Have you ever heard someone use the word VORACIOUS (vor-ay-shus)? It is a word usually used to describe someone who is really hungry and ready to eat anything. It's also a good word to describe a Montana fish-the Northern Pike. The northern pike is a fish that always seems to be in a voracious mood!
Northern pike are also known by a shortened version of their name: pike, or just northerns . They are native to Montana, which means that they were originally found in the state before Europeans settled here. Northerns are now found in a much larger area than they inhabited originally in Montana.
Sometimes when people see a northern pike for the first time they say it reminds them of an alligator. Northerns are long and skinny, and colored green with white spots. Can you think of a good reason that they would be colored this way? (Hint: It helps them hide) The head of a northern is one of the fishes neatest features. They have a long mouth that is filled with rows and rows of sharp teeth.
The teeth of a northern are adapted in a special way to help them feed. Northerns eat other fish, so their teeth are set up in two different ways. They have large teeth on the side of their mouth, and many many small teeth inside of their mouth. These teeth make sure that when the northern grabs another fish it will not get away. Like most other fish, northerns do not chew their food; they try and turn it headfirst into their throat, and then swallow it whole. Sometimes that gets the northern into trouble. People have found dead pike which have choked to death on another fish which is too large for them to swallow.
Northern pike are classified as warm-water fish. That means they prefer water temperatures which are warmer than some other Montana fish. You may find northerns in rivers, but not in fast water areas. They like the warm, slow waters of rivers and streams, and especially like lakes and reservoirs. Areas that have lots and lots of weeds are especially preferred by northerns, since the weeds are good camouflage and help the northerns hide out until they see a fish they want to catch and eat.
Northerns grow pretty big on Montana. Our state record northern pike weighed almost 40 pounds and was about four feet long! It was caught in 1972 out of Tongue River Reservoir south of Miles City.
Lots of people in Montana like to fish for pike. Because they are such voracious fish, they will attack lures and baits and are not too difficult to catch. When you fish for northerns, you will need to use a steel leader, (a short piece of steel line) at the end of your line. The pike's sharp teeth will cut easily through most fishing regular fishing line. Ice fishing is a very popular way to catch northerns. People like to use live minnows for bait, but in some areas it is against the law to use live minnows. Then pike anglers will use jigs or sometimes they will even cut a large hole in the ice and try to spear the fish as it swims past.
If you ever get a chance, you'll want to try fishing for northern pike. You'll never forget the first time a northern smashes into your lure, and if you are VORACIOUS when you get home from your fishing trip, you might find that the northern tastes pretty good too!