Northern Pike (Esox lucius)
Northern pike inhabit most waters in northern New York and many large lakes and rivers of central and western New York. They are most abundant north of latitude 43°. They occur in and along the shores of Lakes Erie and Ontario, in the Finger Lakes region, and Oneida Lake. They are abundant in the St. Lawrence River system. They are rare in southeastern New York. These fish prefer large rivers and medium to large lakes. In lakes they stay in bays and straits, avoiding deep offshore water. They are loners, hunting in weedy or log-strewn shallows.
Pike spawn in early spring. They migrate to their spawning grounds during the night. Those living in streams move up them to spawning sites. Pike living in lakes move to spawning sites in the lake. The actual spawning takes place during daylight hours.
Adult northern pike feed almost exclusively on fish, with just about any fish (including young pike) being potential prey. They are not selective in their feeding habits, supplementing their fish diet with aquatic insects, leeches, crayfish, frogs, snakes, small muskrats, and ducklings. The northern pike is one of the most rapidly growing fish we have, averaging 2 to 4 pounds and 2 feet long. Often these fish reach the 20-pound class. They are one of our most important sport fish.
Distribution of northern pike in NY state. Dark dots represent where actual samples of northern pike were taken. White dots represent historic distributions.
A 218 KB image of the northern pike is also available for download.