Northern Pike are an aggressive, carnivorous freshwater gamefish found in lakes and river systems right across the northern hemisphere. They are often referred to as an ‘apex predator’ and will take a large array of baits and lures as well.
Also referred to as Northern, Great Northern Pike, Jack or just Pike, they are the second largest member of the Pike family and live predominately in shallow, slow moving lakes and rivers where there is generally a lot of structure such as weed (they love weed) and fallen logs etc.
Northern Pike (Esox lucius)
Where are Northern Pike Found
As hinted within their name, Northern Pike are found right across the norther hemisphere through:
- North America – Northern United States and Canada
- Asia – Common throughout western Asia and into China and Mongolia
- Europe – Found right across Europe from Western Russia to the British Isles
What do Northern Pike Look Like?
Northern Pike have long, torpedo shaped bodies that are most often olive green with shading from yellow to white along the belly. Their flanks are dotted with yellow or white bean-shaped spots or short bars with round fins and with flat snouts that are almost alligator like in appearance – oh, and these are filled with razor sharp teeth as well.
They average in length from 50 – 75 cm (20 – 30″) weighing 2 – 5 kilograms (5 – 12lb) with sizes much larger caught by trophy hunters all year round.
How Do Northern Pike Breed?
Spawning times vary depending on location as females usually like a water temperature of around 48 degrees before they start laying. This can range from late winter in southern regions to during late spring in northern locations.
Females are physically capable of breeding from around two years of age and will lay multiple eggs at one time.
What Do Northern Pike Eat
Like many freshwater species such as Largemouth Bass, Northern Pike are carnivorous and feed on the options available to them within their immediate habitats. This can include:
- Baitfish (Yellow Perch, Minnows, Chub, Shad, Bluegill, Crappie, Ciscoes)
- Other Pike
World Record Size
25 kg (55 lb) – caught by Lothar Louis on Greffern Lake, Germany, on 16 October 1986
Catching Northern Pike
Northern Pike can be caught all year round and don’t tend to move too far away from their preferred habitat of slow moving, weed filled waters regardless of temperature. They are ambush feeders who rush out at fast speeds to feed on unsuspecting baitfish or water mammals that cross their paths.
As with most species however they are very active in the warmer months of summer and spring where they feed incessantly in order to spawn. Seasoned Pike fishers will also list the Fall months of September and October as peak times for catching Northern Pike as they increase movement after the warmer summer weather and fatten up for winter.
Gear for Catching Northern Pike
Northern Pike fishers use both spinning and baitcaster reels effectively and successfully. In general, to catch Northern Pike you will need
Spinning reel – 4000 – 5000 – lined with mono or braid
Baitcaster reel – 100 – 400 – lined with mono or braid
Rod – around 7ft and matching of reel size
Northern Pike with take both bait and lures.
Can You Eat Northern Pike?
Although not as common as many other freshwater species due to their slimy skin and fishy odor – oh and the smaller ones can be quite boney too – Northern Pike is actually quite a nice tasting table option with a sweet taste. This quality however can be reduced dramatically if the fish are caught in muddy or stagnant water or not consumed immediately after catching.
They are best eaten by skinning (they must be skinned) and filleting and then:
- Pan frying
- Deep frying
- Boiling – (often referred to as ‘poor man’s lobster’
Check out some more information in regards to eating Northern Pike here.