boneless fillets every time. Pike are also very strong, active predators and thrilling to catch. Pike are a good target fish for youngsters who need excitement to stay interested.

Pike can be canned, smoked, fried, baked, or barbequed on the kitchen stove, or open fire. As a shore lunch, they’re hard to beat. Just add beans and canned potatoes and cook them in the same (big) frying pan. Poor man’s lobster, as it’s known, is finger food with chunks simmered in heavily salted water and then dipped in garlic butter.

Black bears have suffered a bad reputation for a long time. The meat is as good, or better than anything else in the forest, or on the mountainside. They are omnivores. If not taken at, or near a garbage dump, you have an excellent chance of taking a bear that has lived off berries, fresh grass and other vegetation.

Bears are in the pork family and the meat should be cooked until well done. This removes any chance of trichinosis, which is not common, but does happen.

Yukon black bears are not as big as bears in southern Canada, so if you were to take one (spring or fall), you’d likely end up with much less than 75 to 100 pounds of meat. Sirloin tip roasts from the hinds and lean shoulder roasts are tasty in a slow cooker, or baked in the oven. Bear stew is great done in cast iron on the stovetop, or oven-roasted. Mix up some bannock for dumplings in the last part of the cooking time. Lots of recipes are available on computer searches. The Yukon government still has copies of Bear, Bacon and Boot Grease, which contains recipes and cooking tips for bears.

Earlier this winter, I made up about 25 to 30 pounds of suet blocks by melting about half a pail of bear fat and adding six to eight pounds of wild bird seed. I then let the mixture harden in various shallow containers. The birds and, of course, the squirrels love them.

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