Game Fishing > Freshwater Fish > Pike fish

Pike fish

Pike fishA peculiar trait of the pike family is to lie in wait for its prey, partly hidden by weeds or logs and shelving rocks. They are the most voracious fish that inhabit our inland waters. Chief among them is the famous mascalonge, which is a game fish of high rank, and its large size makes it a great prize, as it reaches a length of seven and a half feet and attains a maximum weight of about one hundred pounds.

There are two species - the spotted mascalonge and unspotted mascalonge - the former being abundant in the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence, and widely distributed through southern Canada. The unspotted or Chautauqua mascalonge is confined to the lake of that name, and a few localities in the Ohio Valley. It is now being successfully propagated by artificial cultivation. It grows to a weight of fifty pounds and though not so large as the spotted species, in my opinion (and I have caught both), it is in every way a superior fish, both in its gallant fighting and beautiful coat, as well as for its edible qualities.

Both species devour every living creature that comes in sight, preying upon all other fishes, frogs and amphibians generally, ducklings and other small aquatic birds and mammals, as well as the young of their own kind.

The pike family are most remarkable for the large size of the head which is flattened and the lower jaw which projects. They have a terrible array of sharp teeth of assorted sizes, and on the edge of each side of the lower jaw are several long, bayonet-shaped fangs in the larger fish nearly an inch long, some of them curved inward like the tusks of a boar. It is solitary in its habits, lying concealed among the water plants and reeds at the edges of the streams or channels where other fish are likely to pass by, or standing motionless beside shelving rocks or banks, in clear lakes, whence it darts upon any luckless fish that approaches its lair. With mouth tightly closed, it springs like a thunder-bolt till very near its victim; then, opening wide its immense jaws, it brings them together with a sudden snap, sometimes cutting its prey into two pieces, always taking the fish or lure sideways. Then it slowly returns to its hiding-place to gorge.

There is no special time when they take their food; they are always feeding. The number of fishes swallowed and wounded by mascalonge during a single summer is almost incredible, most of them fish large and old enough to reproduce their kind. The great northern pike is of exactly the same disposition, and so, in a lesser degree, is the pickerel, except that neither the pike nor pickerel has been known to rise above the surface of Pike the water after being hooked.

All the species are wandering, savage tyrants, preferring to lie in solitary places, waiting, ever ready to pounce on their victim. The range of the pike in America is from Lake Localities Champlain, the Great Lake region, and the upper Mississippi River, north to Alaska. In many of the large lakes of northern New York, especially Lake George, pike are common. They also grow to a large size at the outlet of Lake St. John and the Saguenay River; specimens up to forty pounds are recorded there, at times.

All over Canada, especially in the tributaries of the St. John, this fish is caught in large quantities in nets, as well as on lines. Its fight, when captured, is not so prolonged or persistent as the mascalonge.

It resorts to no devices to elude capture, but makes fierce lunges in long straight lines, sometimes on the surface, at others down below; but a heavy fish of twenty pounds requires considerable strength of arm and tackle to hold it in subjection. It has the same habits in its food, in regard to place and time of feeding, as the mascalonge.

In its general form, the pickerel resembles a small pike. Though it is more slender, it grows sometimes to two feet in length, and weighs up to seven or eight pounds, though its Pickerel usual weight is three or four pounds. Its range extends from Maine along the coastwise streams, to Florida and Louisiana. It is so common that it is difficult to say where it is not found. In all the lakes and ponds of Central Michigan and New York it is fished for by a host of admiring anglers. To stand up in a boat that is properly handled and throw a trolling spoon along the borders of the lily-pads where the pickerel hide is considered excellent sport. In the crystal clear water, the whirling, glittering spoon is in sight every moment, and the fish may be seen when it rushes straight at the lure. Wherever the pickerel is placed, it at once makes a home, breeding rapidly, soon becoming abundant, and growing in size according to the amount of food at hand.

What it lacks in game qualities is made up in the quantities by which it is taken, and thousands of anglers are content and take pleasure in such fishing of a common kind. On a still smaller scale, its habits and manner of feeding are similar to those of the pike. It is a deadly enemy to the young of brook trout, dace, chub, and various minnows.

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