What Is A Pike Fish – The Complete Breakdown

By Get Fishing •  Published: 02/12/23 •  6 min read

Pike can refer to a specific fish (the Northern Pike) or Esox, the family of freshwater fish that go by the common name Pike. In this post we’ll be focusing on the Northern Pike as this is the specific species most often referred to as such. Northern Pike are aggressive, predatory fish that many anglers love to go after due to their fight and impressive size. 

What Is A Pike

What is a Pike Fish? 

Northern Pike

The Northern Pike, Esox lucius, is also known simply as Pike or pickerel. Pike are large fish with a wide range. This freshwater species can also be found in brackish water. 

Why is it Called a Pike?

These fish have earned their name from the weapon also known as the “pike.” The word “pike” means “pointed” and is a perfect fit for the Pike, as the fish have elongated bodies. 

Depending on where you find them, Pike may also be called any of the following:

What Type of Fish is a Pike? 

The Pike is a freshwater fish known for its aggressive behavior. It is also a predator, and uses ambushing to catch prey. Pike are holarctic, meaning they’re distributed throughout the entire northern hemisphere. 

What Does a Pike Fish Look Like?

The Pike family has a very distinct look, one that is widely recognized thanks to the popularity of the Northern Pike. Northern Pike have long, cylindrical bodies and range in coloration with the base color of the body being olive green. Bellies are white or yellow in color and some fish may have barred patterning on their sides or dark spots on the fins. 

Northern Pike are often confused with the Muskellunge or Muskie, another member of the Pike family. However, Northern Pike differ from the Muskie in that they have light markings on their dark body and less than six sensory pores on each side of their bottom jaw. 

Pike Habitat

Pike are comfortable in both fresh and brackish water, however they usually only inhabit brackish water in the Baltic region. They prefer slow moving water and shallow areas with vegetation where they can hide and ambush prey. Pike can also be caught easily in open, clear water as they don’t have a fear of coming out into these areas. They’ll be in any water source where their prey is also found, so if you’re fishing a pond or lake with a lot of smaller fish species, you’re likely to find Pike as well.

Where Can I Find Pike? 

Pike are found throughout the Northern Hemisphere and have a very wide range. In North America, Pike range into Canada, Alaska, and down into the upper mid-western states. However they can also be found in northern New England and down the east coast. 

What Do Pike Eat? 

Pike are surprisingly easy to catch given their interest in anything that might be a prey item. These fish aren’t picky, and they live mostly off of other, smaller fish. They’re predatory and have few predators themselves aside from humans. 

Some of the favorite prey items of Pike include insects, crayfish, other small fish species, leeches, and small mammals and even birds. Pike aren’t shy and will attack almost anything they think they can fit in their mouths. Unfortunately, in areas where prey is tough to find, Pike may turn to cannibalism.

How to Catch a Pike? 

This species is a favorite of sport fishermen for good reason. They aren’t particularly hard to catch if you know what you’re doing. The first thing to keep in mind is that you’ll need the right gear. Pike can grow to surprising sizes and, as predators, can do a lot of damage to your tackle, line and rod if you aren’t prepared. Make sure you’re outfitted with a rod that can handle the weight of the average Pike and a heavy line that holds up against abrasion.

When it comes to bait, whether you’re using artificial or natural, it’s all about catching the eye of the fish you’re after. Because Pike are ambush predators, they’ll go after flashy lures or attention-grabbing poppers. Lures that mimic their live prey, such as minnows or frogs, will also give you a strong advantage. 

And lastly, be ready for a fight. These fish mean business when they hit your line.

How Big Do Pike Get?

The average length of a Northern Pike ranges from 15-22 inches. It’s hard to get an average weight on the Pike family as these fish have an interesting relationship between length and weight that isn’t easily calculated. 

How Fast Do Pike Grow?

Northern Pike grow quickly and can easily reach up to 20 inches in their first two years of life if they’re in the right environment. These fish are voracious and grow fastest in their first years of life. 

What is the World Record Pike Fish?

The current world record for Northern Pike sits at 55 lb 1 oz. This fish was caught in Germany on October 16, 1986 by Lothar Louis. 

What is the Lifespan of a Pike?

In the wild, Pike have been found to reach an average age of 10-15 years, but have been recorded to live up to 25 years of age. 

Is Pike a Good Eating Fish?

Despite being a popular game fish, Pike aren’t the most popular eating fish, but should be. They’re bony and have a mild-tasting flesh. In many communities Pike are still considered important food sources and de-boning the Pike is an art. 

Are Pike Dangerous?

Northern Pike aren’t dangerous in the sense that they’ll attack you, although some anglers have reported that approaching Pike near spawning season can aggravate them. 

Pike are most dangerous after being caught when you need to get them off your hook. In this case, make sure you know how to properly handle a Pike. They have many small, sharp teeth that can easily tear flesh if you aren’t paying attention or are holding the fish incorrectly. 

Is Pike a Shark?

No, a Pike is not the same as a Shark. You may hear some fishermen refer to Pike as sharks or freshwater sharks. This is due to their natural aggression, but these are two very different fish.

Is a Pike The Same As a Muskie?

The Northern Pike is not the same as the Muskie, though they are related. They both belong to the Pike family so, technically, they are both Pike. 


If you’ve pushed beyond beginner limits with fishing and you’re looking for a challenge, check out the Pike! This species is absolutely thrilling to catch and it’s easy to feel like you have a trophy fish on the line due to their large size and determined fight. Happy fishing!

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