Pike on the Ice

northern-pike-and-ice-fishing

Northern Pike Caught while Ice Fishing in Central Michigan, photo by Lee Rentz

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources page on Northern Pike says that they spawn in early spring and are found in the Great Lakes and connecting waters of the Lower Peninsula year-round and that:

Pike are popular quarry of ice fishermen. Though they are primarily pursued with tip ups, baited with live minnows or suckers, they can be taken with rod and reel, either jigging or fishing with bait. Pike are a prime target of spear fishermen as well, who often use decoys or suspend suckers below their shanties to lure pike within range in relatively shallow water.

Pike typically spawn in the weedy backwater marshes; low water levels on the Great Lakes in recent years have probably hampered their reproductive success. Still, the shallow weedy bays of the Great Lakes and connecting waters, such as Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River, the Portage Lake system of Lake Superior and the bays of Lakes Michigan and Huron, remain productive pike waters. winter pike fishing

Inland, the drowned river mouths along the Lake Michigan shoreline – such as Muskegon Lake, Portage Lake and Manistee Lake – are all noted pike waters. Some of the larger inland lakes and reservoirs, such as Michigamme and Houghton, have significant pike populations, though they can be found in many lakes and virtually all the larger rivers in the state.

View Lee’s photo of his caught & released pike background big and see more of his fish & fishing photos on Flickr.

Know Your Michigan Fish: Northern Pike (Esox lucius)

Michigan Northern Pike Esox lucius

Northern Pike (Esox lucius), photo by Isle Royale National Park

The Michigan DNR’s Northern Pike page has this to say about this apex predator of the Great Lakes and Michigan’s inland lakes:

As predators, northern pike can have significant impact on their prey species. As with muskies, pike lurk in the cover of vegetation in the lake’s clear, shallow, warm waters near shore, although they retreat somewhat deeper in midsummer. Pike consume large numbers of smaller fish – about 90 percent of their diet – but seem willing to supplement their diet with any living creature their huge jaws can surround, including frogs, crayfish, waterfowl, rodents, and other small mammals. Their preferred food size is approximately one third to one half the size of the pike itself.

Great Lakes pike spawn in the shallows in April or May, right after the ice leaves, and before muskies reproduce. As a result of their eating habits, young pike grow rapidly in both length and weight. Females become sexually mature at age three or four years, and males at two to three years. Beyond sexual maturity, pike continue to gain weight, although more slowly. Great Lakes pike have an average life span of 10 to 12 years.

Pike eggs and new hatchlings (which stay inactive, attached to vegetation for their first few days of life) fall prey in large numbers to larger pike, perch, minnows, waterfowl, water mammals, and even some insects. Larger pike have two primary enemies – lampreys, and man. Spawning adult northern pike, exposing themselves recklessly in the shallows, are vulnerable to bears, dogs, and other large carnivores.

Northern pike flesh excels in flavor, thus making them a doubly rewarding game fish. Since their skin has heavy pigmentation and an unappetizing mucous coating, most people skin them or scale them carefully.

This photo was one of Isle Royale National Park’s “Wildlife Wonders of the Week.” They noted that a five pound female pike will lay about 60,000 eggs. Two weeks later fertilized eggs hatch, hungry for microscopic morsels. Once to the fingerling stage, food scarcity may force them to eat their own siblings for nourishment.

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More Michigan fish on Michigan in Pictures.