Pike is the name for a genus of freshwater fish, the only living genus in the family Esocidae—the esocids which were endemic to North America, Europe and Eurasia during the Paleogene through present. The big pike species are native to the Palearctic and Nearctic ecozones, ranging across northern North America and from Western Europe to Siberia in Eurasia.
Pikes have the elongated, torpedo-like form of predatory fishes, with sharply pointed heads and sharp teeth. Their coloration is typically grey-green with a mottled or spotted appearance with stripes along their backs, providing camouflage among weeds. Individual pike marking patterns are unique, like fingerprints. Pike can grow to a maximum recorded length of 1.83 m (6 ft), reaching a maximum recorded weight of 35 kg (77 lb).
The pike is a relatively aggressive species, especially with regards to feeding. For example, when food sources are sparse, cannibalism develops, starting around five weeks in a small percentage of populations. This cannibalism occurs when the ratio of predator to prey is two to one. One can expect this because when food is scarce, Northern pike fight for survival, such as turning on smaller pike to feed; this is seen in other species such as tiger salamanders. Usually, pike tend to feed on smaller fish, such as the banded killifish. However, when pike exceed 700 mm (28 in) long, they feed on larger fish. As one can probably assume, these pike are the ones most likely to develop cannibalistic traits. Aggressiveness also arises from a need of space. Young pike tend to have their food robbed by larger pike. Pike are aggressive if not given enough space because they are territorial. They use a form of foraging known as sit-and-wait. Unlike species such as perch, pike undergo bursts of energy instead of actively chasing down prey. As such, a fair amount of inactive time occurs until they find prey. Hunting efficiency decreases with competition; the larger the pike, the larger the area controlled by that particular pike. An inverse relation to vegetation density and pike size exists, which is due to the possibility of cannibalism from the largest pike. This makes sense, as the smaller pike need more vegetation to avoid being eaten. Large pike do not have this worry and can afford the luxury of a large line of sight. They prefer a tree structure habitat. Pike are found in sluggish streams and shallow, weedy places in lakes, as well as in cold, clear, rocky waters. They are typical ambush predators; they lie in wait for prey, holding perfectly still for long periods, and then exhibit remarkable acceleration as they strike. In short, they inhabit any water body that contains fish, but suitable places for spawning are essential for their numbers. Because of their cannibalistic nature, young pike need places where they can take shelter between plants so they are not eaten. In both cases, rich submerged vegetation is needed. Pike are seldom found in brackish water, except for the Baltic Sea area. They seem to prefer water with less turbidity, but that is probably related to their dependence on the presence of vegetation and not to their being sight hunters.
Pike angling is becoming an increasingly popular pastime. Effective methods for catching this hard-fighting fish include dead baits, lure fishing, and jerk baiting. They are prized as game fish for their determined fighting. Lake fishing for pike from the shore is especially effective during spring, when the big pike move into the shallows to spawn in weedy areas, and later many remain there to feed on other spawning coarse fish species to regain their condition after spawning. Smaller jack pike often remain in the shallows for their own protection, and for the small fish food available there. For the hot summer and during inactive phases, the larger female pike tend to retire to deeper water and/or places with better cover. This gives the boat angler good fishing during the summer and winter seasons. Trolling (towing a fairy or bait behind a moving boat) is also a popular technique.
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