Sharp-Toothed Predator — pike is familiar to almost everyone since childhood, one has only to remember the fairy tale about Emelya. Many would like to catch such a magical instance that makes wishes come true. In our country, this fish is not at all uncommon; it takes a fancy to freshwater reservoirs. But besides the common pike, there are other varieties. Let's learn everything about this predatory fish in more detail by analyzing its habits, life rhythm and other important features.
Origin of the species and description
Pike is a predatory fish belonging to the pike family, the class of ray-finned fish and the pike order. To proceed to the description of this fish, it is necessary to characterize its varieties, because they differ from each other not only in places of distribution, but also in external features. The genus pike has seven varieties of this fish. Two types of pike live on the territory of our country – common and Amur, and the remaining five are registered on the North American continent.
Common pike is the most numerous, it settled in North America and Eurasia. We will dwell on this variety in more detail later, using its example we will consider the external features of the fish.
The red-finned pike (American) has a permanent residence in the east of the North American mainland and is classified into two subspecies: northern red-finned pike and grass (southern) pike. The length of these subspecies can reach up to 45 cm, and the mass is about a kilogram. A distinctive feature of these pikes is a shorter head. The grass pike does not have orange coloration on its fins.
The maskinong pike is a rarity. She is the largest in her family. Its name in the language of the Indians means “ugly pike.” It is also called giant, because mature specimens can be more than one and a half meters long and weigh about 32 kg. The color can be silvery, greenish, brown, and on the sides the fish is striped or spotted.
The striped (black) pike looks very similar to the common pike, its body length can reach up to 60 cm, and its weight is about 2 kg, although there were also specimens weighing more than four kilograms. On the sides of this pike there is a pattern similar to a mosaic, and an almost black stripe passes above the eyes of the fish.
The Amur pike is inferior in size to an ordinary pike, the largest specimens can reach a length of a little more than a meter, and weigh about 20 kg. The scales of the fish are small and have a silvery or greenish-golden color, brownish spots are located all over the body of the pike, which makes its coloring similar to that of taimen.
There are also pike hybrids bred by man. Such individuals are not adapted for reproduction in the wild, therefore they are not an independent population.
Appearance and features
We will describe the appearance of the pike and all its characteristic features using the example of the common pike, the mass of which varies from 25 to 35 kg, and the length of the body reaches one and a half meters. The figure of the pike is torpedo-shaped, the head of the fish is of considerable size, it is slightly elongated, because. has oblong jaws. The upper jaw is flattened to the lower, and that, in turn, protrudes forward. This is the hallmark of a toothy predator. On the lower jaw, the teeth have different dimensions, which makes it easier to capture the victim.
The teeth are much smaller from above and look straight into the throat of the fish with a point. Because of this feature, the caught victim is easily swallowed, but it is almost impossible for her to escape. The change of teeth is very typical for pikes, but the teeth do not change all at once, this process occurs in stages. The eyes of the predator are rather big and set quite high, this helps her to capture a large area without turning around.
If we talk about the color of the pike, then it is different. It depends on the reservoir where the fish settled, on the vegetation that prevails there and on the age of the predator itself.
The main tone of the fish can be:
- silver (found in lake fish).
On the back, the pike always has a darker color, and on the sides of the fish there are brownish or greenish spots or stripes located across. The paired fins of the pike are colored orange, while the unpaired ones can be brown or gray with yellowness. All fins have a rounded, streamlined shape, including the tail.
It has been observed that female pike individuals are larger in size than male ones, their physique is not so elongated and life expectancy is longer.
The urogenital openings in males and females are different. In males, it is narrow, slit-like, has the color of the womb, and in females it looks like an oval depression, around which a pinkish roller is visible.
An unusual classification of pike in relation to its size exists among fishermen.
- a grass that lives in small rivers and lakes, its length in rare cases reaches half a meter, and the mass does not exceed two kilograms;
- deep pike, which is found in deep-water rivers and large lakes, where the depth can be more than five meters. Such individuals grow up to one and a half meters in length and weigh about 35 kg, but more often they are caught weighing from two to five kilograms.
