Monstrous Pike

jeff_pike_lowresI know. My “Jeff and His Giant Pike” stories are maybe starting to rub salt in your wounds. For those of us who can’t catch anything, including me, we are envious but trying to pretend we’re not. First it’s Jeff’s 38 inch Pike in October of 2013. Then it’s his 33 inch Pike last September. But now? Now it’s a Pike too large to measure by anything we had handy. It’s way bigger than the 36 inch yardstick Jeff had in his boat. Steve, who did not catch this fish (so he can be trusted), says this Pike was 42 inches long.

Lordy. 42 inches.

Jeff is a catch-and-release Pike fisherman, so I started wondering if this could be the same fish he caught before. Jeff’s 2013 monster catch is photographed, below. I tried to find out how fast Pike grow. I didn’t get far with that. My question was whether one could grow 4 inches in about a year and a half. The result of my research suggests a nothing-definitive maybe-yes. Four inches longer. Clearly heavier, with a greater circumference. The same lovely burnt-orange fins. But I’ve decided this is not the same fish. The patterning looks subtly different.

I was probably just hoping there’s only one fish this monstrously sized in Long Lake because I don’t like the thought of this fish, and those sharp teeth, watching kids floating around in their tubes and my toes dangling off the dock.

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One thing? We can now call Jeff “Master Angler Jeff.”  According to the DNR, a Pike achieves “Master Angler” status when it reaches 40 inches (or 18 pounds). That also usually means it’s female and more than 10 years old.

Teenage Northern Pike

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She, probably a she, was hiding in plain view. This Northern Pike was about 15 inches long and didn’t quite have the hang of the hiding and pouncing thing, which is the way pike forage for food. Still, she blended in quite nicely. That’s sunshine reflecting off the pike, but younger fish like this one do tend to have more yellow coloration than their elders and it’s arranged almost in stripes.

Ms. “Snotrocket”–an uncouth (but apt) nickname derived from the slimy mucous layer on a pike’s skin–sat still for several minutes in about 18 inches of water while we paddled about.

Steve took this photo with an underwater camera a few weeks ago. The weeds in Ghost Bay were still acting like it was winter. They were all huddled on the bottom of the bay. That didn’t leave much cover for a pike.

Where’s a young pike to find safety waiting for brunch this time of year? An osprey or an eagle could have snatched her easily. And, on that brunch thing, pike prefer to eat food that is one-third to one-half their size. Impressive.

The pike we didn’t catch

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We do not catch fish like this on Long Lake. Other people catch fish like this on Long Lake. If we catch a fish it’s a teeny one. And we hardly ever catch even a teeny one. Of course, we don’t fish in the dedicated way that Jeff does. Jeff and his Great Dane were out on the lake when it was 40 degrees and the wind was blowing and fierce rain squalls were moving through the area.

This is the Northern Pike (Esox Lucius) that Jeff caught near the drop-off pretty much straight off from our dock on Friday October 24th. I saw him pull this fish out of the water as I sat knitting  and warming myself by the fire.  And, in case Jeff’s brother is reading this, this blogger, being first duly sworn, states that she personally measured this fish and it was 38 inches long. If I saw this pike swim by my kayak, I’d be hoping he wouldn’t eat my paddle. If I saw this pike swim by when I was swimming in the lake, I wouldn’t swim in the lake anymore. In fact, just knowing she’s in the lake (most big pikes are female) will make me think twice about dangling my feet off the dock next summer. Jeff released her right after this photo was taken and she swam away lickety-split.

The Northern Pike has a lot of goofy nicknames. Mr. Toothy is one and if an angler reaches in to that mouth to remove a hook, he finds out why. Wikipedia reports another nickname that captures the same quality: Sharptooth McGraw. But my personal fav is snot rocket. If you’ve seen a pike dart away you  know about the rocket part. And the snot part is the slime that covers the pike. It is a protective coating. Careful anglers make sure they don’t handle the fish any more than is absolutely necessary, not because they are squeamish (as I am) but because healthy pike need their mucous coating to avoid skin damage that can lead to death-by-infection.

The other angler on board is Jeff’s 2-year old Great Dane. What a great day to be a dog on Long Lake.

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