- Scientific Name: Esox lucius
- Found in Illinois: Statewide
- State Average: 23"
- State Record: 26lbs/15oz (1989)
- Best Lures: minnows, jerk baits, jigs, crank baits, spoons, and spinners
- Top 3 Lakes (based on average size): Spring Lake South, Busse, McCullom
- Top 3 Rivers (based on average size): Kishwaukee, Mississippi, Fox
The northern pike is a sucker for most artificial baits that are cast along edges or cover or that follow the top of a weed bed. They are also a sucker for just a plain sucker, or a golden shiner, or any large minnow presented to him at the right time. For artificial baits, the spoons and minnow-like plugs are preferred. The pike has even been taken fly-casting and by surprised ice fishermen fishing with weed worms as bait for bluegills.
Habitat: Northern pike prefer larger-sized, shallow, weedy lakes with fairly clear water. Many of the glacial lakes of northern Illinois provide now, or once provided, this kind of habitat. Backwater lakes and sloughs off of the rivers of many areas in northern Illinois present attractive areas to the northern pike as well. However, northern pike are found mostly in natural lakes and streams in Illinois north of Peoria (40 degrees latitude). The 40 degrees latitude line demarks the southward limit of the range of the northern pike throughout the world.
Feeding and Habits: Like the muskellunge, the northern pike is mostly piscivorous, meaning its diet consists of other smaller fish. They will also feed on crayfish, frogs, snakes and mice.
Reproduction: Sexual maturity usually occurs when males reach 17 inches in length, at which time they are ordinarily going into their third year of life. For females, sexual maturity may occur during the third or fourth year; usually ripe females are not observed less than 18 inches of length. Spawning takes place when water temperatures approach 44°F. The fish will select a slough or marshy area adjoining a lake through which some water flows. A large female will frequently be preceded into the spawning area by several smaller males. Eggs are spread randomly over beds of vegetation and no care is taken of the eggs during the incubation period. Length of incubation is directly related to water temperature, but under ordinary circumstances, hatching can be expected in about two weeks.