Game Fishing > Perch Family, Percidae > Pike-Perch


Pike-PerchThe pike-perch or wall-eye was first described by Dr. Mitchill in 1818, from Cayuga Lake, New York. He named it vitrea in allusion to its large vitreous or glassy eye. It would have been indeed fortunate if the name glass-eye or wall-eye, with or without the suffix perch, had been adopted; for this fine fish is a true perch, with nothing "pike­like" in form or habits, except its large mouth and canine teeth, and nothing "salmon-like" except its trimly-shaped body.

But these fancied resemblances have caused it to be called in various localities wall-eyed pike, yellow pike, blue pike, glass-eyed pike, salmon, and jack salmon. It is also known in Canada as dore and okow, and among the commercial fishermen as "pickerel." However, the names pike-perch and wall­eyed pike have been rather universally adopted, and it will probably be always known by these names.

Pike-perch is the Anglicized form of Lucioperca, the Latin name of the genus in Europe. It is abundant in Canada and the Great Lake region, and fairly abundant in the upper Mississippi River and its tributaries, and especially in Lake Pepin. It is found also in the lake region of northern Minnesota, and in the lakes and streams of Wisconsin and Iowa. It is not uncommon in the upper Ohio River and tributaries, south to Tennessee. On the Atlantic slope it is more rarely found from Pennsylvania to Georgia, where it often exists in brackish water.

I have taken it in my boyhood days at Ferry Bar, a point on the Patapsco River, near Baltimore, Maryland. Its range is being constantly extended by transplantation. The pike-perch is a very trimly-built and shapely fish. Its body is rather slender, not much compressed. The head is well shaped, neither too large nor too small, with a large mouth well filled with teeth, some quite long and sharp. The eye is very large and glassy. Like all the perches it has two dorsal fins, well separated; the caudal fin is forked. The scales are small and rough. The edge of the cheek-bone is toothed or serrated, and the edge of the gill-cover has one or more small spines.

The color varies considerably in different localities, and even in the same waters. The usual color is olive, or greenish brown, mottled with brassy or yellowish blotches forming oblique but indistinct lines, or vermicular markings. The head is similarly colored and marked; the lower jaw is reddish; the belly and lower fins pinkish or yellowish; the first dorsal fin is not much marked, but has a large black blotch on its posterior border; the second dorsal fin is mottled with olive, brown, and yellow; the caudal fin is likewise mottled, with the tip of the lower lobe white or light colored.

The pike-perch frequents waters of good depth, only entering the shallow portions of streams and lakes at spawning time, and at night when feeding. It prefers a bottom of rock or gravel in clear and cool water, and loves to lie in the deep pools at the foot of riffles, or at the entrance of streams; or where the current is strong and deep near mill-dams and under sunken logs, or shelving rocks and banks, and about the timbers of bridges in deep water. It is nocturnal in its habits, for which it is well fitted by its large and prominent eye, and seeks its prey, which consists mostly of small fishes, in shallow water.

Pike-Perch spawns in the spring, and in lakes usually resorts to its spawning grounds in the winter, where it is caught through the ice in large numbers in certain localities, notably in Put-in-Bay on Lake Erie, and in Lake Pepin and other northern lakes. It spawns in sand or gravel in shallow water. Its eggs are small, twelve to an inch, and average fifty thousand to a female. After spawning it retires to deeper water, and in summer locates in the deepest pools. During the spring freshets it sometimes ascends smaller streams in its search for food. Its usual weight does not exceed three or four pounds, though it often grows much larger, from ten to twenty pounds. I have seen preserved fish that must have weighed thirty or forty pounds, which had been caught in Kentucky in Tygert Creek and Kentucky River.

Pike-Perch is highly prized as a food-fish, its flesh being white, firm, and flaky, and of an excellent flavor. It is a commercial fish of much importance.

The pike-perch is a good game-fish, taking live bait eagerly, and rising pretty well to the fly. When hooked it is a vigorous fighter, pulling strongly and lustily. It does not exhibit much dash or take line rapidly, but swims away rather slowly, but at the same time is constantly tugging and jerking on the line in such a manner as to require careful handling with light tackle. Ordinary black-bass rods and tackle are well suited for the pike-perch up to six or eight pounds, either for bait-fishing or fly-fishing. Where they are found in considerable numbers, and especially on lakes where pickerel or pike abound, gimp snells should be used instead of gut snells to withstand their sharp teeth; otherwise the tackle may be the same as recommended for black-bass fishing.

The best bait is a live minnow, though crawfish are successfully used. On lakes it should be fished for in comparatively deep water, over pebbly or rocky bottom. On streams the likely places are in deep and swift water, at the foot of rapids, or on a rocky lee shore with a brisk wind, where it congregates in search of minnows that are rendered almost helpless by the churning water. Owing to its nocturnal habits, the hours from about sunset until dark are the most favorable. Night fishing is also quite successful should any one care for it.

Fly-fishing is most successful from about sun­down until dark, or later, and on cloudy days also during the afternoon. Two flies on a four-foot leader may be used, one of which should be a light-colored one, as. the coachman, or white miller; the other may be any of the hackles or the stone fly, oriole, gray drake, polka, professor, or Montreal. The same instructions concerning fly­fishing for black-bass may be profitably followed for the pike-perch, allowing the flies to sink two or three feet after each cast, though it is a more uncertain fish to locate, being much given to roaming in its search for food at different seasons.