Northern Pike

Identification & Biology
Alias' : Great Northern Pike, Jack, Jackfish, Pickerel, Pike, Great Northern Pickerel, Common Pike
Latin Name : Esox  lucius 
Category : Fish
Description :
  • Long, streamlined body and a flat, pointed snout that resembles a duck’s bill 
  • Mouth is large and filled with sharp teeth 
  • Dorsal (back) fin quite far down their length, close to their tail fin and mirrored by their anal fin 
  • Color ranges from brown to olive-brown to bright green, with white blotches along their flanks 
  • Underside is cream-colored to white 
  • Grows on average to 50-75 cm in length and 0.9-2.3 kg in weight 


The Northern Pike is a species of carnivorous fish of the genus Esox (the pikes). In Britain, Ireland, most of Canada, and most parts of the USA, they are simply known as a “pike”. They are well known as a commercial and sport fish. Northern pike are solitary fish but will follow schools of other fish during the winter months. They spawn in the spring immediately after ice melts and females can produce 15,000 – 60,000 eggs. 

The Northern Pike is often confused with its larger relative, the Muskellunge (Esox masquinongy). In comparison, the Northern Pike has light markings on a dark body background and fewer than six sensory pores on the underside of each side of the lower jaw, while the Muskellunge has seven or more sensory pores. 

Look Alikes

Northern Pike are native in northern drainages of British Columbia; however, they are invasive to southern B.C. and have been confirmed in the Columbia River. The Northern Pike is a cool-water species and its habitat is usually slow, heavily vegetated rivers or the weedy bays of lakes. Breeding grounds include vegetated areas that flood only in the spring and early summer and may be dry the remainder of the year.  

Impact & Risks
  • Usually solitary and highly territorial, the Northern Pike lurks at the edge of weed beds and attacks unwary creatures that enter its domain, such as fish, crayfish, frogs, mice, muskrats and young waterfowl. Pike are an opportunist species that can be best described as an omnivorous carnivore, as it feeds on whatever is most readily available.  
  • In most areas of Canada, the Northern Pike is both  considered a  commercial fish and a sport fish; however, in areas where it is invasive, such as southern BC, it is considered a nuisance because it devours large numbers of  other game fish such as  salmon,  trout, bass and perch, introduces disease, and competes with other species for food. 
Prevention & Mitigation
  • Recreational angling is overwhelmingly the number one reason for Northern Pike’s introduction outside its native range in North America and Europe; angling now far outweighs commercial fishing for the species. Do not transport northern pike between lakes. Movement of live fish is prohibited in BC. 
  • Check the BC Freshwater Fishing Regulations for your region as Northern Pike are native to northern drainages in BC and regulations vary by region.  
  • There have been ongoing suppression efforts of Northern Pike in the Lower Columbia River in B.C. using gillnetting. This method has been successful in removing large numbers of Northern Pike in other jurisdictions.  
  • Properlyclean,  drain,  dry  your boat and equipment before entering a new water body. 
  • CLEAN  off all plant parts, animals, and mud from boat and equipment (e.g. boots, waders, fishing gear). Use a power wash station if available 
  • DRAIN  onto land all items that can hold water (e.g. buckets, livewells, bilge, and ballast) 
  • DRY  all items completely before launching into another body of water  
  • Report Northern Pike, or any other invasive species via the Report Invasives phone app, that is available from the provincial website. 
Treatment & Disposal


Okanagan Distribution

Priority Level Definitions

Watch For - Poses a significant threat (very high risk) and does NOT presently occur in the region OR is relatively new to the region and is very limited in extent.
High - High risk/impact; limited population with significant potential to spread in the region.
Medium - Medium risk/impact; limited distribution – broader population distribution with potential to spread further in a region.
Low - Low risk/impact; may be widespread or not, may be of concern in specific situations with certain high values – e.g. specific agriculture crops. Some species may be treated primarily with biological control agents.