What is a Pike?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The pike is a type of freshwater fish found mainly in Northern climates. In some parts of the world, these fish are also known as pickerel. The distinctively shaped fish appears on some dinner plates and is sought after by some sport fishers, who view the fish as a lively and active prey species. They are often found in weedy habitats, and seem to prefer clear weedy water to open water.


These fish are found in lakes and rivers, and can grow to be up to 8 pounds (3 kilograms). The fish prefers colder, shallow water like that found on the shores of the Great Lakes. They tend to be greenish gray to brown, with speckles which sometimes run to blotches or stripes. The body of the fish is elongated, with a sharp pointed head causing it to resemble the medieval weapon the fish is named for. Their bellies are usually a pale yellow or creamy color.

Pike are carnivorous, and sometimes maligned by anglers because they will eat any fish small and slow enough to catch. As a result, they can devastate native populations when they are introduced to new environments, and will eliminate species competition. They have very sharp teeth, resembling needles, and therefore rarely miss their prey when they aim for a meal.

They reach maturity after three years, and lay their eggs in the same grassy habitat they live in. The eggs will cling to reeds and grasses, hatching within two weeks, and the young must fend for themselves. Spawning usually happens in early spring, often before ice has completely left the surface of the water body.

People have eaten these fish for centuries, with 17th century cookbook authors writing about the use of the pike in various recipes, and extolling the clear flavor and dense white meat of the fish. Although it is rarely available for commercial sale, it is very popular among anglers who have access to the fish. When cooking this fish, the skin should be removed.

This strong and lively fish is also used as a sport fish, because it poses a challenge to fishermen. Like many sport fish, pike is usually fished on a catch and release basis, with anglers enjoying the thrill of the chase more than the catch. In some regions, there may be restrictions on taking pike for consumption, but in general anglers are allowed to eat their catch, and in fact encouraged to do so in some places where they have begun to choke out native species.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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