Northern Pike Information, Photos, and Facts

Found in the freshwaters of the Northern Hemisphere, The Northern Pike is a voracious fish. Hiding in the shadow ready to attack its prey, the pike displays to nature a fearless attitude.

The Northern Pike (Esox Lucius) gets it name from its resemblance of the pole-like weapon known as a pike used in the middle ages. Its predation status makes it a fish to be feared by smaller fish. American Expedition is proud to present information & interesting facts about the Northern Pike.

Painting of a jumping northern pike.

Northern Pike Information

Northern Pike are found in freshwater throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Because of their body shape, their appearance is distinct from other freshwater fish, though the muskie sometimes gets mistaken for this species. The pike has a long, slender body that is olive green in color and fades to yellowish-white on its belly. The sides of the fish are marked with lighter colored spots that usually match the belly color. One dorsal fin is located near the end of the back and this fin, along with the others, is marbled with spots. The pike has a long, flattened snout and a mouth full of sharp teeth.

The major difference in appearance of male and female pike is size. The female fish are naturally larger than the male. Both genders grow continually with age. The average weight of a northern pike is between 3-7 pounds and 24-30 inches long. The largest pike ever caught was 58 inches long and weighed 68 pounds.

Northern pike spawn in the spring when the water temperature reaches at least 48 degrees Fahrenheit. As the female spreads her eggs on vegetation in water no more than a foot deep, the male fertilizes them. Typically there are between 15,000 and 75,000 eggs. After the sticky eggs are attached to the submerged vegetation, the male and female both leave. The eggs hatch after about two weeks. The newly hatched “fry” feed on their egg sack until it is gone and then switch their diet to zooplankton. After about two weeks, they begin to feed on small fish. Pike grow most rapidly during the first two years of their life. Sexual maturity is reached between ages 3 and 5, with the males reaching this point earlier than the females of the same age. The average lifespan of a northern pike in the wild is 7 years.


Northern Pike Facts

  • The state fish of North Dakota is the northern nike.
  • The Northern pike is sometimes called other names: American pike, common pike, Great Lakes pike, jackfish, longhead, and snot rocket.
  • Pike are known as ambush predators.
  • Pike can lie perfectly still for a remarkable period of time.
  • Northern pike can swim 8-10 miles per hour.
  • The older the fish is, the larger it is.
  • Most pike that weigh more than 18 pounds are female.
  • The world record pike was caught in Germany.
  • Pike do not make nests for their eggs.
  • Neither the male nor the female pike care for the eggs once they are laid.
  • The majority of the fry do not hatch successfully.
  • The “fries” continue to attach onto vegetation because of a sticky patch still on their head. This patch remains there for a couple of weeks.
  • The oldest pike in its natural habitat lived to be 25 years old.
  • The pike is not a picky eater.
  • Adult pike typically have no other predators than humans.

Northern Pike Habitat

Northern pike seek areas of dense vegetation in streams, lakes, and large rivers. They tend to occupy the shallow waters near the shore with covering. They prefer cool water, and therefore will head to the deeper water around midsummer.

What Do Northern Pike Eat?

Pike are carnivorous fish and consume a large amount of food each day. Their diet consists mainly of fish that are smaller than them but they also eat other creatures like frogs and waterfowl. Pike lurk in the vegetation, making no movements, just waiting for a creature to get close enough to strike it. Pike are not picky with the species of fish they go after; they will eat just about anything smaller than them.


Northern Pike Fishing Tips

  • Pike are popular with fisherman because of their fighting ability, the excellent taste of the cooked flesh, and the ability to catch them easily.
  • The meat of a pike is white and flaky, but quite boney as well.
  • Cast near the shore, close to or in weed beds, or near a rocky shore.
  • Pike will hit almost anything that moves. For this reason, the type of lure you choose will not drastically change the outcome of your fishing trip.
  • Use a lure that will be easy to remove from the fish’s mouth.
  • The most popular lure to use to catch a northern pike is a spoon.
  • Jitterbug lures are good for surface fishing.
  • Find the correct fishing reel that you feel most comfortable using. The spin cast reel is the easiest to use for a beginner.
  • Pike bite more in the daylight hours than at night.
  • Another way to fish for pike is bobber fishing. Attach a shad, a minnow, or even a bluegill to the hook and cast it near the shore.
  • Many bow fisherman target northern pike.
  • Each state has varying fishing regulations. It is important to educate yourself on them before going out to fish.
  • Remember to acquire a fishing permit if taking up this sport. Fishing without a permit is illegal and could result in a fine. Many states allow young children or veterans to fish without a permit.
  • Although many fish have an open season of all year, there are some that do not. Look at your state’s regulations to find out when you are allowed to fish.
  • Most states have a length limit for their fish. If the fish you caught does not measure the minimum, it is required that you let it go. There are sometimes maximum limits for certain fish as well.
  • Most states also have daily limits, or the amount of a certain fish you can keep in one day.
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The above video shows an underwater shot of a Northern Pike getting caught.

A happy guy who just caught a northern pike.

Some states will have maximum or minimum limits on northern pike. This northern pike measures in at 28". Photo by sachmet(Pete Krawcyzk) on Flickr.

Up close photo of a northern pike on a chain.

Northern pike will go after almost anything that moves in the water, so it's unimportant what type of lure you use. Photo by msn678 (Mike Nielsen) on Flickr.

Photo of a woman with a northern pike.

Northern pike are loved by fishing enthusiasts because they put up a good fight, and it is rewarding to catch one. Photo by theschulers09 on Flickr

A northern pike's scales and eye up close.

Pike are known as ambush predators, and can lie perfectly still for hours at a time. When they spy movement with their big eyes, they go after it.Photo by SKSikkema (Kelly Sikkema) on Flickr.