- Black sea bass have dangerously sharp spines on their dorsal fin that can puncture human skin.
- The all-tackle world record for black sea bass is 9 pounds, 8 ounces.
- When hooked in deep water and brought quickly to the surface, a black sea bass will often regurgitate its stomach contents.
Northern pike (Esox)
Northern pike are often called freshwater sharks and their physical make-up is ideally suited for the kind of hunting they do. Since they live and ambush prey around weeds and other aquatic vegetation, their coloring provides a camouflage that blends in with their surrounding environment. The background color of their back and sides is a dark olive green to greenish brown, with lighter oval spots running horizontally along their body. Their bellies are a solid creamy white. Pike fins are round, as opposed to their cousin, the muskellunge, which are pointed. The head is long and the mouth flat like a ducks bill. Pike also have many rows of sharp teeth that will quickly damage whatever prey they strike. Pike are also fast swimmers and can chase after prey at about 8 to 10 miles per hour.
Pike are native to northern states in the upper Midwest and Great Lakes region – Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Vermont, Wisconsin – as well as every province in Canada except Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Northerns are also native to many waters in Europe. Pike have also been introduced to every state except Alabama, Delaware, Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina, with varying degrees of success.
Within their native and introduced ranges, pike will live in a variety of waters, in large or small lakes or rivers and marshes with slow currents. They do not survive well in waters with low or fluctuating water levels. Protected coves and bays with shallow, thick vegetation are a necessity for spawning, feeding, and cover, and deep water is required for summer survival.
The pike’s preferred temperature range is 59 to 70 F, but they will tolerate temperatures up to 85 F for short periods of time. They usually travel to cooler water in the summer, wherever optimum temperatures, available prey and adequate vegetation are present.
Aside from temperature requirements, pike are very tolerant fish. They can tolerate pH levels as high as 9.5, 7 percent salinity, and dissolved oxygen as low as .7mg/L, which will usually produce a large winterkill for other fish.
Female pike mature later than males, about the age of 2 or 3 in warmer climates and age 6 in colder climates. Males mature after one or two years in warmer climates and five in colder climates. Pike need marshy areas with thick vegetation such as grasses or sedge for spawning.
Spawning begins in March and will continue through May, depending on water temperatures. Prespawn movements start as soon as the ice over the lake starts to break up and/or when water temperatures reach 34 to 40 F. The short migration to the spawning grounds takes place at night, but actual spawning occurs during the day.
Females will move into spawning areas often less than 1 foot deep, and are followed by one to three males. The males will then begin “slapping” the female with their tails as she releases her eggs, after which the males release their milt (sperm). Fertilized eggs will adhere to nearby vegetation and hatch within 10 to 20 days.
About 99 percent of all hatched eggs will fall victim to predators such as other fish and pike, diving birds, and waterfowl. Pike eggs cannot tolerate large water temperature fluctuations or silt, which prevents the eggs from getting enough oxygen.
At the fry and fingerling stages of life, a pike’s diet consists of invertebrates such as zooplankton and aquatic insects until they reach juvenile status. Then fish such as darters, minnows, and small bass and perch become the main food source. As pike grow, so does the size of their food. By the time they mature, pike will eat anything they can swallow without choking, including frogs, salamanders, crayfish, small mammals, and birds, but they will still feed mainly on other fish. Pike are solitary hunters and feed mainly by sight, usually during daylight hours. They tend to lurk in the weeds, lying in wait for their next meal to swim by.
Pike are a popular sport fish because of their fighting ability and willingness to strike aggressively at a variety of lures and baits. For most anglers, pike are easier to catch in winter (through the ice) and early spring than any other time of year. This is due to the pike’s preference for cold water. If fishing during warm weather, the angler should fish along weed edges in deep water, which provide the pike with cooler water, plenty of places to hide and a variety of prey.
Pike are usually the top predators in a body of water, so fishermen should use large lures and bait and heavy tackle. They will strike a lure as ferociously as any fish that swims in freshwater. Once hooked, a pike will usually put up quite a fight, using its lengthy body to generate force and make long, powerful runs. Pike are noted for their fighting ability, but the flavor and texture of their meat also provide excellent table fare.
- Pike can often be infected with several different parasites. The broad tapeworm can infect humans if the fish is not cooked thoroughly. A cestode parasite may also use the pike as a host. A trematode, another parasite, causes cysts on the pikes skin.
- Fisheries managers have tried to domesticate the pike but have had no luck. The pike will also not accept artificial food.
- Because northerns are at the top of the food chain and eat smaller fish, they will accumulate toxins such as mercury and pesticides in their bodies that were in the smaller fish. Always check local consumption advisories before keeping and eating northern pike.