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Northern Pike

Northern Pike Fishing Ontario 

Northern Pike

The northern pike fish is known as a pike in Britain and Ireland but is also sometimes called  a jackfish in Canada and the United States. It is a species of carnivorous fish, a family of the pikes. They thrive in freshwater in the northern hemisphere, particularly Canada.

The fish is usually an olive green color with shading into yellow and white along the belly. The flank part of the fish has short, light bar like spots. The fins sometimes have dark spots on them. Sometimes the fins are also reddish.

Pike that are younger have a green body with yellow stripes along it. As they get older the strips divide and the body turns into an olive green. The fish does not have scales as such but it does have light markings on its dark body. Also it has less than six sensory pores on the underside of each side of the lower jaw.

Pike usually grow to a pretty good size. Their length can be around 59 inches and their weight can be around 55 pounds. This is on the larger side but it is not unheard of. The heaviest pike known to be caught was caught in a stone quarry in Germany in 1983. This fish was a female that was 58 inches and weighed 68 pounds. The pike that was the longest not the heaviest ever caught was 60 inches long and weighed 62 pounds.

Pike caught in North America very seldom reach the size of the ones caught in Europe. The biggest one in North America was caught in New York and weighed 46 pounds. There are legends of bigger pike in the States but they may just be that, legend.

Northern pike increase in weight as they grow longer.

Northern Pike range

 

Pike are found in shallow, weedy parts of lakes and sluggish streams as well as in cold, clear, rocky waters. They are typically “ambush predators.” This means as they wait for their prey, they lie perfectly still for long periods and then the accelerate in remarkable fashion as they strike.

They will inhabit any body of water that is conducive to their spawning and contains fish. Because they have a cannibalistic nature, the younger pike need bodies of water that have plants for shelter so they are not eaten. They like to be around rich submersible plants.

Although they are found in brackish water like the Baltic Sea, they prefer water that is less turbidity. This is because of their need and dependence on submersible plants and because they are such hunters.

Pike spawn in spring when the water first reaches 48 degrees Fahrenheit. As far as spawning goes, the males reach the spawning areas before the females by weeks. The females that are larger tend to arrive to the area earlier than the smaller ones. The majority of the time, the female is followed by many smaller males. When the female slows down, the male will put his tail under the female’s body and release his spawn that is then mixed with eggs due to the tail movement. The spawning is composed of lots of these moves that goes on for hours a day. With every move between 5 and 60 eggs are laid. A female can continue to mate for three days in a row. When the mating is concluded, the male tends to stay with the female for a few extra weeks.

The eggs are sticky and are yellow to orange. The diameter of the eggs is 2.5 to 3 mm. After hatching, the embryos are able to swim but they stay on the bottom for quite a bit of time. This stage lasts 5 to 16 days, depending on the water temperature.

Pike females reach the reproductive stage in a year. They normally live 5 to 15 years but some can be old as 30. There life span is dependent on lots of circumstances. Canadians have quite a few old slender pike. On the other hand Baltic pike grow to great lengths because they eat nutrient rich herring.

Pike feed by being very still in the water until their prey swims by. They are able to do this because they have dorsal fin rays and breast fins that they can move really fast and it remains still and quiet. Before they strike their prey, their body bends and they move remarkable fast out to the prey using their large tail fins to reach them.

Pike have a reputation of catching their prey sideways in their mouth. They then kill the prey by their back pointed teeth. They then turn their prey headfirst to swallow it.

Pike eat mainly fish but they have been known to eat ducklings. They also fed on frogs, insects and leeches. They are not picky eaters. They will eat perch, which is very spiny and they will even eat sticklebacks if there is no other prey available.

The northern pike is mainly a solitary predator. It does the migration during spawning season but then mainly looks for prey wherever they can find it.  

 



Ontario Fishing Magazine