The northern pike (Esox lucius), known simply as a pike in Britain, Ireland, and the USA, or as jackfish in Canada), is a popular sporting and food fish that inhabits freshwaters around the northern hemisphere, and are found in brackish waters of the Baltic Sea. Northern pike in Europe can grow up to about 25 kg and 150 cm long; females are generally larger than males. They become sexually mature at 3-4 years of age, and live between 10-12 years. Solitary and territorial, these fish ambush predators. As young fish they feed on small invertebrates, and as they grow older their broad diet grows to include amphibians and fish of all sorts (including their own kind), and even small mammals and birds. Pike has been used to stock waterways (often illegally) in many areas, and has impacted native fish populations and fish communities in negative ways. In Alaska, Colorado, Montana and Maine, E. lucius have been documented as threatening stickleback and native salmonids. The northern pike can hybridize with the closely related muskellunge E. masquinongy, and in some areas E. lucius threaten native muskellunge populations.
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 – 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 5 cm, 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.
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.
Esox lucius is not currently threatened by extinction. The Departments of Natural Resources in states where they occur keep a close watch on population levels and can augment populations by stocking streams with Esox lucius raised in hatcheries.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
State of Michigan List: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) Range is Holarctic and includes the Atlantic, Arctic, Pacific, Great Lakes, and Mississippi River basins from Alaska to Labrador, south to Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Nebraska (Page and Burr 2011). This species has been introduced in many areas southward of the native range.