northern pike Information
With a name originating from the Middle English word for “pointed,” referring to a pole-like weapon, the Northern Park is a fierce carnivore that feasts on many other species of fish. Native to all of Alaska, the Northern Pike is prized as a sportfish due to the strength with which it fights when hooked. These fish are large on average, commonly reaching 20 inches in length in adulthood, but have been known to become enormous, as Pike have been caught up to 60 inches in length and 60 pounds in weight. Northern Pike can be identified by their long, olive green bodies, which are accentuated by white speckles and yellow fins; additionally, they feature a long and large bill-like mouth, owing to their “pointed” name.
They generally live between 10 and 15 years, but have been known to live to 25 years, and inhabit both rivers and lakes. Pike are ambush predators, and thus thrive in places with lots of weed beds or other cover where they will wait in hiding before thrashing, with astounding speed and power, at unsuspecting bait fish; they’re even known to be cannibalistic, eating other, smaller Pike! For this reason, anglers will usually target Pike with lures or streamer flies imitating smaller bait fish, and use fast-twitch retrieval movements to imitate the behavior of these baitfish to elicit a Pike strike. Pike will also feed on leeches, insects and crayfish, so a myriad of flies are effective when targeting these fish. Beyond these, Pike have been known to eat mice and even small birds! They truly are an apex predator of freshwater. While Pike are native to many parts of Alaska, and they are prized as one of the most exhilarating freshwater fish to tangle with on a fishing rod, their illegal introduction to many of Alaska’s famed salmon fisheries has led to a decline in native salmon numbers. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game website states that some rivers and lakes in Southcentral Alaska, water bodies that were once host to thriving populations of Coho and Chinook Salmon as well as native Rainbow Trout, now only contain Pike.
While the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is taking measures to combat the rise of Pike in these Southcentral waters where they were illegally stocked, it is advisable to keep fish caught in these locations. Pike have historically been eaten in many parts of the world, and while they are bony fish, they contain much less contaminants in their meat than their ocean-running salmon and steelhead neighbors. There are also many places in Alaska to target Pike in their native range; really everywhere except the Southcentral region of the state. Whether or not you’re planning on keeping your Pike, you can count on battling with an adversary that is more explosive and stronger than almost any other freshwater species. So rig up that fly or spinning rod and be ready for an exhilarating fight that will leave your arms tired but your heart racing!