Like our guides, northern pike have nicknames, many in fact: jackfish, gators, water wolves or tundra sharks. Whatever their name pike are nasty customers who make a habit of inspiring a bit of fear in any angler’s heart. Pike are not a rare fish. They are actually the most widely distributed freshwater fish in the world, spanning all of Eurasia and North America. In North America pike are native to Canada, Alaska and the northern tier of states as far south as Missouri and Nebraska. During the past century they have been introduced to a much wider geographic range including Georgia, Tennessee, New Mexico, Idaho and even California. In some places they have become public enemy #1, gobbling up native fish like the eating machines they are designed to be. In recent years states like Montana have declared war on pike in some of the state’s waters. Pike don‘t belong everywhere.
But pike aren’t picky eaters, attacking about anything that’s just a bit smaller than they are. Scott guides have often found baby ducks and loons, as well as mice and voles in the stomachs of shorelunch pike and even the occasional muskrat, as one of our guides discovered last season. The rule of thumb with pike is two-thirds: they can swallow prey just a third less in size or weight than themselves. So that 40” trophy pike could gobble down a 26” lake trout or more likely a 26” pike. Cannibalism isn’t a dirty word in pikedom. It happens often as many Scott anglers have experienced when the small to medium sized pike on their line is T-boned by a bigger pike. Pike are also great thieves, classic “kleptoparasites”, taking prey right out of the mouths of other pike. It’s probably why pike hit hard and fast and try to swallow larger prey quickly before their mothers, fathers or distant cousins steal that hard won meal. It’s not an easy trick for the stealer. Inside a pike’s maw you will see lots and lots of teeth, hundreds of them, all slanting inward. They don’t give up their food easily, but they are amazingly able to give up a spinner, spoon or fly. Pike have a “hard mouth” requiring a not-so-gentle hook set and Scott guides have been known to give not-so-gentle reminders of that fact. In pike angling nothing is more important than a solid hook set.
The official North American record is 47 pounds but larger pike have been caught in nets or by people who just ate the evidence. And nearly all pike anglers have seen the “internet pike” picture of a monster supposedly caught in Lake of the Woods, Canada (or many other areas) with copy claiming it was anywhere between 50 and 60 pounds. It turns out that fish was real but it was caught in the Netherlands by a guy named Ewout Blom (Google him for the full story) and weighed 39 pounds, huge but not a lot bigger than some North American pike. At Scott our biggest pike top out at just over 50 inches and maybe 35 pounds, but most guides feel there are bigger fish “out there”. That belief keeps a lot of our anglers making “just one more cast”.
For an angler the real truth about pike is simply how much fun it is to catch them. In the clear water of Scott and most of its flyout lakes, anglers usually have sight casting opportunities, the classic man (or woman) versus fish situation. It’s a thrilling experience to make the right presentation and watch a pike, big or small, size up your offering, accelerate from a dead stop to 20 miles per hour in a heartbeat and just crush your fly or lure. It’s what brings our pike addicts back season after season, firmly believing that pike are the best thing going in the world of angling.