Pike - Esox Lucius

pike
About the Pike.
The pike is the largest and most predatory of all the freshwater species of fish in the UK, hence its nickname, "water wolf", a literal translation of its Latin name, Esox lucius.

Fossil remains show that the pike has existed for millions of years and has hardly changed in appearance or shape. This fish has the perfect body and inbuilt sensory system for hunting, and is unrivalled by any other species, which is why it has survived for so many years. The pike can grow to impressive sizes of over 20lb and in rare cases up to 70lb, making it every angler's dream to catch a specimen pike.

Pike Identification

The pike can rarely be mistaken for any other species of fish due to its unique colouration and markings. Its powerful and streamlined body and its head are a green-olive colour, which are covered with yellowish spots and flecks. These colours make it impossible to distinguish the pike from the river weeds when it lies in wait for its prey. The underside of the pike is a creamy shade and does not contain any markings at all.

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The pike has extremely elongated jaws. The lower jaw extends slightly further out than the upper jaw and contains numerous long and razor-sharp teeth. There are a series of smaller but just as deadly, knife-like teeth on the roof of the mouth, which point backwards, making it impossible for any prey to escape.

This species has a row of sensory pores along its body that can detect any fish in the vicinity as they swim around. These pores extend from the head all the way down the body and mean that the pike can feel the presence of possible live food even if it can't see it yet.

The pike has large eyes located high on its head that give it excellent vision; thus another useful tool for seeking out its prey.

The pike's fins are all long, large and mainly convex in shape, bestowing the pike with great strength and a powerful acceleration when it comes to propelling itself forward and striking its unsuspecting prey. The dorsal and anal fins are situated very close to the caudal (tail) fin enhancing its power and propelling ability. These fins together with the pectoral fins are an orange-brown colour with black speckles. The caudal fin is concave and a darker colour.

Pike Habitat

Pike can be found all over the northern hemisphere including Europe, the UK and North America. They are widespread in this region of the world as they thrive in waters with a colder temperature and cannot survive where the water temperature exceeds 29°C.

Pike prefer clean, unpolluted waters with high oxygen levels, and you can often tell how clean a river is by the number of pike present and how healthy they are.

The preferred habitat of this species of fish is in still waters such as reservoirs or lakes or in slow-moving rivers, canals or streams.

The pike is fairly apathetic, electing to hang about for its next meal rather than go out and search for it. Often it can remain completely immobile amongst the reeds and sunken trees for hours, before ambushing some unsuspecting passer-by. Their camouflage colouring enables them to do this without being seen.

In saying this, the pike tends to inhabit areas where shoals of other species of fish such as roach, chub or bream are found, as it will always be aware that food is just along the riverbed.

During the colder months when other species of fish may move to deeper waters, the pike will follow, always keeping track of its prey.

Natural Pike Food

Pike eat a variety of insects, fish and even birds, depending on their age and size.

Young pike, up to 1½ inches (3cm) long, will eat aquatic insects such as fleas, midges or water boatmen before moving on to a diet of mainly fish in a matter of only a few weeks, which is when they begin to spurt in growth.

Adult pike generally feed on other fish, including their own species that are between 10-15% of their own size, although they have been known to attack prey of almost half their size and weight. Their favourite fish food include perch and roach.

As well as fish, pike will also eat rodents, frogs, crustaceans and water birds such as ducklings or coots.

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When feeding, pike lurk within the water plants before attacking their prey. Once they have spotted their next meal, they propel themselves forward and ambush their victim, generally catching their prey sideways in their mouth. They clamp their sharp teeth onto their hostage, which will either kill it or immobilise it, before turning it around and swallowing it headfirst.

On occasions, larger fish have no qualms about eating dead or dying fish.

After spawning, pike will feed heavily and ravenously in order to regain their strength and so most of their feeding takes place between May - June. During this time, anglers are sure to catch a high number of pike, more than at any other time of year.

Pike Reproduction

Pike generally spawn much earlier than other fish species, usually in March or April. They move out of their natural deep water habitat and may travel some distance to find the ideal spot in warmer shallow waters with plenty of water reeds, aquatic plants and tree roots for the female to release her eggs. Several males accompany the larger female and proceed to bump and nudge her in a bid to induce spawning.

On average, a female pike can carry up to 20,000 sticky eggs per pound of body weight. Therefore, a large female pike weighing 20lb (9kg) could be carrying a load of 400,000 eggs inside her.

Upon fertilisation of the eggs by the males, the eggs then stick to the nearby aquatic plants and weeds until they hatch 14-21 days later. The tiny fry stick to the weeds until they are able to swim about by themselves in a matter of 7-10 days.

The Pike's Vital Statistics

  • Average weight: 7 - 8lb (3 - 3.5kg)
  • Average length: 16 - 40in (40 - 100cm)
  • Specimen weight: anything over 20lb (9kg)
  • Life-span: Generally up to 15 years and less frequent up to 20 years
  • Current UK record: 46lb 13oz (21.24kg) (Llandegfedd Reservoir, Gwent, Wales)

Rivers with big pike include:

Other waters with big pike include:

  • Ladybower Reservoir, Peak District
  • Loch Lomond, Scotland
  • Weir Wood Reservoir, Sussex
  • Ardingly Reservoir, Sussex
  • Loch Aire, Scotland
  • Abberton Reservoir, Essex
  • Llandegfedd Reservoir, South Wales (UK record)
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