Pike (Esox lucius)

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Pike swimming close to water surface, with reflections
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Pike fact file

Pike description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassActinopterygii
OrderHaplomi
FamilyEsocidae
GenusEsox

The pike (Esox lucius) is probably the coarse anglers’ most sought-after fish. It is predatory both in nature and appearance. The fish has a flat, broad, almost duck-like snout and an elongated, streamlined body with dorsal and anal fins placed well back. The colour of the fish varies with its habitat, those living in weeded waters being predominantly mottled green and yellow. Fish from brackish waters are more yellowish. Pike turn darker with age, old specimens becoming brown or even greyish.

Pike are the subject of innumerable fishy stories, with many telling of ‘the one that got away’. Establishing the weight of the largest pike on record in the UK is almost as tricky as catching the actual fish might have been. According to the Pike Angler’s Club of Great Britain, the record goes to one caught on a rod and line in Llandegfedd Reservoir, Wales, in 1992. That fish weighed 46lb 13oz (21.3 kg). However, there is also a Scottish record dating back to 1945 which refers to a fish caught in Loch Lomond that weighed 47lb 11oz (21.6 kg).

Size
Male length: 25 – 100 cm
Female length: up to 150 cm
Weight
up to 35 kg
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Pike biology

Pike spawn from the end of March to the beginning of May, usually in quite shallow water and often using the same places year after year. The spawning process can last several weeks and the number of eggs varies with the age and size of the female. A large fish may produce as many as half a million eggs. The eggs are sticky and adhere to plants, the young pike hatching after 10 to 15 days. At this stage they have no proper mouthparts and remain attached to the plants until the yoke sac is consumed. Once the young fish become free-swimming, they feed mainly on small organisms, but once they reach a length of five centimetres, they begin preying on other fish larvae and tadpoles. Once they have survived these early stages, pike grow fast, sometimes reaching a weight of one kilogram in the space of three years. Males mature at the age of two, females at four years.

Pike catch their food largely by stealth and lightning-fast acceleration, taking their prey unawares. A large adult pike will eat roach, rudd, dace and perch, trout and salmon, and even other members of their own species. They will also take frogs, newts, crayfish and they have been known to catch ducklings and small mammals.

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Pike range

The range of the pike encompasses many northern latitude countries, including: the USA (north of the prairies), southern Canada, the UK and most of Europe (except Iberia), western Scandinavia, the Baltic States, Russia south to the Caspian Sea and eastwards through southern Siberia to the Baring Straits.

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
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Pike habitat

Pike can be found in many water bodies provided there is plenty of oxygen and a neutral or alkaline pH. They occur in lakes with plenty of vegetation, rivers and creeks. They occasionally venture into brackish water.

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Pike status

The pike is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern

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Pike threats

Although pike need water high in oxygen and of low acidity, there does not appear to be any threats to population numbers in the UK. However, it is thought that over-fishing may be taking place in some other European countries (1999 figures).

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Pike conservation

Pike are a much-prized game fish and, in the UK, can be pursued by anglers throughout the season (16 June – 14 March), provided they hold a rod licence. There are no specific conservation measures currently in place for pike apart from general laws governing pollution of rivers and water bodies.

Pike have been introduced into several countries’ rivers to provide sport, and in some cases the fish have cause adverse ecological problems. Deliberately introducing pike to ponds in order to remove unwanted fish is a frequent practice in some areas and has to be monitored carefully.

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
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Authentication

Information supplied by English Nature.

http://www.english-nature.org.uk

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Glossary

Brackish
Slightly salty water.
Larvae
Stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
Spawning
The production or depositing of large quantities of eggs in water.
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References

  1.  IUCN Red List (April, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
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Image credit

Pike swimming close to water surface, with reflections  
Pike swimming close to water surface, with reflections

© Michel Loup / naturepl.com

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