Northern Pike
Esox lucius

Also called: Great Northern Pike, Jack, Jackfish, Pickerel, Pike, Great Northern Pickerel, American Pike, Common Pike, Great, Lakes Pike.

Report a discovery in an unlisted area

If you think you’ve seen or caught a Northern Pike:

  • Do not release it into the water.
  • Catch it and keep it frozen. If you can’t do that, destroy it.
  • Note the location (with GPS coordinates if possible) as well as the observation date.
  • Contact Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

The Northern Pike is one of the most valuable commercial freshwater species in the northwest. It is a strong, persistent fighter, attracting many fishermen because of the challenge it presents. However, in some areas it is considered to be a nuisance because it devours other game fish such as trout, bass and perch.

Identifying features

Similar species (native)

Muskellunge (Esox masquinongy)

The Northern Pike can be distinguished from the Muskellunge by its pale spots and the rounded extremities of its caudal fin.

Where it has been found

The Northern Pike is primarily a freshwater fish with a wide distribution in the northern hemisphere. It is found in rivers and lakes throughout Quebec, Ontario, the Prairie provinces, the northeast corner of British Columbia, and in the Yukon, Nunavut and Northwest Territories. It has been legally introduced for sport fishing in some places while other introductions have been illegal intentional introductions.

Ecological and economic impacts

Usually solitary and highly territorial, the Northern Pike lurks at the edge of weed beds and attacks unwary creatures that enter its domain, such as fish, crayfish, frogs, mice, muskrats and young waterfowl. It is an opportunist that can be best described as an omnivorous carnivore, as it feeds on whatever is most readily available.

In most areas of Canada, the Northern Pike is both a commercial fish and a sport fish, while in other areas it is considered a nuisance because it devours large numbers of other game fish such as trout, bass and perch.

Habitat

The Northern Pike is a cool-water species and its habitat is usually slow, heavily vegetated rivers or the weedy bays of lakes. The Northern Pike spawns in the spring immediately after the ice melts. The breeding grounds include areas that flood only in the spring and early summer and may be dry the remainder of the year. During spawning, Northern Pike swim through vegetated areas of shallow water, randomly scattering their eggs, which then attach to the vegetation.

Origins and mode of arrival

The native distribution of Northern Pike is circumpolar in North America and Eurasia.

Recreational angling is overwhelmingly the number one reason for Northern Pike’s introduction outside its native range in North America and Europe; angling now far outweighs commercial fishing for the species.

Government action

Scientific research

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is studying the Northern Pike population to improve its understanding of how it reacts and adapts to Canadian conditions.

For further information

References

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