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Northern Pike

Esox lucius

The northern pike has a dark green, elongated body. (katdaned/Flickr)
The northern pike has a dark green, elongated body. (katdaned/Flickr)

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

Appearance:

  • Single dorsal fin
  • Seven to nine rows of light-colored, bean-shaped spots run down sides of dark green, elongated body
  • White to cream colored underside
  • Duck-bill shaped mouth is lined with sharp teeth
  • Average 18 to 20 inches in length

Habitat:

  • Found in freshwater lakes, ponds and rivers, preferring clear, shallow, vegetated areas

Range:

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

Feeding:

  • 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:

  • Adults 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
  • Have been documented to live 24 years

Other Facts:

  • 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:




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