Such a division of fish is conventionally and scientifically not supported in any way. Most likely, the young live in shallow water, so as not to become a dinner for their large-sized relatives, and there is more food near the coast. Adult pikes go deep into pools and underwater pits.
Where does the pike live?
Pike is a typical inhabitant of freshwater reservoirs located in Eurasia and North America. She can choose both coastal zones, which are overgrown with thick grass, reeds, and pools and pits located at great depths.
Grass (southern) pike lives in the Mississippi River and other rivers that flow into the Atlantic Ocean. Black (striped) pike prefers to settle in lakes and overgrown streams, located from the south of Canada to the US state of Florida, its habitat reaches the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. Amur pike lives in the reservoirs of Sakhalin Island, as well as in the Amur River. The Italian pike has chosen the waters of northern and central Italy.
The pike also feels great in the waters of the desalinated seas. For example, in the Finnish, Curonian, Riga bays of the Baltic, in the Taganrog Bay of the Sea of Azov.
On the territory of our country, the common pike inhabits almost every second body of water. She lives in large and small rivers, reservoirs, ponds, lakes. By choosing its permanent place of residence, this toothy predator is unpretentious, here it can be compared with an ordinary crucian carp.
In the lakes, young pike individuals live near the shore in grassy undergrowth, under snags, sunken boats. Growing up to three – four kilograms, they move deep into the lakes, finding their refuge in pits and whirlpools. In rivers, both juveniles and adults live near the banks.
Many mistakenly believe that pike can live for several centuries, this is not at all the case. Usually pikes live from 18 to 20 years, there are individual specimens that have survived to 30, but this is extremely rare. Often, when there is a lack of oxygen in the water, pike die, usually in winter in small closed reservoirs.
What does a pike eat?
The usual hours of pike feeding are early morning and evening, during the day the predator is engaged in digestion, resting in a secluded place. Zhor in a pike happens three times a year, then it eats around the clock. The first zhor happens before spawning (usually in March-April), the second comes after spawning (in May-June), and the third happens in August-September, sometimes in October.
There are a huge number of various fish, pike feeds on:
Do not be surprised that this predatory fish eats its relatives with pleasure. Cannibalism flourishes in the pike environment, so a larger individual eats a small pike with pleasure, so these fish stay alone, live apart from each other. In spring or at the very beginning of summer, pike can feast on frogs and crayfish that are in the process of molting.
There are cases when pike caught and dragged small ducklings, rats, squirrels, mice underwater , waders swimming across the river.
Large sized pike can attack ducks, this is more likely to happen when the birds are moulting and unable to take to the air. Also, large predators successfully catch fish, the size of which is half of the most toothy hunter or even a little more. Scientists studying pike diets have found that the menu of medium-sized pike consists mainly of fish that are of no value and are numerous, therefore pike is very important for many fish farms, because it prevents the stocking of water bodies.
Features of character and lifestyle
As already mentioned, pikes prefer living alone, and this is not surprising, because they always run the risk of becoming victims of their larger relative. Only sometimes very small squints can hunt, forming small flocks. In any body of water, the pike looks for dense water thickets, where it freezes, waiting for the next victim. Seeing his snack, the pike makes a swift attack with one sharp jerk.
Medium-sized fish acquire their own territory, ranging in size from 20 to 30 square meters, and larger individuals have allotments reaching up to 70 square meters. Several toothy predators can live on one site at once. Their hunting is carried out in turn, while the satiated one is engaged in digestion, the other is waiting for the prey. It is not only their keen eyesight that helps pikes to make successful attacks, but also the lateral line, which improves orientation in space (seismosensory orientation).
A pike always swallows its prey, starting from the head, even if it was captured across the body.
When the weather is calm and sunny, even very large pikes appear in shallow water to sunbathe, so sometimes you can see whole flocks of such large fish basking. The saturation of water with oxygen for pike is of the utmost importance, because the fish is very sensitive to this indicator and can die if it is lacking, which often happens in small reservoirs during harsh winter periods.
