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Northern pike

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When catching and releasing Northern pike, keep in mind the following points to maximize their chances of survival upon release:
Section #1


  • Northern Pike are large fish that strike hard. Make sure to use a fluorocarbon or steel leader so their sharp, thrashing teeth don’t cut the line.
  • Know what to expect in the water body you are fishing. Use heavier gear if you expect to land large fish.
  • Needle nose pliers with long handles are better when fishing Esox sp. because of their sharp teeth and long jaw.  Choose pliers with wire-cutters at the joint so you can clip deeply embedded hooks if necessary.
  • Make sure to have a rubberized net of appropriate size to land that monster you’re after! Pike can be especially slimy and hard to hold, making landing without a net very difficult.
Section #2


  • When landing a long-bodied fish like pike, make sure to scoop under the fish either tail or head first, and bring them to the surface slowly. Never try to lift a large fish out of the water using the line alone.
  • Pike are a hearty fish that have been shown to reject hooks (Pullen et al. 2017). If the lure is deeply imbedded or you are having trouble unhooking, cut the line and release the fish with the hook still attached.
  • For large pike, hold them firmly under the gill plate with one hand while the other supports the largest part of their body, keeping them horizontal. NEVER hold them vertically, as this can damage sensitive internal tissues.
  • Do not hold any fish out of water for extended periods. Air exposure after exercise can lead to decreased swim performance (Schreer et al. 2005). Ensure its head is under water for as much of the handling process as possible (Ferguson et al. 1992; Cook et al. 2015).
By following these guidelines to the best of your ability you can directly help our fisheries by returning more Northern Pike to their environment and providing more opportunity for other anglers.
Section #3

The Science Behind the Story

The information presented is based on a years of research by experts in the field. Here you can find a list of the references relevant to Northern pike and we encourage you to read them to learn more.

Consequences of oral lure retention on the physiology and behaviour of adult northern pike (Esox lucius L.)

This study aimed to quantify the impact of prolonged exposure to a retained lure (simulated break off in recreational angling) to the physiology and behaviour of northern pike (Esox lucius) was studied in a laboratory setting. We found that the retention of a lure did not significantly affect metabolic rate, blood physiology or locomotor activity of pike. However, gill ventilation rate was found to be elevated in pike hooked deeply in the throat suggesting that lures in obstructive locations may somewhat challenge recovery from exercise.

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Physiological and behavioural consequences of catch-and-release angling on northern pike (Esox lucius L.)

We examined the physiological and behavioural consequences of, and recovery from, catch-and-release related stressors using a combined laboratory and field study in northern pike (Esox lucius L.). Our results emphasize that angling-induced stressors result in physiological and behavioural disturbances, but that recovery is quick. This suggests that pike are relatively resilient to catch-and-release related stressors but air exposure durations should be kept <300 s to minimize behavioural impairment.

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Effects of lure type, fish size and water temperature on hooking location and bleeding in northern pike (Esox lucius) angled in the Baltic Sea

We show for catch and release angling for northern pike (Esox lucius) in the Baltic Sea that hooking location and size of fish captured vary among lure types. Our results supported the notion that anglers can minimize injury in northern pike angling by the choice of appropriate gear. In addition, our study is one of the first to show that hooking location is also affected by water temperature; low temperatures tended to result in deeper hooking.

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