June 6, 2014 Share

Pike Dies After BIG Meal

Originally Published on Mar 27, 2012 “From the Dock” NBC Sports

The northern pike is an interesting fish if for no other reason than it is a brute that eats just about everything, including many of the lures you and I throw. Even as a tiny fry the pike is a killer, feeding on small live invertebrates like daphnia before quickly (as in when they reach 3-4 inches in length) to feeding on other fish.

The pike’s scientific classification Esox (genus) lucius (species), is a clearly the science world’s attempt at humor given the name is so close to Lucifier. Not that I object to the choice; it just may be the best Latin description ever given.

The largest pike recognized by the IGFA was caught in Germany in 1986 and weighed 55 pounds. The biggest I’ve seen personally was a thick-bodied beast that ate a whole double-bladed buzzbait at the boat on Alaska’s Innoko River. I didn’t land the fish (never got a hook in it), but I did see it clearly and since we had landed several 20-plus pounders that trip I had had great references for a comparison. How big was it? Between 30 and 32 pounds.

Over the years pike have attacked fish I or others in my boat had hooked. In most cases the pike are small, maybe 4 to 10 pounds, but not always. My daughter Maddie had a giant eat 2.5-pound largemouth she was fighting and a friend from Oklahoma once watched a 15-inch smallmouth disappear completely into a big pike’s toothy maw.

So what happened last night does not come as a complete surprise. Karen and I were returning to our house after an after-dinner trip targeting crappie in a small backwater. We were fishing from a canoe as spring hit so fast here my boat is not yet in the water. Just a 100 yards from home we passed over a shallow bed of dead bullrushes when Karen pointed out a dead pike lying belly-up on the bottom. At first I thought the fish had died over the winter. However, its cause of death became clear when I used the canoe paddle to lift the fish to the surface. Stuck firmly in the pike’s throat was a 5-inch bluegill, also dead, that the pike had intended to make his meal. Yet, his prey was simply too large to swallow and in the end choked the pike to death.

The pike (see photo) was not big, maybe 3 1/2 pounds, but it looks smaller because it was so fat it was proportionally misleading. Clearly it was used to eating well.

What did surprise me was the fact the the pike was still fresh. The color was still normal, the gills still blood red, and when I held it for the photo, its muscles were still twitching.

Like the show, 1,000 Ways to Die, this pike found killing can be deadly business.–Steve



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