Apex freshwater predators with fearsome teeth!
Pike Fish Scientific Classification
- Scientific Name
Pike Fish Conservation Status
Pike Fish Facts
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The pike is a long-bodied and aggressive northern freshwater fish that lies in wait near the bottom of the water for its quarry to pass by so it can snatch them up in the blink of an eye.
The term pike, which originated centuries ago before taxonomy was a true science, has sown quite a lot of confusion. All known pike fish belong to a single genus called Esox, but this genus also includes the closely related pickerel and the muskellunge. Together they make up a broad category of pike-like fish.
An Incredible Fish: 4 Pike Facts
- The Pike fish actually gets its name from the popular weapon used in combat, which consists of a pole with a metal instrument on top. This is probably due to the animal’s exceptional length.
- Pike fish have a mottled or spotted appearance with stripes on their back to provide camouflage among the vegetation at the bottom of rivers and lake beds. Like a fingerprint, these patterns are entirely unique to the individual.
- This is a solitary fish that largely sticks to its own devices except during the breeding season. This highly territorial creature will attempt to police its boundaries aggressively.
- Some species have a highly movable eye that can see in almost any direction.
Pike Classification and Scientific Name
The pike describes several species that belong to the genus of Esox (a Greek word likely borrowed from the Celtic term for certain types of long-bodied freshwater fish). This genus is the only currently living member of the family Esocidae. More broadly, it is part of the order Esociformes along with the small mud minnows. Several extinct types of pike have been found in the fossil record dating back tens of millions of years.
There are seven species currently recognized in the genus Esox. This includes four species officially called pike, plus the American pickerel, the chain pickerel, and the muskellunge. These are the four main species of pikes:
- Northern Pike: Endemic to Europe, Northern Asia, and North America (including a large stretch of territory between Alaska and the Midwestern United States), the northern pike is a very popular game fish. It was so popular, in fact, that people introduced it to other parts of the world, where it’s sometimes seen as a threat to native fishing stocks.
- Southern Pike: As the name suggests, this is the southern-most species of pike. It is found as far south as Italy, southern France, and Switzerland.
- Amur Pike: Also known as the black-spotted pike, it is native to the Amur River system in East Asia, which straddles China, Mongolia, and Russia.
- Aquitanian Pike: Native to the southwestern region of France, this species was first recognized in 2014, so not much is known about it.
Pike: The Fish’s Appearance
The pike fish is characterized by a long, relatively flat body, a shovel-like mouth, and big teeth. It has a single dorsal and anal fin each near the tail, plus two pairs of fins near the head and stomach. The small scales are typically covered in blue-gray, yellow-green, or almost pinkish-red colors that become lighter near the underside of the fish.
The muskellunge is widely recognized as the largest member of the genus. The typical specimen in this species can reach up to 48 inches long and 36 pounds in weight (though specimens up to 70 pounds have been documented). The more common northern pike averages 18 to 20 inches in length and weighs a few pound, but it can also grow to much larger sizes. The largest northern pike specimen ever caught was a 55-pound behemoth that came from Lake Greffern, Germany in 1986.
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Pike Distribution, Population, and Habitat
The pike is found in freshwater rivers and lakes all over the Northern Hemisphere. The greatest concentration occurs in the United States and Canada. It can survive at all types of depths, including the bottom. Despite frequent fishing by humans, this species as a whole is in stable and excellent health. The four species categorized by the IUCN Red List are of least concern.
Pike Predators and Prey
The adult pike is a top predator in the food chain with few natural predators besides humans, but the eggs and juvenile fish do make a tasty snack for otters, aquatic birds, and other fish. As an apex predator, the adult pike is a patient carnivore that lies in wait among the weeds for prey to come by so it can seize them with its sharp teeth in an aggressive display of rapid motion. This animal prefers to consume insects, isopods, and small fish, while larger species also consume water birds, frogs, and small mammals. The northern pike is a cannibalistic fish that will feed on juvenile members of its own species.
Pike: The Fish’s Reproduction and Lifespan
The pike’s spawning season usually occurs at any time between late winter and the spring, when it begins moving upriver or closer to the shore. Mating behavior varies slightly by species. The male northern pike, for instance, can induce the female to release eggs by gently nudging her head. The male will then release his sperm to fertilize the eggs.
