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The northern pike (known as the pike in Britain, sometimes known as jack / jackfish in Canada), Esox lucius, is a species of carnivorous fish of the genus Esox (the pikes). They are typical of brackish and freshwaters of the northern hemisphere (i.e. holarctic in distribution).

Geographic distribution

Esox lucius is found in freshwater throughout the northern hemisphere, including Russiamarker, Europe and North America. It has also been introduced to lakes in Moroccomarker and is even found in brackish water of the Baltic Seamarker

Within North America, there are northern pike populations in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, Montana, Maryland, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa, Northern New Mexico and Arizona, Illinois, eastern New Yorkmarker, New Jersey, Idaho, northern New Englandmarker, most of Canadamarker, particularly Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Qu├ębec (pike are rare in British Columbiamarker and east coast provinces), Alaskamarker, the Ohiomarker Valley, the upper Mississippi River and its tributaries, the Great Lakes Basin and surrounding states, Missourimarker, Kansas, Nebraskamarker, and parts of Oklahoma. They are also stocked in, or have been introduced to, some western lakes and reservoirs for angling purposes, although this practice often threatens other species of fish such as bass, trout and salmon, causing government agencies to exterminate the pike by poisoning lakes.


Description



Northern pike are most often olive green, shading into yellow to white along the belly. The flank is marked with short, light bar-like spots and there are a few to many dark spots on the fins. Sometimes the fins are reddish. Younger pike have yellow stripes along a green body, later the stripes divide into light spots and the body turns from green to olive green. The lower half of the gill cover lacks scales and they have large sensory pore on their head and on the underside of the lower jaw which are part of the lateral line system. Unlike the similar-looking and closely related muskellunge, the northern pike has light markings on a dark body background and fewer than six sensory pores on the underside of each side of the lower jaw.
Esox lucius Drawing
A hybrid between northern pike and muskellunge is known as a Tiger Muskellunge(Esox masquinongy x lucius or Esox lucius x masquinongy[12870], depending on the gender of each of the contributing species). In the hybrids, the males are invariably sterile as well are the females.[12871] Another form of northern pike, the silver pike, is not a subspecies but rather a mutation that occurs in scattered populations. Silver pike, sometimes called silver muskellunge, lack the rows of spots and appear silver, white, or silvery-blue in color. (Craig, 1).

Length and Weight

Pike grow to a relatively large size; lengths of and weights of 25 kilograms (55 lb) are not unheard of. The heaviest specimen known so far was caught in an abandoned stone quarry, in Germany, in 1983. She (the majority of all pikes over 8 kg or 18 lb are females) was long and weighed 31 kg (67 lb). The longest pike ever recorded was 152 cm (60 in) long and weighed 28 kg (61 lb). Historic reports of giant pike, caught in nets in Irelandmarker in the late 1800s, of 41 to 42 kg (89 to 92 lb), were researched by Fred Buller and published in "The Doomsday Book of Mammoth Pike". The British Islesmarker have not managed to produce much in the way of giant pike in the last 50 years and as a result there is substantial doubt surrounding those earlier claims. Currently, the IGFAmarker recognizes a 25 kg (55 lb) pike caught by Lothar Louis in Lake of Grefeern, Germany, on 16 October 1986 as the all-tackle world record northern pike. Northern pike in North America seldom reach the size of their European counterparts; one of the largest specimens known was a 21 kg (46 lb 2 oz) specimen from New York state. It was caught in Great Sacandaga Lakemarker on 15 September 1940 by Peter Dubuc. There are reports of far larger pike, but these are either misidentifications of the pike's larger relative the muskellunge, or simply have not been properly documented and belong in the realm of legend.

As northern pike grow longer, they increase in weight. The relationship between length and weight is not linear. The relationship between total length (L, in inches) and total weight (W, in pounds) for nearly all species of fish can be expressed by an equation of the form:
W = cL^b\!\,


Invariably, b is close to 3.0 for all species, and c is a constant that varies among species. For northern pike, b = 3.096 and c = 0.000180.

The relationship described in this section suggests that a 20-inch northern pike will weigh about 2 pounds, while a 26-inch northern pike will weigh about 4 pounds.

Ecology

Habitat

Pike take big prey and are not very particular


Pike are found in sluggish streams and shallow, weedy places in lakes, as well as in cold, clear, rocky waters. Pike are typical ambush predators; they lie in wait for prey, holding perfectly still for long periods and then exhibit remarkable acceleration as they strike. In short they will inhabit any water body that contains fish, but essential for their numbers are suitable places for spawning and because of their cannibalistic nature places where young pike can take shelter between plants so they are not eaten. In both cases it comes down to a rich submersible vegetation nearby. Pikes are seldom found in brackish water except for the Baltic Sea area. Pike is known to prefer water with less turbidity but probably that is related to their dependence to the presence of submersible vegetation and not to their being a sight hunter.

