Distribution in the area:
Bell Rapids Lake, Bird Lake
, Buck Lake, Fraser Lake, Kamaniskeg Lake, Papineau
Lake, Stringer Lake,
Esox, the old Latin name for
pike, used as early as Pliny; perhaps derived from the
Greek isox, or both the Latin and Greek from a common
Celtic root (as in the Welsh ehawc, eog, "salmon")
lucius, from the supposed Latin name for the species,
likely derived from the Greek lukos, "wolf",
an obvious reference to the predatory habits of this
Common name is short for pike-fish, a reference to the
long, pointed snout resembling the pike, an iron tipped
staff. Rather like the French, where brochet is the
fish, but broche is a spit.
Other common names include: Common Pike, Great Northern
Pike, Jack, Jackfish, Northern, Pickerel, Pike, Snake,
Gädda (Swe), tika obecná (Czech),
Phylum Chordata, animals with a spinal chord
Subphylum Vertebrata, animals with a backbone
Superclass Osteichthyes, bony fishes
Class Actinopterygii, ray-finned and spiny rayed fishes
Order Esociformes, the pikes and mudminnows
Family Esocidae, the pikes and pickerels
Genus Esox, the pikes
The largest, and most voracious,
predator of northern waters.
18"-30", can exceed
20 oz to 8 lbs, to over 40 lbs
extremely variable, depending
upon the waters from which it is taken.
back and sides predominantly dark green to olive-green,
to almost brown, with irregular rows of yellow to white
spots.blueish-green to grey
lighter on lower sides
underside cream to milk-white
tiny gold spot on the tip of most scales - appears flecked
eyes brilliant yellow
slimy; long, slender, and serpentine
lateral line of 119 to128 scales
dorsal fin of 16-19 soft rays, located far back on the
long and flat, depressed forward
into a pair of large, duck-billed jaws imbedded with
numerous canine teeth.
teeth sharp, backward-slanting
cheek fully scaled, but lower half of opercle scaleless
number of sensory pores located along the undersides
of the lower jaws is never more than 10
14-16 branchiostegal rays in membrane just below gill
10-26 years depending upon the
Identifiable as a Pike by long,
narrow body shape extreme rearward placement of the
dorsal fin pointed snout with strong jaws and numerous
The only Pike in the BWCA
Outside our area, distinguished from its cousin the
Muskellunge or Muskie (Esox masquinongy) by: light markings
on a dark green background lower half of the cheek completely
scaled five or fewer pores on each side of the underside
of the jaw
rounded tail tips .
Silver Pike, an uncommon variant of the Northern, is
dark silver or greenish gray, rather like the "clear"
coloration of the Muskie.
shallow, weedy, clear waters in lakes and marshes, but
also inhabits slow streams. After ice-out, they move
further into shallows and marshes to spawn, retreating
to deep, cool waters (65º or less) in summer.
Small Northerns remain in shallow weedy waters through
much of the year.
A voracious predator -- consuming
three to four times its weight during the course of
a year. They ambush prey from weedy cover, seizing fish
with needlelike teeth. Concentrating their efforts on
larger forage, they often swallow fish a third their
Adults feed largely on other fish as well as frogs,
crayfish, mice, muskrats, and ducklings. Favorite prey
include suckers, shiners, chubs, Cisco (Coregonus artedi),
Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens), and other Northerns.
Though eating sunfish and bass, they prefer more cylindrical
fish. (A better "fit" don't you know)
Fry feed on plankton and then invertebrates but soon
switch to a diet of fish.
Large Northerns become lethargic in warm water, eating
little and sometimes losing weight. (In prolonged high
temperatures and low oxygen, they may actually starve.)
Because of their size and stealth, their only important
predator is people.
In the 17th century, Izaak Walton
gave a recipe for roast stuffed pike that called for
sweet marjoram, pickled oysters, mace, claret wine,
and anchovies. The result, he claimed, was "too
good for any but anglers and honest men."
US: 46lb 2oz., 1940, Sacandaga
Minnesota: 45lb 12oz, Basswood Lake, BWCAW, (Lake County).
Minnesota (Silver Phase): 18 lbs, 14 oz, from Disappointment
Lake, BWCAW, (Lake County)
Popular both on hook and on
table, the Northern's fight and flavor are both highly
Unlike other common species of game fish, Northerns
are most active when waters are cool and seem to bite
best during daylight hours. They are a favorite of ice
fishermen. As predators, they prefer live fish baits
or reasonable artificial facsimiles thereof.
This long, jut-jawed fish has an image problem. In some
regions, fishermen disdain it as a "slimy snake"
and a destroyer of worthier fish.
Spawns in flooded areas of vegetation
in early spring, often when ice is still on the lakes.
Spawning occurs at temperatures of 34º-40º
F, but 36º-37º F seems to be preferred.
Females deposit up to 100,000 eggs, scattered at random.
The adhesive eggs stick to flooded vegetation, hatching
12-14 days later. There is no parental care.
Young remain in shallow nursery areas feeding on zooplankton
before converting to a fish diet. By fall they reach
a length of 6" or more, and at the end of their
third year measure 17"-23".
Northerns usually reach sexual maturity in the third
year of life.
those of us of northern European ancestry and an interest
in such things, this is one of the fishes that would
have fed our ancestors in the distant past.