Fish Identification – Northern Pike

Northern Pike (or just Pike)

Characteristics: Pike are a long slender fish. They usually have a greenish body, but this can change from a light green to a darker green based on their environment and their food source. They also have very unique spots on their body. These spots are oval shaped. Cover their entire body, and are usually white or yellowish in colour. Northern Pike can range from anywhere around 30cm and can grow all the way up to 150cm! These are true brutes of the underwater world. When they are young they can weigh in at a small 3-4 pounds but once they grow up they can get up to 50 pounds with some even larger than that.

How to handle: Be very careful with these guys, especially if you land a big one. They are very powerful fish and if you catch one that is 20 plus pounds you make have some issues with grabbing it. First of all you must be aware that these large predators have very sharp teeth, so don’t go sticking your hand inside its mouth unless you want to be cut. The best way to pull them ashore or to pull them into a boat is to grab them under their gills. If you look at a fish it usually has a hard outer edge around its gills to protect them. This is known as the gill plate. On a pike this gill plate is quite large and you can easily side your hand in behind this gill plate and grab the fish through there, all the while making sure not to actually grab it by its gills so as to not damage it. Once you have it grasped under its gill plate you can pull it into your boat or onto shore and then support it by its belly so that it is cradled in your hands vertically, as my buddy Tom does in the pictures page. One of the best ways to land these guys is to use a net or a fish cradle. While you usually net a fish it tends to calm down making it a lot easier to handle.

Where to find them: These guys love to hang out in weeds. As they are ambush predators so they tend to hang out in weed beds ready to pounce on any minnow or small bait fish that swims by. Weeds however, or only part of the equation, these guys can also be found in deeper waters with rocky bottoms. Be sure to try out both of these types of waters to try to catch one of these guys. These guys are best caught in early to late fall as they go into a feeding frenzy before the winter. You will find a lot of targeting anglers them at this time.

How to catch them: As I said these guys are big time predators and they like to hang out and just wait for a bait fish to swim past them. The best way to hook into one of these guys is to fish the edges of weeds. Unlike bass they don’t tend to really dig themselves deep in the weeds, they prefer to just be on the outskirts waiting for something to swim by. They can accelerate very quickly with their slender bodies and will eat almost anything. The best baits to use on these guys is a buck tail spinner, a large spoon, or even a crank bait. One thing is certain though, if you want to catch a big pike you have to use a big bait. A large predator like this will not waste its energy eating a lot of tiny fish, instead it will make one quick move to get the most out of its bite, hence you should use larger style baits. A great method for catching pike is to troll right beside weed beds or through channels in lakes with a slow presentation. In winter months these guys can also be caught through the ice. They feed all year long but your best bet is to target these monsters in early to late fall.

Northern Pike

Northern Pike 2