Fish Friday with… the Northern Pike

The Northern Pike, with its cylindrical body and a duckbill-like snout. It is silver-olive on the back merging into cream on the side.

Northern Pike (Esox lucius)

In middle school, I knew a kid with one of those dads who spent every spare moment fishing. This man went straight from work to the water. He fished after supper. He fished all day on the weekends. At one time or another, he caught every fish that there was to catch in his part of the world. Always, always, he spoke of hooking a Northern Pike. I think he even kept a special rod. It was double strong, with thick enough line to handle the Northern’s fighting power. You know the person in your life who brings back every conversation to a single obsession? That was this man and this fish.

In other words, when the Atlas of Illinois Fishes tells us the pikes are “highly valued as sportfish,” you can believe it. Aggressive and large (up to 56 inches long), the Northern specializes in ambushing prey by rushing out of vegetation. You would think the feisty Northern goes wherever it wants. But the survey maps available in the Atlas show the species no longer swims in southwestern Illinois waters.

Rest assured, however, that it remains a prized catch in the northern third of the state, some central regions, and in the Illinois River. Need additional information? Grab the Atlas. And then just go out to any good fishing spot. Chances are, you’ll find someone who will tell you everything and more about the Northern.

An Atlas of Illinois Fishes: 150 Years of Change

Part nature guide and part natural history, An Atlas of Illinois Fishes is the authoritative resource on the topic. The 259 color photographs and 227 maps guide readers to up-to-date scientific information on Illinois’s 217 current and extirpated fish species.