About the Northern Pike Fish

Picture by Georg Mittenecker

Picture by Georg Mittenecker

One of the most sought after game fish, because of its ferocity and flavor, is the pike. It is also known as a northern pike, jackfish or northern. This is a highly predatory fresh water fish that can get quite large. It lives in the north, so many people may not know much about this game fish.

Pike (Esox lucius) are found in the northern United States, Canada, the UK, northern Europe, Russia and Asia. It inhabits rivers and lakes.

Pike size

This fish grows large. The average length is just a little less than four feet and it can grow as long as five feet long. The world record pike caught by tackle came out of a lake in Germany in 1986, weighing 55 pounds, though there are records of a pike caught in Ireland that weighed 93 pounds. The fish that was caught in Ireland was caught in nets, rather than on fishing tackle. The state record for pike caught in Montana is almost four feet long and 40 pounds.

Pike appearance

The pike looks similar to a muskellunge or musky, which is a related fish. They have a long, powerful body, with the dorsal fin locate far back near the caudal fin. The head is long and tapered, with the bottom jaw being longer than the top. The powerful mouth is equipped with multiple rows of sharp teeth, rather like some sharks. The color is usually dark green, with spots.

Pike behavior

A pike is both a very aggressive and is an ambush predator. It often lays in wait in vegetation and flashes out to catch a passing fish. Pike are so aggressive that they will often attack prey even when they are well-fed. This makes them great for fishermen, since they are prone to attacking flashy lures, especially if the lure approximates a fish. Steel leader is needed, however. Even smaller pike have little difficulty biting right through regular fishing line.

Pike breed in the early spring when the temperature of the water hasn’t yet reached 50 F. The fish lays a large number of eggs and these hatch into fingerlings that are often eaten by bass and trout, which in turn end up as prey for larger pike. Very young pike feed on insects, leeches, frogs, tadpoles and daphnia (sometimes called water fleas, though they aren’t fleas at all). Pike are also cannibalistic, so smaller pike aren’t immune to being eaten by larger ones.

Locally here in the Montana Rockies, pike are one of the most fished for species, along with bass and trout. There are a lot of 15-20 pound pike that come out of Clark Fork River, about a mile from here. These are large fish, but they aren’t considered to be especially big pike. It is a definite thrill to tie into one, though. It is quite a challenge to actually land one.




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