Northern Pike

Esox Lucius

Related Species

Muskellunge; pickerel; tiger muskie

AKA

Jack; jackfish

Coloration

Olive green to dark green with light colored spots; Great Lakes strains more silvery in appearance

Field Marks

Numerous sharp canine teeth; yellowish spot on edge of each scale; 10 pores on underside of lower jaw

Habitat

Lakes and other waters where current is slow; near vegetation usually

Feeding Habits

Like other members of the Esox family, northern pike are predators who key almost exclusively on other fish. Favorite prey include suckers, shiners, chubs, or lake perch.

Comments

Pike seek out cool water and vegetation. As a freshwater predator, second only to its close cousin the muskie. Maligned in much of its northern territory, the pike is slowly gaining credibility as a true sportfish.

WI Record

38 lbs 0 oz. 8/6/1952 Lake Puckaway, Green Lake County

Distribution

In Wisconsin, the northern pike occurs in the Mississippi River, Lake Michigan, and Lake Superior drainage basins. It is widely distributed throughout the state except in the un-glaciated area, where it is sparsely dispersed except in large river systems and impounded areas. The northern pike is generally common except in the southeastern quarter of the state, where populations are seriously depressed.

Spawning

Spawning may occur from late March to early April, as soon as the ice begins to break up in the spring. Migrations into the spawning areas take place during the night. Spawning occurs at temperatures between 34 and 40º F, but 36 – 37º F seems to be the preferred range. Spawning takes place in flooded areas with emergent vegetation and involves one female and from one to three attendant males. Eggs are deposited on vegetation to which they adhere. There is no parental care.

Angling

Unlike other common species of game fish, northern pike are most active when the water is cool. The northern pike is quite accommodating to anglers, biting best during the daylight hours. Being a predator, northerns prefer live fish baits, and wobbling spoons. They are a favorite target of ice fisherman with tip-ups.