Creature Feature

Creature Feature – Northern Pike

Posted by  //  January 11, 2021  //  Articles, Creature Feature

Northern pike are aggressive freshwater carnivores that stalk the lakes and rivers of the U.S., Canada, Russia and parts of Europe.  These toothy, submarine-shaped ambush predators attack just about anything they can fit into their mouths, commonly targeting other fish a third or even half of their body size.  Where forage is plentiful, northern pike can exceed 40 inches in length.  Studies analyzing the gut contents of “northerns” show that perch top the menu, followed by shiners, burbot and suckers.  They cannibalize smaller pike and also eat birds, waterfowl, small mammals, frogs, leeches and insects.  

In late winter, pike move to spawning areas, typically shallow bays with good sun exposure and weed stands from the past year where an in-flowing creek is especially attractive.  Spawning occurs soon after ice-out in early spring.  Newly-hatched pike are eaten by waterfowl, perch and other fish species, and those hatched in flood plains are sometimes stranded when water levels drop. 

Anglers target pike on open water and through the ice.  Aggressive strikes can be triggered using live bait, jigs, spoons, suspending cranks, in-line spinners, spinnerbaits and plastics.  Studies show that larger female pike produce more robust young, so releasing big fish helps support a sustainable fishery.  Anglers should avoid holding pike vertically, which may damage their vertebrae.

Article by Margie Manthey

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