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Northern pike

Fishes of Wisconsin

Northern pike illustration
Illustration: Virgil Beck

Common name: Northern pike

Scientific name: Esox lucius (Esox comes from the old name for pike in Europe and lucius comes from the supposed Latin name for the species).

Distribution: In Wisconsin, the northern pike occurs in the Mississippi River, Lake Michigan, and Lake Superior drainage basins. It is widely distributed throughout the state except in the unglaciated area, where it is sparsely dispersed except in large river systems and impounded areas. The northern pike is generally common except in the southeastern quarter of the state, where populations are seriously depressed.

Spawning: Spawning may occur from late March to early April, as soon as the ice begins to break up in the spring. Migrations into the spawning areas take place during the night. Spawning occurs at temperatures between 34 and 40º F, but 36 - 37º F seems to be the preferred range. Spawning takes place in flooded areas with emergent vegetation and involves one female and from one to three attendant males. Eggs are deposited on vegetation to which they adhere. There is no parental care.

Angling: Unlike other common species of game fish, northern pike are most active when the water is cool. The northern pike is quite accommodating to anglers, biting best during the daylight hours. Being a predator, northerns prefer live fish baits and wobbling spoons. They are a favorite target of ice fishermen with tip-ups.