Northern Pike
  • Side view adult.
  • Side view adult.
  • Side view adult.
  • Top view adult.
  • Bottom view adult.
  • Head-on view adult.
  • Close-up flank.
  • Close-up head.
  • Close-up mouth and snout.
  • Close-up tail.
  • Close-up dorsal fin.
  • Close-up anal fin.
  • Close-up pectoral fin.
  • Close-up pelvic fin.
  • Close-up underside of head: There are usually 5 mandibular pores and 14-16 branchiostegal rays on each side.
  • Top view of head: Notice that the snout is duck-billed.
  • Close-up underside of head: There are usually 5 mandibular pores and 14-16 branchiostegal rays on each side.
  • Close-up head: The opercle is fully scaled but only the upper portion of the cheek is scaled.
  • Close-up flank: Notice the rows of oval light spots on a dark green background.
  • Side views of two young-of-year: Notice the faintly mottled, barred flanks, and the lack of a stripe.
  • Close-up head of two young-of-year: Notice that the opercle is fully scaled but only upper portion of the cheek is scaled.
  • Grass pickerel (top), northern pike (bottom), both young-of-year: Notice the light lateral stripe in the pickerel, and the mottled side in the pike.
  • Alternative view of the head.
  • Side view of a northern pike X muskellunge hybrid: Notice the intermediate color/pigment patterns.
  • Close-up underside of head of a northern pike X muskellunge hybrid: Notice the 5 pores per side (northern pike characteristic).
  • Side view of a northern pike X muskellunge hybrid: Notice the intermediate color/pigment patterns.
  • Side view of a northern pike X muskellunge hybrid: Notice the intermediate color/pigment patterns.
  • Side view of a northern pike X muskellunge hybrid: Notice the intermediate color/pigment patterns.
  • Close-up head of a nNorthern pike X muskellunge hybrid: Notice the partially scaled cheek (intermediate).
DescriptionSimilar Species
Family
Pikes (Esocidae)
Body
Mouth and snout: Duck-billed snoutwith terminal mouth; numerous conspicuous teeth in jaws. No barbels. Body patterning, color, and scales: Yellow-green, light olive, or cream oval spots on a darker olive or green background, in a reticulated or chain-like pattern (but see Juveniles). Belly cream or white. Fins yellowish- or reddish-brown; dorsal, anal, and tail with diffuse dark spots. 105-148 (usually > 120) cycloid lateral scale. Body shape and size: Body elongate and cylindrical; in cross section approximately round. Typically 500-900 mm (20-36 in) TL; maximum in Wisconsin about 1250 mm (50 in).
Fins
Tail, dorsal and other fins: Forked tail. Single dorsal with no spines and 15-19 principal rays. Pelvic fins abdominal. Adipse fin absent. Anal fin with 12-15 principal rays.
Distinguishing Characteristics
See similar species information.
Breeding Adults
Similar to non-breeders.
Juveniles
Small juveniles with faint dark mottling or vertical bars on dark green or olive flanks (may superficially appear to be a solid color); sharp border with white belly. Larger juveniles with alternating thin light and thicker dark transverse vertical bars; with increasing size the light (photos) bars break into spots.
Hybrids
Grass pickerel X northern pike (no photos); northern pike X Muskellunge (photos).
Compare Similar Species
Opercle and Cheek Scalation
MuskellungeOnly top portion of cheek and opercle scaled
Pickerel, GrassBoth fully scaled
Pike, NorthernCheek fully scaled, only top portion of opercle scaled
Mandibular Pores (Single Side of Jaw)
Muskellunge6-9
Pickerel, Grass4, rarely 3 or 5
Pike, Northern5, rarely 4 or 6
Branchiostegal Rays (One Side)
Muskellunge16-19
Pickerel, Grass10-14, usually 12
Pike, Northern14-16
Adult Color Pattern
MuskellungeEither solid light olive color or dark vertical bars (may be faint) or spots on light background; no bar below eye
Pickerel, GrassDark mottled or irregular dark vertical bars; dark vertical bar below eye
Pike, NorthernRegular rows of oval light spots on dark green background; no or faint bar below eye
Similarity Index
MuskellungeVery similar
Pickerel, GrassVery similar
Pike, NorthernN/A
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