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Pike


PikeThe pike is more generally known in the United States as "pickerel," and sometimes as the great northern pickerel to distinguish it from the pickerel, properly so-called. In England the young pike is a pickerel, an older one a jack, and the mature fish a pike. In England and continental Europe the pike (Esox lucius) is the only species of the family inhabiting their waters, while there are five species of the family in America, which makes it all the more confusing when the name "pickerel" is applied indiscriminately to all, even the mascalonge being sometimes alluded to as an "overgrown pickerel."

The range of the pike in America is from Lake Champlain, the Great Lake region, and the upper Mississippi River, north to Alaska; it is rare in the Ohio Valley. Next to the mascalonge the pike is the most important and largest member of the pike family. It has a long body, somewhat compressed, its length being a little more than five times its depth. The head is large, somewhat more than a fourth of the length of the body, with a long, flattened, and projecting snout; the teeth are similar, but not quite so large or numerous as in the mascalonge.

The coloration and markings of the pike are quite constant, not varying so much as in others of the family, and is very different from those of the mascalonge or any of the pickerels. The ground color is grayish or greenish gray, darker on the back and fading to silvery white on the belly; the sides, from head to tail, are profusely covered with irregular, oblong, or bean-shaped whitish spots or blotches, much lighter than the ground color; the dorsal, anal, and caudal fins are marked with dark spots or blotches. It is somewhat more gregarious, and is more of a rover than the mascalonge; otherwise its habits are very similar, and it coexists with that fish in many waters, especially in the region of the Great Lakes.

Pike feeds on fish, frogs, and water­snakes. Its usual weight reaches fifteen pounds, though it occasionally grows to four feet in length and a weight of twenty-five or thirty pounds. As a food-fish it is variously estimated. Some consider it to be very good, and it sells well in the markets, which, however, is not always a fair criterion. It is much better in the fall and winter than in summer. Most people who know it best, and I agree with them, think it inferior to any fresh-water fish for the table except the carp and sucker. Its flesh is soft and dry, and unless of large size is not flaky, and it is, moreover, very full of small bones. One of ten pounds, stuffed with a savory dressing and baked, is not unpalatable, but cannot be compared favorably with the whitefish, black­bass, or trout.

The pike when of large size is a good game-fish. Its weight and strength, added to its bold rushes when hooked, are very trying to light tackle. One of fifteen pounds is worthy of the angler's most serious attention on an eight-ounce rod. Its manner of fighting is similar to that of the mascalonge, though in a lesser degree, and it does, not continue its resistance so long. After a few frantic rushes it weakens very materially, and if kept away from weeds soon gives up the struggle for freedom.

In England, the pike is considered a fine game-fish and is much sought after by bait-fishers. Most pike are caught by anglers in northern waters when fishing for black-bass. Ordinary black-bass rods and tackle are very suitable for pike fishing, though where they run large, eight to fifteen pounds, an eight- or nine-ounce rod is to be preferred to a lighter one. A good multiplying reel, a braided line, and Sproat hooks, number 2-0 to 3-0, are better suited to large pike than black-bass.

A minnow, or a trolling-spoon of small size with a single hook, may be employed in casting from a boat along the edges of weed patches, lily-pads, and wild rice, and along the shoals and bars. The same tackle can be utilized for trolling in the same situations. Where the conditions are favorable it is advisable to allow the boat to drift, in order to dispense with the noise and confusion of rowing or paddling. The directions already given for black-bass fishing, as to playing and landing the fish, will answer just as well for the pike.

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