2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Insects, Reptiles and Fish

Northern pike (E. lucius)
Northern pike (E. lucius)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Esociformes
Family: Esocidae
Genus: Esox
Linnaeus, 1758

  E. americanus
      grass and redfin pickerels
  E. lucius – northern pike
  E. masquinongy – muskellunge
  E. niger – chain pickerel
  E. reichertii – Amur pike

Esox (Linnaeus, 1758) is a genus of freshwater fish, the only member of the pike family (family Esocidae) of order Esociformes. The type species is E. lucius, the northern pike. The species of this genus are known as the pikes.

The pike species are native to the Palearctic and Nearctic ecozones, ranging across northern North America and from Western Europe to Siberia in Eurasia.

Pikes can grow to a maximum recorded length of 1.83  metres (6  ft), reaching a maximum recorded weight of 35  kilograms (77  lb). Individuals have been reported to reach 30 years in age. They 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. The pike's marking is like a finger print, each with different patterns.


The generic name Esox derives from the Greek ίσοξ (a kind of fish), itself a word of Celtic origin related to the Welsh ëog and Irish Gaelic iach ( salmon). Pliny uses the Latin form esox in reference to a large fish in the Rhine normally identified with lax (salmon). It is likely that Carolus Linnaeus's application of Esox to the pikes is thus a misnomer.

A young E. lucius specimen—a "pickerel" in the original sense—in an aquarium.
A young E. lucius specimen—a "pickerel" in the original sense—in an aquarium.

The English common name "pike" is an apparent shortening of "pike-fish", in reference to its pointed head, Old English píc originally referring to a pickaxe.

A northern English and Lowland Scots name for the pike, ged, similarly derives from Old Norse gaddr (spike) (cf. the modern Swedish name for the pike, gädda, and Scottish Gaelic: geadais). The Finnish name hauki and Estonian haug derive from verb haukata, to bite.

The English "pike" originally referred specifically to the adult fish, the diminutive form "pickerel" (now used to name some of the smaller pikes, E. americanus and E. niger) referring to the young. The walleye (Sander vitreus) is sometimes called a pickerel, but it is unrelated to the pikes, being a member of the perch family (family Percidae). The pikes are not to be confused with the unrelated pikeminnows (traditionally, and perhaps better known as squawfish) of genus Ptychocheilus (family Cyprinidae) or pikeperch (Stizostedion lucioperca) which is more akin to walleye than to pike.

Two United States Navy submarines have been named Pike, SS-6 of 1903 and SS-173 of 1935, and three, SS-22 of 1912, SS-177 of 1936, and SS-524 of 1944, named Pickerel. In addition, the Soviet submarines known to NATO as the Victor III class were called the Shchuka (Щука, "pike") class, in Russian. The Soviet Iosif Stalin tank (IS-3) was also nicknamed Shchuka, in reference to its sharply pointed hull front.


The pike feeds on a wide range of food sources. Their primary prey is other fish, including their own kind. Their main prey is roach whenever available; they also prey on perch, eels and minnow. They devour fish up to one-third of their own size. Pike are cannibalistic; some 20% of the diet consist of pikes smaller than themselves.

They will also prey on insects and amphibians such as newts or frogs in times when food is scarce, and occasionally on small mammals, like moles or mice when caught water-borne. Small birds such as ducklings may become a target for hungry pike. Pikes are also known to prey on swimming snakes, such as vipers. Big pike have been known to swallow adult wild ducks whole.

The pikes are notoriously voracious carnivores and can be potential pests when introduced into alien ecosystems. Pike angling is becoming an increasingly popular past time in the UK and Europe. 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 and have been food fish since ancient times. They can easily be damaged when handled. Since they have very sharp teeth and the the teeth are numerous, it is wise to take extreme care when unhooking the pike. The angler also needs to take great care when unhooking a caught pike, as to not harm the gills. It is recommended that barbless trebles are used when angling for this species as it vastly simplifies unhooking. Unhooking should be accomplished using long forceps—30 cm artery clamps are ideal. The pike should be kept out of the water for the minimum amount of time possible, and should be given some time to recover before being weighed and photographed.

In mythology

In the Finnish Kalevala, Väinämöinen creates a kantele (string instrument) from the jawbone of the pike.

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