Our Wild Neighbors

Northern Pike

Esox lucius

An urban lake and river opportunist living in Western and Central Canadian provinces

Image of a Northern Pike, mounted and shown in profile facing left.

Description of the animal

  • Long, laterally compressed body. Size: between 50 and 75 cm.
  • Weight: between 1 and 2.5 kg. Some weigh more than 9 kg.
  • Snout is long, wide, and flat.
  • Large eyes located high on its head.
  • Lower jaw extends slightly from end of snout.
  • Large mouth featuring numerous pointed teeth.
  • Dorsal fin located far back on the body, near the forked tail; pelvic fin found around middle of the body.
  • Body colour varies from greenish-brown to olive green, with small gold specks on ends of scales, and larger lighter spots on its body. Colours fade to a yellowish white on its abdomen.

Habitat and needs

  • One of the rare fish that enjoy warm, shallow waters high in plant life. During warm summer days, the Northern Pike prefers to keep cool in deeper waters.
  • An opportunistic carnivore. The Northern Pike feeds on everything it finds: fish, insects, crayfish, frogs, mice, muskrats, ducklings, etc.
  • Breeds in the spring where plant life is dense, in the shallow waters of flood plains, rivers, marshes, bays, and lakes.
  • Lays more than 100 000 eggs. The female scatters them at random where they attach to the vegetation and hatch in about 12 to 14 days. Immobile for the first 6 to 10 days, the young remain attached to vegetation by their adhesive glands located on their heads.
  • An ambush hunter, hides in aquatic weeds.
  • Solitary and territorial.
  • Can live up to 25 years in Northern Canada’s cold waters. Its biological rhythm takes on a faster pace in southern lakes; it rarely survives more than 6 years and reaches sexual maturity earlier.
  • Moves at high speed. Its slender body can accelerate in a straight line up to 40 metres per second.
  • Occasionally referred to as the “king” of lakes and rivers. Its voracious appetite is such that it can displace other fish species, particularly trout, bass, and perch.

Relationship

  • Many people enjoy fishing the Northern Pike with a rod and line. Fishing tales glorify its impressive size and combative nature.
  • It has an amusing Latin name, Esox lucius, which means “water wolf.”
  • At times introduced in bodies of water to displace an overpopulation of carp.
  • Dams used to control floods shrink its spawning grounds.
  • The Northern Pike is sensitive to pollution.

Living with them

  • Morning and evening are the best times to fish for the Northern Pike. It can be found in bays, at the mouth of streams, and in shallow waters with vegetation. Any lure will do.
  • Never stock a body of water with both Northern Pike and trout – the Pike will devour the trout.
  • To promote its presence, retain aquatic plants. The Northern Pike lives in vegetation found in shallow waters.

Participating cities where this animal has been seen