Northern Pike

Esox lucius

Quick Facts

  • Species

    Native

  • Habitat

    Freshwater lakes, ponds and rivers, preferring clear, shallow, vegetated areas

  • Range

    Found throughout the northern half of North America, from Canada south to Nebraska, Missouri and Pennsylvania. Range extends farther than that of any other freshwater gamefish.

  • Diet

    Feed on smaller fish, frogs, crayfish, small mammals and birds

  • Lifespan

    Up to 24 years

  • Status

    Stable

Also known as the American pike or northern pickerel, the northern pike’s range extends farther than that of any other freshwater gamefish.

Appearance

The northern pike averages 18 to 20 inches in length and has a single dorsal fin. Seven to nine rows of light-colored, bean-shaped spots run down the sides of its dark green, elongated body. Its underside is white to cream colored. The northern pike's duck-bill shaped mouth is lined with sharp teeth.

Feeding

Northern pike are carnivorous fish that uses sharp teeth to feed on smaller fish, frogs, crayfish, small mammals and birds. Young feed on zooplankton and other aquatic invertebrates.

Predators

Adult northern pike have few natural predators, but young may be eaten by predatory fish or aquatic birds.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Spawning occurs in the shallows when water temperatures reach about 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Females broadcast eggs over aquatic vegetation while two or more males fertilize them. Females leave spawning area after 5 to 10 days. Males remain for several weeks, but do not protect eggs. Eggs hatch in two to four weeks, and young grow rapidly. Northern pike have been documented to live 24 years.

Did You Know?

  • The Northern pike is an insatiable predator and popular sportfish that willingly bites lures and bait.
  • The Maryland state record was caught in 1999 in Deep Creek Lake. It measured 46 inches and weighed 24 lbs., 12 oz.

Sources and Additional Information

Quick Facts

  • Species

    Native

  • Habitat

    Freshwater lakes, ponds and rivers, preferring clear, shallow, vegetated areas

  • Range

    Found throughout the northern half of North America, from Canada south to Nebraska, Missouri and Pennsylvania. Range extends farther than that of any other freshwater gamefish.

  • Diet

    Feed on smaller fish, frogs, crayfish, small mammals and birds

  • Lifespan

    Up to 24 years

  • Status

    Stable