Key Distinguishing Markings:
- The northern pike is an elongated fish.
- A dorsal region that is bluish-green to gray in color distinguishes Northern pike from other members of the pike family (chain pickerel, redfin pickerel, and muskellunge).
- Their sides having irregular rows of yellow or gold bean-shaped spots.
- They also have fully scaled cheeks and five sensory pores on each side of the ventral surface of the lower jaw.
- The mouth is duck-bill shaped and is lined with many sharp canine teeth.
- The Northern pike is capable of growing more than three feet long and weighing greater than twenty pounds.
- The range of the northern pike is extensive, having a range greater than any other freshwater gamefish.
- Pike can be found throughout the northern half of North America.
- In Maryland, northern pike populations can be found in Deep Creek Lake, the Youghiogheny Reservoir, and Loch Raven Reservoir.
- Pike prefer clear, shallow, vegetated areas of lakes and larger rivers.
- Pike are rarely found in areas lacking stumps, aquatic vegetation, or other cover.
- Northern pike are primarily fish eaters preying on species such as golden shiners, yellow perch, bluegills, and suckers.
- Young pike feed on zooplankton and aquatic invertebrates, but soon switch to a fish diet.
- Large pike have been known to feed on ducklings, small waterfowl, and small muskrats.
- Spawning takes place soon after ice-out when temperatures reach 35 F in shallow waters.
- The female broadcasts the eggs over aquatic vegetation while two or more males fertilize them.
- A large female northern pike can produce 250,000 to 500,000 eggs.
- The adhesive eggs stick to the vegetation and hatch within six to 29 days depending on water temperature.
- The young pike typically attain a length of six inches by their first fall.
- Sexual maturity is typically reached in three years.
- Pike have been documented to live 24 years.
- The northern pike is a highly prized gamefish.
- It is a fantastic fish to catch just based on its sheer size, strength, and fighting ability.
- The meat of the northern pike is white, great in flavor, and has a flaky texture, however it is quite boney.
- Pike are captured using large spoons or minnow-type lures fished along the edges of weedbeds.
- Another popular method is using a large live golden shiner or sucker fished beneath a large bobber just after ice-out in shallow coves.
- The Youghiogheny Reservoir's pike fishery is governed by Pennsylvania regulations.
- For current recreational size and creel limits, see Maryland's updated regulation page.
- The Maryland State record northern pike captured in Deep Creek Lake during 1999 measured in at 46 inches and weighed in 24 lbs. 12 oz.!
Family: Esocidae (Pikes)
Order: Esociformes (pikes and mudminnows)
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
Illustration courtesy of NOAA, Great Lakes Environmental Research