Northern Pike

General Informatiom:

This long, jut-jawed fish has an image problem. In some regions of Lake Superior, fishermen prize it as a tough and worthy game fish. In other areas, they disdain it as a "slimy snake" and a destroyer of worthier fish.

Without a doubt, the northern pike is a voracious predator -- consuming three to four times its weight during the course of a year. Besides smaller fish, its diet includes frogs, crayfish, small mammals, and birds -- almost anything within range.

Northern pike inhabit protected, weedy bays. After the spring ice melts, they move further into the shallows and marshes to spawn. They retreat to deep, cool waters in summer.

They are usually taken by trolling, though in the heat of summer still-fishing in deeper waters near weed beds is recommended. Unlike the muskellunge, which often breaks the surface in its struggle with the angler, the lean, muscular northern pike fights the hook in deep water. It's not as flashy as the leaping muskie, but just as strong.

Fishermen who land a "northern" harvest a fish of exceptional flavor and texture -- provided the skin is carefully removed before cooking. In the 17th century, Izaak Walton gave a recipe for roast stuffed pike that called for sweet marjoram, pickled oysters, mace, claret wine and anchovies. The result, he claimed, was "too good for any but anglers and honest men."



Copyright, 1998, by the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute
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