With the exception of the Homo sapiens, there is perhaps no other species so dedicated to gluttony as Esox lucius, the northern pike. Wisconsin’s second largest predator fish (the muskellunge, a close relative of the northern, is first), the northern pike is a voracious feeder that finds most creatures—even squirrels and sandpipers—fair game. Anglers have a special affinity for northern pike. This most accommodating of fish bites readily during the daylight hours, sparing those in pursuit of fishing thrills the agony of rising before dawn. Northern pike are far less wary than muskellunge: on average, it takes about eight hours of fishing to hook a northern, while anglers must log nearly 100 hours on the water to get a glimpse of a muskellunge.
Some biologists believe that the small size of the northern pike’s brain (1/1305 of its body weight) accounts for its lack of concern about predators. Others insist that because they are equipped with such a fine set of teeth, northern pike needn’t fear anything that swims, flies, or walks. In fact, the greatest threat of predation for northern pike comes from the species that casts: Anglers rate the northern pike as one of the top gamefish in the state and pursue this fighting fish with gusto.
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Bureau of Fisheries Management
These slimy, slashy predators are on patrol in most of the waters in which we target muskies, and can make the sometimes long wait for a musky grab much more enjoyable. Although they don’t get quite as large, and aren’t quite as difficult a pursuit as the musky, northern pike kill flies with a voracity rarely seen in freshwater. Even the smallest pike will attack with all its worth and getting the chance to see it is something any angler can enjoy.
Small- to mid-sized pike are a pretty common bycatch while fly fishing Minnesota and Wisconsin waters for musky and smallmouth bass, although we do occasionally come across some large fish. To specifically target trophy specimens we head north to Alaska’s Yukon delta. This region is home to some of the largest and most densely populated pike on the planet, and Midnight Sun Trophy Pike Adventures is the area’s premier outfitter, offering a first-class trip aboard their 64’ houseboat. See our Alaska Trips page for more details on this trip of a lifetime.