In general, the pike is a cold-loving predator. It has been established that the fish that lives in the northern regions grows over a longer period and lives much longer than the pike living in the southern waters, nature arranged it that way.
Social structure and reproduction
Female pike become sexually mature closer to four years of age, and males – to five. A suitable temperature for the start of spawning is from 3 to 6 degrees with a plus sign. Spawning occurs immediately after the ice melts, not far from the coast, where the water depth does not exceed one meter. At this time, pike can be seen in shallow water, where violent splashes are heard. Usually, medium-sized specimens start spawning first, then weighty fish join them.
Despite the fact that the pike is loner by nature, during the mating season these fish form small flocks, consisting of several males (from 3 to 5 pieces) and one female. The female, like a leader, swims in front, and the males follow her, clinging to her side or being above her back. Spawning pikes can rub against snags, roots, reed and cattail stems, so they spawn. When the spawner comes to an end, strong splashes are not uncommon, and some pikes make high jumps.
Fry develop from one to two weeks, and the menu of young animals includes small crustaceans, and a little later – fry another fish.
One pike can lay from 17 to 215,000 sticky eggs, which are about 3 mm in diameter. Their number directly depends on the size of the female. At first they cling to aquatic plants. After a few days, the eggs cease to be sticky and sink to the bottom, detaching from the plants, where they continue to develop. If, after spawning, the water begins to subside rapidly, then most of the eggs die.
It happens that the eggs stick to the paws of the birds that eat them, so they are transferred to other water bodies where pike have not been observed before.
It is worth noting that in those water bodies where food is the environment is difficult, pike fry, reaching a size of only half a centimeter, begin to eat each other already at such a young age.
Pike's natural enemies
Despite the fact that the pike itself is very voracious, toothy and quite bloodthirsty, it has enemies who are not averse to feasting on it. Pike ill-wishers include otters and bald eagles, who love to eat all kinds of fish, including toothy pike. In Siberian rivers, pike compete with taimen, which perfectly cope with a predator of the same size, so in those places the pike rarely reaches very large dimensions.
Pike living in the southern waters are waiting for another ill-wisher – large catfish . If large fish already have enemies, then it is even more difficult for fry and young animals to survive, they often become prey for perches and rotan, large pike perches. Do not forget that the pike itself eats its fellows, without paying any attention to family ties.
In some northern lakes, pike cannibalism flourishes, where pike feed only on their own kind. The food chain in those places looks like this: fry eat small crustaceans, fry are eaten by medium-sized relatives, and the latter become a snack for more weighty relatives.
A man can also be attributed to the enemies of this toothy predator, because it is an honorary trophy for many fishermen who hunt for it. In some regions, pike fishing is not controlled in any way and is often massive. In addition, a lot of fish die due to winter freezes, which usually occur in small water bodies.
Population and species status
At the moment, pike, as a species of fish, does not cause any concern regarding its numbers. The distribution area of this predator is extensive, in almost every reservoir it is a valuable commercial object. In Russia, pike is distributed almost everywhere. In the Urals, it is the most common representative of the aquatic fauna.
Scientists have noticed that now there are much fewer large pike. This may be due to the fact that in the middle of the last century there was a massive catch of fish of precisely large sizes, which led to changes in the structure of the pike population. A small pike tries to spawn at a very young age, so the number of medium-sized fish increases rapidly, and large ones become very rare.
The pike is of great commercial importance, it is artificially bred in many ponds, where it feels at ease. The meat of this fish is considered dietary and very useful. Both sports and amateur fishing cannot imagine their existence without pike, which is a noble trophy for every fisherman. It is good that this fish is widespread and its abundance for a given period of time does not pose any concern. The main thing is to continue like this.
In the end, it is worth adding that the pike is useful not only for the person who uses it in culinary terms and as an object of sport fishing, but also for the reservoir where this predator lives, it has undoubted benefits, eating small and numerous fish, thereby protecting the water space from stocking.