The young pike (sometimes called jacks) will emerge from the fertilized eggs a few weeks later. Vulnerable and alone, they will attach themselves to weeds and survive off the yolk sack while they still lack the ability to feed on more substantial food. When their mouths finally develop, the young fish will begin to consume zooplankton (tiny marine animals), and later on in its development, the fish will move on to larger prey.
A single female pike can produce thousands of eggs every year in the spawning season. Many of these juveniles lack protection and are simply not expected to survive predation for the first few months. If it does develop into an adult, then the northern pike is known to live some 10 to 15 years in the wild. The longest documented lifespan is some 26 years.
Pike in Fishing and Cooking
The pike is a popular fish in both recreational and commercial fishing. It is rarely caught in large enough quantities to cause excessive population pressures. It also does not adapt for very well to artificial fisheries. Instead, it tends to be caught in smaller numbers by lone fishers. Dead bait, live bait, and lure fishing are all effective methods for catching the pike. However, due to the presence of the sharp teeth, extra care is required to handle the fish.
The pike has a white flakey flesh with a rather watery taste. Whether baked, grilled, or fried, the flesh is high in proteins and good fats. However, you should watch out for the small bones in the flesh that can really make this fish a nuisance to eat. You should clean it well before cooking.View all 87 animals that start with P
Pike Fish FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
What is a pike?
Pike describes any member of the genus Esox. There are seven species in the genus, including the popular northern pike.
What does Pike fish look like?
The pike has a very long body, a shovel-like nose, and sharp teeth. The colors usually range between blue-gray, yellow-green, or pink-red, depending on the species.
Do pike fish attack humans?
Despite its aggressive nature, very few pike attacks on humans have ever been documented. That’s probably because the pike has no interest in tussling with a creature that’s much bigger than itself. The pike would prefer to run away in most cases.
Is Pike healthy to eat?
Pike meat is high in proteins and healthy fats. It is a good source of heart-healthy omega-3 fats but not quite as much as some other cold water fish.
What states have Pike fish?
The pike is endemic (or has been introduced) to most states in the country, but the greatest concentration of pike occurs east of the Rocky Mountains (and the Great Lakes region and northeastern states in particular). If you are interested in catching pike, then you should consult your local fish and wildlife departments for more information about the best spots.
Are Pike Fish herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores?
Pike Fish are Carnivores, meaning they eat other animals.
What Kingdom do Pike Fish belong to?
Pike Fish belong to the Kingdom Animalia.
What phylum to Pike Fish belong to?
Pike Fish belong to the phylum Chordata.
What family do Pike Fish belong to?
Pike Fish belong to the family Esocidae.
What order do Pike Fish belong to?
Pike Fish belong to the order Esociformes.
What genus do Pike Fish belong to?
Pike Fish belong to the genus Esox.
What type of covering do Pike Fish have?
Pike Fish are covered in Smooth skin.
In what type of habitat do Pike Fish live?
Pike Fish live in slow-moving water.
What is the main prey for Pike Fish?
Pike Fish prey on fish, frogs, and insects.
What are some distinguishing features of Pike Fish?
Pike Fish have elongated bodies and strong jaws.
How many babies do Pike Fish have?
The average number of babies a Pike Fish has is 100,000.
What is an interesting fact about Pike Fish?
Pike Fish are an apex freshwater predator with fearsome teeth!
What is the scientific name for the Pike Fish?
The scientific name for the Pike Fish is Esox.
What is the lifespan of a Pike Fish?
Pike Fish can live for 12 to 15 years.
What is the optimal pH for a Pike Fish?
The optimal pH for a Pike Fish is between 6.0 and 8.0.
How do Pike Fish have babies?
Pike Fish lay eggs.
- Britannica, Available here: https://www.britannica.com/animal/pike-fish
- Animal Diversity Web, Available here: https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Esox_lucius/
- Game + Fish, Available here: https://www.gameandfishmag.com/editorial/top-10-biggest-pike-world-records-of-all-time/191240