Reproduction

Pike is known to spawn very early starting in May. The males are first at the spawning grounds preceding the females for a few weeks. The larger females tend to be earlier then the smaller ones. Mostly a female is followed by several smaller males. When a pair starts slowing down the male will put his tail under the female's body and release his spawn that is mixed with the eggs due to the tail movement. The spawning consists of a great number of these moves several times a minute and going on for a few hours a day. Every move between 5 and 60 eggs are laid. A female can continue the mating for three days in a row. After the mating the males tend to stay in the area for a few extra weeks.

The color of the sticky eggs is yellow to orange, the diameter is 2.5 to 3 mm. The embryos are 7.5 to 10 mm in length and able to swim after hatching but stay on the bottom for some time. The embryonic stage is 5 to 16 days, dependent on water temperature (19 and 10 degrees respectively). Under natural circumstances the survival from free swimming larva to 75 mm pike is around 5 percent.Pike can reach the reproductive stage in a year, females being 30 cm, males 19 cm. Pike normally live 5 to 15 years, but can be as old as 30. Life expectancy and growth are dependent on circumstances. Some Canadian populations have many old slender pikes, Baltic pike grow to great lengths in a short time while eating nutrient rich herring.

feeding

The young free swimming pike feed on small invertebrates startin with daphnia, and quicky moving on to bigger prey like isopods like asellus or gammarus. When the body length is 4 to 8 cm they start feeding on small fish.

The pike have a very typical hunting behavior, they are able to remain stationary in the water, by just moving the last fin rays of the dorsal fins and the breast fins. Before striking they bend their body and dash out to the prey using the large surface of tail fin, dorsal fin and anal fin to propel themselves. The fish has a distinctive habit of catching its prey sideways in the mouth, immobilising it with its sharp backward pointing teeth, and then turning the prey headfirst to swallow it. It eats mainly fish, but on occasion water voles and ducklings have also been known to fall prey to pike. Young pike have been found dead from choking on a pike of a similar size, an observation referred to by the renowned English poet Ted Hughes in his poem 'Pike'. [12872] . Northern pike also feed on frogs, insects and leeches. It has often been suggested that pike optimally forage on prey that are from 25 to 35% of their body length. They are not very particular and eat spiny fish like perch and will even take sticklebacks if that is the only available prey.

The northern pike is a largely solitary predator. It migrates during a spawning season, and it follows the prey fish like roach to their deeper winter quarters. Sometimes diverse observe groups of similar sized pike that might have some coorporation and it is known to anglers pike tend to start hunting at the same time, so there are some "wolfpack" theories about that. Large pike can be caught on dead immobile fish so it is thought that these pike move about in a rather large territory to find the food to sustain them. Large pike are also known to cruise large water bodies at a few meters depth, probably pursuing schools of prey fish.Smaller pike are more of an ambush predator, probably because of their vulnerability to cannibalism. Pikes are often found near the exit of culverts, which can be attributed to the presence of schools of prey fish and the opportunity for ambush. Being potamodromous, all esocids tend to display limited migration, although some local movement may be of key significance for population dynamics. In the Baltic they are known to hunt for shoals o herring and therefore have some seasonal migration.

Importance to humans



Although generally known as a "sporting" quarry, most anglers release pike they have caught because the flesh is considered bony, especially due to the substantial (epipleural) "Y-bones". However, the larger fish are more easily filleted, and pike have a long and distinguished history in cuisine and are popular fare in Europe. Historical references to cooking pike go as far back as the Romans. The flesh is white and mild-tasting. Fishing for pike is said to be very exciting with their aggressive hits and aerial acrobatics. Pike are among the largest freshwater fish.

Because of their prolific nature and as predators, laws have been enacted in some places to help stop the spread of northern pike outside of their native range. For instance, in the Statesmarker of Mainemarker and Californiamarker, anglers are required, by law, to remove the head from a pike once it has been caught. In Alaskamarker pike are native north and west of the Alaska Range, but have been illegally introduced to the south central Alaska by game fishermen. In south central Alaska there is no limit in most areas. Pike, while loved by some, are seen as a threat to native wild stocks of salmon.

Elsewhere, notably in the British Isles, pike are greatly admired as a sporting fish and they are returned alive to the water in order to safeguard future sport and maintain the balance of a fishery. The Pike Anglers Club has campaigned to preserve pike since 1977, arguing that the removal of pike from waters can lead to an explosion of smaller fish, which is damaging to both the sport fishery and the environment.

