Northern Pike


Map showing the wide distribution of northern pike throughout Ontario

modified from: Mandrak and Crossman (1992)



Typical length:  45-75 centimetres (18-30 inches)

Typical weight:  0.9–4.3 kilograms (2-9.5 pounds)

Ontario record:  19.1 kilograms (42.1 pounds)

Similar fish: 



northern pike


Key Identifying Characteristics: 


  • Very large, elongated fish
  • Light, yellowish or white spots on dark green background
  • Background colour varies from green to brown and is dark on the back fading to creamy white on the belly
  • Fully scaled cheek and partially scaled gill cover
  • 10 pores on underside of lower jaw
  • Tips of tail fin more rounded than muskellunge
  • Know the difference between northern pike and muskellunge.  Visit the Muskies Canada website  to view their "Know How to Tell the Difference" sign.




  • In lakes, pike prefer vegetated bays, creek mouths and shoals where they can ambush prey. In the summer, large pike move to deeper water to avoid higher water temperatures. However, in northern areas, water usually stays cool enough for large pike to remain relatively shallow all year.
  • Pike are widely distributed in Ontario, and are present throughout most of the province. Historically pike they have not been found in portions of central Ontario, however, pike are gradually expanding their range into these areas.


Angling Tips: 


  • Pike are aggressive feeders and can be caught year round. Key fishing times include the morning and evening when baitfish activity peaks; however, pike will bite throughout the day.
  • A medium-action rod and reel will cover most situations, however strong leaders should be used to prevent the pike's sharp teeth from biting through the line. Pike will take just about every kind of live and artificial bait, including very large streamer flies.


Common Baits:


  • Spoons
  • In-line spinners
  • Crankbaits
  • Topwater lures
  • Spinnerbaits
  • Buzzbaits
  • Live baits include large chubs, suckers and shiners.




northern pike banner graphic

Illustration credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service