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Northern Pike

a crouching man in a boat is holding a very large northern pike

Scientific Name

Esox lucius

Common Names

Northern Pike, Jackfish, Snake

General Info

The northern pike is the most prolific trophy resource in the lakes in our area. Excellent habitat, an abundance of forage, a healthy gene pool of big fish, and a long standing history of Catch & Release policies are only a few of the key reasons anglers come back to Jackson’s Lodge & Outposts year after year.

The Northerns in our area are slow growing but generally live longer than their more Southern counterparts. The largest Northern caught on one of our lakes since we took ownership in 1991 is a 53.5"/1.36m! Life expectancy can be as high as 24-26 years, with females living longer and attaining a more massive size than males.

Most Northerns are caught in less than 15 feet of water, usually in spots where there is adequate cover and food. Pike are most often caught by casting along weedbeds, trolling the points of weedy bays or islands, and still fishing the deeper water off the weedbeds during the warmer days of July. We maintain that on our lakes you need to throw big baits if you expect to catch a big fish.

Description

a man standing in a boat holds a very long northern pike Pike have a very long streamlined body that is moderately deep. A cross section between the paired fins outlines a deep oval shape that progressively flattens across the top as it moves towards the head. The moderately rounded head and snout are also quite long, comprising as much as 25-30% of the fish’s total length. The mouth is large and full of teeth; over the roof of the mouth and in patches along the tongue are short but razor sharp shark-like cardiform teeth. Large, sturdy canine teeth line the inner edge of the mouth. Some of these are flattened to sharp screwdriver-like edges while others are pointed. The lower jaw usually protrudes beyond the snout.

Northerns have a soft boned dorsal fin with rounded tips that is set far back. The caudal fin is long with rounded tips and is moderately forked. The anal fin is set slightly further back than the dorsal with a rounded tip. The pair of abdominal pelvics are mid way along the body and are paddle-like with rounded tips. The two pectorals are right below the gill flap and are also paddle shaped with rounded tips. The scales are cycloid in shape and have a golden fleck along the exposed edge.

Northern pike are readily identifiable by their colouring; a pattern of light, almost yellow spots on top of a dark green to drab olive coat. The head and back are typically darker green than the flanks. The golden flecks along the edges of the scales presents a gold hue which is often seen in photographs. The eyes are a brilliant yellow. The fins are a yellow to green colour, however the caudal and anal fins may be orange or pale red.

Reproduction

The Northern pike is a spring spawner. The spawn occurs as soon as the ice is off the lake. In our area the pike spawn is early to mid-May when the water temperature reaches 40-52°F (4.4-11.1°C). Northerns spawn in heavily vegetated, shallow bays, often in no more than 7"/17.5cm of water. Spawning usually occurs during the day, eggs are scattered over, and attach to, the vegetation in a random fashion. During the spawn males are not territorial and do not build nests.

Eating Habits

Pike are eating machines, they will eat anything that will fit in their large mouth. They will eat perch, walleye, whitefish, suckers, other northerns, mice, frogs, ducklings and any other small woodland creatures that have the misfortune of crossing the carnivores' path. Several times each summer guests tell us of northerns ”T-boneing“ a fish that they were reeling in, or that a pike took a walleye right off their stringer.