Fishing for Pike and their natural habitat  
Pike are opportunist feeders, feeding on what is most common and easiest to catch, on most waters, this will be the resident shoals of coarse fish which reside in them. Pike are especially prolific in waters holding shoals of fodder fish like bream, roach, hybrids etc. Pike over 20lbs are taken regularly, while fish over 30lbs are caught every year from both big and small waters. (The official rod-caught records for Irish pike are 39lbs 3ozs for a lough fish, and 42lbs for a river fish). They generally grow faster and mature earlier than in other European countries because of the excellent habitat and the quantity and quality of fodder fish.
Pike lead solitary lives, hiding patiently and well-camouflaged in snags, weed or reeds waiting for the preyfish, they have tremendous surges of speed, with the dorsal and anal fins set well back near the tail, enabling the fish to propel itself from its ambush site with frightening speed. There are several documented cases of pike choking to death after attempting to eat another pike of almost the same size as themselves, the bigger pike (all females) are well known to turn to scavenging. They will take dead, dying, or diseased fish and so fulfil a vital role in maintaining a healthy fishery. Irish pike spawn between February and April, usually in the shallow margins of rivers and lakes. Many of the bigger pike taken are captured just before the spawning period. Young pike feed mainly on aquatic insects but turn to a fish diet after the first year. A mature pike will eat about five times its own weight of fodder fish per year. The large females swim along quietly, followed by between 2 and 4 smaller Jack pike (males), they swim very close by shedding eggs and milt as they go, this means that their milt sets up a cloud just in front of the females vent ensuring that a good proportion of the eggs become fertilised. The success rate is roughly 50%, but further predation from other fish and birds bring this number down drastically and less than 0.1% of the eggs laid, survive to become mature fish. The big females on completion of the spawning do devour a number of these small male jack pike. Pike become sexually mature around their second or third year, but size rather than age is the primary factor, the amount of eggs laid depends on the size of the fish. A 3lb pike could lay 35,000 eggs, but a 28lb pike can lay 300,000. Temperature is critical in determining the rate at which the eggs will develop, at 43°F the eggs can take approx 26 days to hatch, but if the water temp reaches 68°F, then they can take 5 days. When the young hatch, they are approx 1 cm long, with no mouth or gill openings, they spend the first 8 to 12 days hanging vertically from aquatic plants, feeding on their yolk-sacs, until their development is complete. Eventually the body elongates and the mouth and gill openings form, next the fish begin to grow and take form, then the small pike adopts a horizontal stance, and begins feeding on plankton. Shortly after the development of the fins occur, and the pike becomes fully developed, feeding on larvae. Should food be in short supply, then a fair degree of predation on its own kind (cannibalism) occurs. The small pike will now spend much of its time hiding in weed beds, even hiding from it's own larger pike, and to protect itself from predatory water beetles.
  The behaviour of pike depends to some extent on the behaviour of prey species. Pike in small waters may be evenly distributed because the fodder fish are dispersed. Big-water pike may be more dependent on shoals of fish like bream and roach which move around, and they tend to follow these shoals. So the locations of these pike may be more difficult to discover, but can be related to the movements of their prey.
One example of this may be seen on the river Shannon in April and May when bream spawn. Sometimes they mass in large numbers with several shoals congregating to spawn in shallow backwaters.
Pike will concentrate around these shoals and for the duration of the spawning period such locations can provide very good fishing. However, when the bream shoals move away after spawning, the pike either follow them or disperse and sport in that location ceases.
The time of day can be important on certain waters with regard to the taking behaviour of bigger fish. The period around dawn can be productive, as can the final hours of daylight. This behaviour may vary during the year.
The distinguished striped pattern of the pike only occurs for the first few years of its life, the pattern breaks up into the more familiar spots later on. When the pike has reached two years old, it will be feeding almost exclusively on fish, dependant on the availability of food, quality of food, and competition for food in any given water. Pike actually grow for between 10 and 15 of a possible 25 years, but the maximum age is difficult, because as a fish approaches maximum size its growth slows down and eventually stops. The maximum weight achieved by Esox lucius, has been the subject of great debate and speculation, historically weights of up to 90lb's have been mentioned but realistically 55-60lb is probably nearer the mark. The nearest authenticated photo is a 58lb 6oz pike from Grarup Lake in Denmark. For more information/debate see the RECORDS page.
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