Northern Pike

See also: Responsible Fishing Practices

Usually solitary and highly territorial, the northern pike lurks at the edge of weed beds and attacks unwary creatures that enters its domain. Pike [Esox Lucius] are typical ambush predators; they lie in wait for prey, holding perfectly still for long periods and then exhibit remarkable acceleration as they strike.

The northern pike is a member of the pike family of fishes (chain pickerel, redfin pickerel, and muskellunge). Northern pike are the most widely distributed freshwater fish in the world; they are found all over Asia, Europe, and North America. Pike are found in sluggish heavily vegetated streams, rivers, and shallow weedy places in lakes. Pike are rarely found in areas lacking stumps, aquatic vegetation or other cover.

Pike have a long slender head and body. The broad flat snout gives it a duck-billed appearance.The mouth is filled with sharp canine teeth, slanted in for tearing and pulling prey towards their throat. These teeth are continuously replaced throughout the fish’s life.

This fish with its ferocious looking grin is a voracious predator. It is an opportunist that can be best described as an omnivorous carnivore. It feeds on whatever is most readily available, and will hunt almost any fish smaller than they are.

Suitable places for spawning are essential for their numbers. Because of their cannibalistic nature, young pike need places where they can hide between plants so they are not eaten.

Small pike eat tiny crustaceans and insects, switching to a fish diet when they reach about 2 inches in length. Female pike in the Toronto area reach maturity between 2 and 4 years of age, with males maturing earlier. While they can live more than 20 years, a more typical lifespan is 10-12 years.

Besides eating fish, crayfish, and frogs, large pike sometimes catch and eat mice, shrews, muskrats, and young waterfowl or any small creature within their reach. Pike can grow more than 3 feet long and weigh more than 20 pounds. The largest Northern Pike caught in Ontario weighed just over 42 pounds.

Responsible Fishing Practices

Because of their stealth and sheer size, the pike's only natural predator worth noting is the human. The fish community of Grenadier Pond is continually under stress. Top predators such as pike and largemouth bass help maintain a balance of fish in Grenadier Pond. As a conscientious angler, you can minimize your effect on this balance by following these guidelines:

  • Observe sport fishing regulations and properly dispose of fishing lines and hooks.
  • Learn how to properly catch and release fish; pike can be easily damaged.
  • Your hands should be wet and bare when you handle fish. If handled by dry hands or gloves, damage results to the mucous covered skin and could lead to death from infections.
  • Consider using barbless hooks and forceps or needle-nose pliers in dehooking.
  • Minimize the time you fight with the fish in the water.
  • Minimize the handling and time out of the water.
  • If you must lift the fish, hold it under the gills with one hand and just ahead of the tail with the other but do not touch the gills, or hold it under the belly area ndash; otherwise internal organ damage may result.
  • Never hold a pike like the old-time angler used to (by the eye sockets) as this certainly will injure and likely kill the fish.
  • Do not throw the fish back into the water, putting it into shock; instead, gently lower the fish and cradle it (facing into the current) until it swims out of your hands.

Author: Colin Crawford

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Content last modified on April 20, 2013, at 06:47 PM EST