Pike (Esox lucius)

Fast, efficient and streamlined, the pike cannot be mistaken for any other fish. Most of its characteristics are adaptations to its predatory lifestyle. Camouflage colouring, eyesight, body form and fin arrangement all contribute to the pike’s success as a hunter. With their camouflage and short-lived bursts of speed, pike prefer to ambush their prey rather than chase it. They lurk, hidden in the weeds, waiting for the quick sprint - followed by feeding. The jaw is extremely flexible, allowing large meals to be swallowed whole; small (jack) pike will often demonstrate this by gobbling up their siblings. Prey is usually taken from the side and then manoeuvred round to be swallowed head first. When water conditions prevent the pike’s superb eyesight from being effective, it can fall back on its efficient sense of smell. It also has a highly sophisticated tracking system rather like radar. The pike is designed for hunting. Its dorsal and anal fins are near the tail, giving it tremendous power to launch itself after prey.

Habitat

Whether it is a river, lake or fen drain, a typical pike water is one which not only provides shallow weedy areas suitable for spawning but also offers plenty of cover for this predatory fish. Prime ambush areas include sharp drop offs, sunken trees or shallow water by reeds where pike frequently lie in wait for prey, using their camouflage to remain hidden.

Feeding habits

The pike’s favourite food is fish of between a tenth to a fifth of the its body weight, but it can swallow much larger ones, as well as small mammals, frogs and water birds. However, pike usually eat only about two and a half times their own body weight in a year, so they don’t need to eat every day.

Fish facts

Weight: Up to 32kg (70lb)
Average Length: 1.27m (4ft 2in)
Life-span: 18-25 years
Favourite waters: Lowland rivers and lakes
Favourite baits: Live or dead fish baits, lures, spinners, plugs.
UK Record: 46lbs 13oz (R Lewis 1992)