While it is most often called “Northern pike,” one of the resource books I was looking at said that there is only one species of this fish and it is simply “pike.”
Be that as it may, there are many, including our own Connecticut Angler’s Guide, that refers to it as “Northern pike.”
The fish drew my interest when Johnny Sears emailed me some photos of a pike he caught while fishing Bantam Lake up in the Morris section of the state. Some of you might remember a pike that one of John’s buddies Ken L’Heureux caught in Lake Beseck in Middlefield.
Pike seem to be popping up in some unusual places, in bodies of water that you would not expect to find them. Lake Beseck is one and, years ago, we caught a couple out of Dooley Pond before the state took it over.
Our own Silver Lake has furnished a couple of pike and there was an incident in which some angler caught one and thought he had a world record pickerel.
According to my sources, there is only one true species of pike. The remainder of the family are true pickerel and muskellunge. It is thought that they get into some of these bodies of water by fishermen who catch them out of places like the Connecticut River and put them in these isolated bodies of water.
While the pike is a true northern fish, it is sometimes called a jackfish or simply “jack.” There might be some mix up in terminology because sometimes in the South the native chain pickerel is sometimes called a “jack,” while in Tennessee the muskellunge has the same local name.
Move up to Canada, especially in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, the pike is called a “jack.”
The name change goes even further than that. A number of years ago, my friend Tim and I made a fishing trip to northern Canada. The only thing I had on my mind was getting a meal featuring walleye pike. Just about every Canadian restaurant had fish listed, but it was “pickerel.” I did not discover until many meals were passed up that, in northern Canada, pickerel is walleye.
In my references, the pike is described as, “a lurker, a solitary fish, carnivorous in the extreme, a predator of the weed beds.
“Like a long, lean cat it lies in wait for its prey, rather than actively hunting. Its alligator-like snout is studded with teeth. It lunges at fish large and small, seizing them and swallowing whole surprisingly large forage, even including ducklings and small muskrats.”
Make no mistake about it, pike are a fun fish to catch. While I have witnessed a more docile side to a hooked pike, that is not the norm. They can do leaps when hooked that will give any smallmouth bass all the competition it needs in that department.
Unless you are fishing an area known for its Northern pike — like the Connecticut River, the Housatonic River and some of its impoundments, Bantam Lake and Mansfield Hollow — hooking up with one while fishing for another species of fish is a rarity.
On our Canadian fishing trip we traveled up to a spot known as Gogoma Lodge. The lodge featured fly-in fishing trips to various uninhabited lakes by float plane and a couple of them were seat-of-your-pants landings and takeoffs. There was one lake that the owner said, “I can land with two of you in the plane, but flying back out can be a little tricky. I can only take one at a time.”
I passed on that trip.
Each lake was known for a variety of fish, with some of them showing an abundance of a certain species, like smallmouth bass and walleye. One was known for its Northern pike. It did have a familiar name: Hanover Lake. We were told that it was as good a lake in the area to catch Northern pike as any.
All of the lakes we were flown to had a boat on them as well as a supply of gas and a reliable outboard motor. Also, when you were flown onto a lake, you took a back pack with some sandwiches and water, rain gear and any medicines you might need and matches to start a fire, because if a severe storm blew in before pickup, you might spend the night on one of the islands.
Hanover Lake was loaded with Northern pike. It seemed like we were catching them on almost every cast and when we trolled for them they still kept slamming our spoons.
Almost all of our Northern pike were caught on red and white spoons and some of them tipped the scales at around 10 pounds. We never did hook up with a real lunker, but the fish we were catching were more than enough to make us a couple of happy fishermen.
Oh, and one pike even hooked me! My fishing buddy had just brought in a pike about 24 inches in length and it was bouncing around the bottom of the boat by my leg. The next thing I knew, I had one of the hooks on the lure sticking in the calf of my leg.
We managed to get the pike off the lure, but the lure was still hooked into my leg.
I told Tim I had read about hook removal and now I was going to give it a try. I cut a length of 15-pound test line. If you have a lighter line, I would suggest doubling it. You make a loop in the line and slide it over the hook that is if your hide. Now the loop on the hook is facing one way and the eye of the hook is facing the opposite way. Push down on the eye of the hook and give the loop over the curve of the hook a good solid yank. You have to yank it hard. Do not try to ease it out.
When I did this to the hook in my leg, it came out without any noticeable pain. I put some antiseptic on it with a Band-Aid and the next day you could not find the spot the hook was in. Honest!
My brother Paul, who resides in Vermont with his wife Pat, fished for Northern pike exclusively in a remote Canadian pond during the winter. A plane dropped him on the pond and he stayed at a cabin for almost a week.
He was fishing 100 miles north of Montreal. He did come away with a pike that measured 46½ inches and weighed 28 pounds. He had it mounted and it is really an impressive fish.
I do know that this spring when the ice is off spots like the Connecticut and Housatonic rivers, there will be some hardcore fishermen trying to catch them on rod and reel. And keep in mind that a bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work .
See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops wherever they may be.