Sport fishing

Esox lucius
Pike angling is becoming an increasingly popular pastime in the UK and Europe. Effective methods for catching this hard fighting fish include dead baits, lure fishing, and jerk baiting. They are prized as game fish for their determined fighting and have been food fish since ancient times.

Lake fishing for pike from the shore is especially effective during springtime, at which stage the big pike move into the shallows to spawn in weedy areas, and later many remain there to feed on other spawning coarse fish species to regain their condition after spawning. Smaller jack pike often remain in the shallows for their own protection, and for the small fish food available there. For the hot summer period and during non-active phases the larger female pike tend to retire to deeper water and/or places of better cover. This gives the boat angler good fishing during the summer and winter seasons. Trolling (towing a fairy or bait behind a moving boat) is a popular technique.

The use of float tubes have become a very popular way of fishing for pike on small to medium size stillwaters. Fly fishing for pike is another recently developing way of catching these fish, and the float tube is now recognized as an especially suitable water craft for pike fly-fishing. Pike tend to follow the streamer often and best thing to do then is stop the retrieve and let the streamer suspend or sink to the bottom slowly. For practical purposes very slow sinking fly lines and streamers with neutral buoyancy which remain horizontal in the water when stopped are very effective. The use of rabbit fur for a tail makes the streamer look lively even when it is not moving.

In recent decades more and more pike are released back to the water after catching (catch and release). But they can easily be damaged when handled. Handling those fish with dry hands can easily damage their mucous covered skin and possibly lead to their death from infections.

Since they have very sharp and numerous teeth, care is required in unhooking a pike. It is recommended that barbless trebles are used when angling for this species as it simplifies dehooking. This is undertaken using long forceps, with artery clamps the ideal tool. When holding the pike from below on the lower jaw, it will open its mouth. The pike should be kept out of the water for the minimum amount of time possible, and should be given extra time to recover if being weighed and photographed before release.

In Finland, catching a kymppihauki, a pike weighing at least , is considered the qualification as a master fisherman.

Many countries have banned the use of live fish for bait, but it is also possible to catch the pike with dead fish which they locate with smell. For this technique, often fat sea fish like herring, sardines and mackerel are used. This is a particularly good method for catching really big and well fed pike in the colder season. Compared to other fish like the eel the pike does not have a good sense of smell, but still it is more than adequate to find the baitfish. Baitfish can be used as ground bait, but also below a float carried by the wind. This method is often used in wintertime and best done in lakes near schools of preyfish or at the deeper parts of shallow water bodies, where pike and preyfish tend to gather in great numbers.

Pike make use of the lateral line system to register low frequency vibrations and follow the vortices produced by the perceived prey, and the whirling movement of the spinner is a good way to create these. Jerkbaits are also really effective and can produce spectacular bites with pike attacking these erratic moving lures at full speed. For trolling, big plug or softbaits can be used. Most fishermen tend to use small lures but often that is not advisable because pike have a preference for large prey. When fishing in shallow water for smaller pike, lighter and smaller lures are frequently used.

Etymology

Esox lucius skull


The northern pike gets its name from its resemblance to the pole-weapon known as the pike (from the Middle English for pointed). The genus name, Esox, comes from the Greek and Celtic for "big fish" and "salmon" (see Esox: Name). Various other unofficial trivial names are: American pike, common pike, great northern pike, Great Lakes pike, grass pike, slough shark, snake, slough snake, northern, jack, and jackfish. Numerous other names can be found in Field Museum Zool. Leaflet Number 9.

See also



References

  1. R. O. Anderson and R. M. Neumann, Length, Weight, and Associated Structural Indices, in Fisheries Techniques, second edition, B.E. Murphy and D.W. Willis, eds., American Fisheries Society, 1996.
  2. What the PAC is All About
  3. http://www.fishontario.com/articles/FlyFishing/index.cfm?ID=87&FN=20081412125125_FlyFishing
  • Broughton, Bruno. "A Review of the Scientific Basis for Pike Culls". N.p., 2000.
  • Craig, John F. ed. Pike: Biology and Exploitation. Chapman & Hall, London. 1996 pp. 1.
  • Eddy S, Surber T. Northern Game Fishes Univ. of Michiganmarker Press, 1943.
  • La Monte Fancesca. North American Game Fishes Doubleday & Company, Inc. 1950 pp. 126.
  • Weed Alfred C. Pike, Pickerel, and Muskellunge. Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Dept. of Zoology, Leaflet No. 9, 52 pp., 8 plates.


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