FWS Focus

Overview

Characteristics
Overview

Northern pike are commonly called northerns or pike. They are a carnivorous fish with a snout full of sharp teeth and are ambush predators, hunting near and in underwater cover and structures. Northern pike are considered a cool water species and a highly sought after recreational ?sh species, prized for the taste of their white ?akey ?esh. 

Scientific Name

Esox lucius
Common Name
northern pike
Kingdom

Location in Taxonomic Tree

Genus
Species

Identification Numbers

TSN:

Characteristics

Characteristic category

Habitat

Characteristics
Habitat

Northern pike inhabit freshwater, and can be found in waters as deep as 100 feet. These ?sh occur in clear, vegetated lakes, quiet pools and the backwaters of creeks and small to large rivers, lakes and reservoirs. 

River or Stream
Lake
Characteristic category

Food

Characteristics
Food

Northern pike are opportunistic feeders and can be best described as carnivorous, feeding primarily on ?shes, invertebrates and amphibians. But, pike have been known to prey upon, snakes, small mammals such as mice and voles and even waterfowl.  

 

Characteristic category

Physical Characteristics

Characteristics
Size & Shape

Northern pike can attain lengths up to 4.5 feet. 

Weight

Northern pike can weigh up to 62.5 lbs. 

Characteristic category

Life Cycle

Characteristics
Reproduction

Spawning adults will begin to move upstream into shallow tributary streams or inshore to flooded marsh areas to spawn as soon as the ice begins to break up or thaw in late winter to early spring. Though spawning seasons vary depending on location, Northern Pike in the Great Lakes region tend to spawn in April or May after winter ice leaves. Spawning generally occurs during daylight hours. Spawning females seek vegetation and randomly broadcast up to 75,000 eggs which are fertilized by several individual males. The fertilized eggs are sticky and adhere readily to the surrounding submerged vegetation. Soon after spawning is completed the adults move out of the nursery areas to deeper water habitat.  

Life Cycle

Fertilized northern pike eggs hatch after 10 to 14 days depending up water temperature. Once the newly hatched fry have used up their egg sac (self-sustaining nutrient supply) they begin to move about and feed on (microscopic aquatic animals) known as zooplankton, and soon after become piscivorous (switching to a diet of small fishes). The fry remain in their nursery areas until they are about two to three inches long.  

In an effort to avoid cannibalism in the nursery habitat and to begin the search for larger prey items, fingerling northern pike move to deeper water habitat. They then spend much of their time evading other predators such as birds, mammals and other fishes, but as they survive this gauntlet of predators, the young northern pike grow quickly in their first two years. Once they grow to adult size (sometimes up to 48 inches) northern pike become voracious predators and rarely encounter any serious threats other than humans and larger northern pike. 

Geography

Characteristics
Range

Northern pike are distributed between the Arctic portions of North America, Europe, Asia, and Siberia. Most populations of northern pike are north of latitude 40 degrees north. The range of northern pike in North America extends from Alaska through Canada to the upper mid-western portion of the United States. Northern pike have been widely introduced and transplanted throughout Europe. In some cases, several countries have reported adverse ecological effects resulting from these northern pike introductions. 

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