Northern Pike

These are ferocious underwater predators and a heap of fun to catch. When you have a northern pike on the end of your line, you know it. They put up a determined battle and will often take your line out more than once. Once you get them to the boat the battle can be far from over. They flip and twist and they’re slippery.  This adds to the challenge of landing this fighting game fish.

The northern pike gets its name from its resemblance to the old English pole-weapon known as the pike.   They are most often olive green, shading into yellow to white along the belly. Younger pike have yellow stripes along a green body, later the stripes divide into light spots. The lower half of the gill cover lacks scales and they have large sensory pores on their head and on the underside of the lower jaw.   They have mucus covered skin (ie, they're slimy!) this may help protect them from infections.

Pike are found in shallow, weedy places in lakes, as well as in cold, clear, rocky waters.  They are typical ambush predators; they lie in wait for prey, holding perfectly still for long periods and then strike with remarkable speed. 

Pike 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. They have a distinctive habit of catching their prey sideways in the mouth, immobilizing it with its sharp backward pointing teeth, and then turning the prey headfirst to swallow it.

They eat mainly fish, but on occasion also water voles and ducklings. Northern pike also feed on frogs, insects, and leeches. They are not very particular and eat spiny fish. Young pike have been found dead from choking on a pike of a similar size!

As shown, many a fisherman has caught two fish at once when a northern pike attacks the fish already on his line.

Pike grow to a relatively large size; lengths of 150 centimetres (59 in) and weights of 25 kilograms (55 lb) are not unheard of.

 If you are aiming to catch one of these, consider dead bait fishing in early spring.  Trolling is a popular technique.  Pike like weedy and sheltered habitats.   You will find them around fallen trees and anywhere they can find shelter – both to ambush other prey and to hide from their cannibal relatives.    In the heat of summer, and in winter when prey fish are deep, they will be deeper in the lake.   Pike feel the movement of their prey, and the whirling movement of the spinner is a good way to imitate these movements.  Jerkbaits are also really effective and can produce spectacular bites with pike attacking these erratic moving lures at full speed. For trolling, big plugs or softbaits can be used. Spoons with mirror finishes are very effective when the sun is at a sharp angle to the water in the mornings or evenings because they not only generate the vibrations of prey but also cause a glint of reflective sunlight that mimics the flash of white-bellied prey.

Pike have a preference for large prey, so unless you are fishing in shallow water for small pike, use a large lure.  Once you feel the thrill of a violent strike on the end of your rod, hang on, because these fish are capable of remarkable acceleration.

Both Falcon Lake Marina and Faloma Marina have an excellent stock of the right kind of bait and lures for catching these exciting fighters and can give you advice on what to use on a particular day.   

Pike have been a good fish since ancient Roman times, but filleting a northern pike can be a challenge because of its bony nature.   (See our page on how to fillet fish.)   Here is a recipe which may help dissolve any bones that you didn’t manage to remove during filleting:

Baked Northern Pike:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.   Par-boil pike fillets wrapped in cheesecloth for about 5 minutes.  Lie fillets in large baking dish.   Cover with ½ to 1 pound of sliced carrots, and then 1 or 2 large white onions, sliced.  Mix two tubs of sour cream with one can of cream of celery soup and two tablespoons of bread crumbs  and pour over fish, carrots and onions.Sprinkle with paprika  and dill and bake for 35 - 45 minutes until all liquid is bubbling through fish.