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NFC: Some interesting blue pike stuff...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz


Blue Pike Fishing

an article from Ontario Fisherman

What is a blue pike? 

The blue pike is not to be confused with Lake Erie’s famous pickerel
(walleye) bearing the same name and now believed to be extinct. This fish
is a full-fledged member of the pike family (Esocidae). It feeds like a
pike, fights like a pike and looks like a pike except for one striking
difference – it has no body spotting, but exhibits beautiful iridescent
blue-silver flanks. In many areas, most often the U.S., the silver is the
more prominent tone. Therefore, most U.S. specimens are referred to as
silver pike. This term was first attached to specimens obtained from a
lake in Minnesota in 1930. But the first known professional assessment in
Ontario was made by a man named Prince after examining a specimen caught
near Skarbot Lake in 1898. Prince named the fish blue pike because of the
obvious colour. Therefore, on the grounds of historical efficacy and the
fact most Ontario specimens are blue, blue pike aptly describes the
fish’s main characteristic. In past readings, I had came across
references to blue pike in some fisheries journals and at least one
record book, but I never really became interested in this fish until
hearing about it from Bill Tregenza, a top-notch guide at Marten River
Lodge. Tregenza, who has fished and lived in the area around the lodge
his entire life, informed me that Marten River Lodge provided day- trip
access to some back lakes that produced what he called blue pike. He
showed me a picture of one and it indeed was blue. Sensing the
opportunity to catch one of these fish, I decided to try a couple of
these lakes while staying at the lodge in the fall of 1994. As it turned
out, seeing a picture of a blue pike from one of these lakes was much
easier to accomplish than getting one on the end of my line. Two days of
back lakes fishing produced one small blue pike for my fishing partner,
John Walker. As you can be seen from the photos on the first page of this
feature, the blue pike is a fantastic looking fish, with sheeny, blue
sides, nearly clear fins and scales so fine they look and feel like those
of a trout. But that was the only "blue" we could muster. 

Background Details 

The blue pike has an extremely wide geographic range in North America. In
fact, its documented occurrences are from virtually every part of the
known range of northern pike around the world, not just North America.
Aside from the striking lack of body spotting and obvious colour
differences, blue pike tend to be some- what narrower in body width than
normal pike and have larger eyes. A small percentage had more lateral
line scales than normal pike and upper and lower extensions of the mouth
are shorter than those found on normal pike. From the reported cases to
date, there is little consistency on where blue pike are likely to occur.
Records have been obtained from small lakes, large lakes, the Great Lakes
and rivers, but there has never been many of them. In one study, for
example, it took the researcher seven years to sample 42 blue pike
against 19,378 normal pike taken over the same period. Research
undertaken by Eddy and Surber in 1943 stated that the silver pike was a
true breeding mutant of the normal pike and would breed only with others
of its kind rather than with normal pike. When crossed with normal pike
in hatcheries, the resulting crosses had peculiar black-mottled markings
that can best be described as similar to the markings found on a black
crappie. These crosses are not considered to be true blue pike since both
parents were not blue pike. In the U.S., silver pike have been reared in
hatcheries and stocked in several lakes, so their distribution is wider
than would be naturally the case. There is considerable interest south of
the border in providing and managing silver pike as a specific sport
fishery alternative. So how big do blue pike get? The official world
record is given as 18 pounds and the live-release record as 43 inches. 

Temagami Blue Pike 

I headed up to Marten River Lodge this past summer, and this time,
Tregenza had set aside five days to try to capture some larger blue pike.
Though we caught several nice pike and lots of smallmouth bass the first
day, we failed to catch a blue pike. On day two, the fishing slowed
considerably until we found a small depression fronting an expansive
shallow- low water patch of lilies and spike rush. In turn, all three of
us had touches or follows from a pike. Finally, my fishing partner John
Walker, using a minnow-tipped Sassy Shad, hit pay dirt as a swooping rush
from below grabbed his jig. After setting the hook and playing the fish
to boatside, guide Tregenza enthusiastically barked, "It’s a blue!", and
immediately went for the landing net. Once safely inside, we celebrated
the capture of our prize – a beautiful 28 inch blue pike. The fish was
thoroughly photographed and then placed on a deep line until we could
pick it up on our way out from the lake. 

This fish would serve as a specimen for Dr. John Casselman, a noted pike
specialist with the Fisheries Research Branch (Ministry of Natural
Resources) at the Glenora Fisheries Station in Prince Edward County. The
following day, we hit another lake in the hopes of again locking horns
with the elusive blue pike. The fishing was excellent for pike, despite
the fact it was sunny and warm, but by lunch, we had yet to connect with
a blue. After a bite to eat, we quickly went to work in the bay across
from the lunch site. As we cast to the weedy shore and took fish after
fish, it was the guide’s turn to show his stuff. Tregenza brought to hand
our second blue pike of the trip -a shimmering, clean fish of about 14
inches. While no monster, it revealed one important fact: young blue pike
were still successfully hatching and growing in this lake. 

An hour and a half later, he turned the trick again. This time, he landed
a fabulous blue close to 30 inches that looked almost as clean as the
previous fish. Its scales were as small and smooth as many rainbow trout
I have taken and the fins were quite clear, having no hint of orange or
red as is common with northern pike. The colours were awe-inspiring. Few
of our freshwater fish, have this colour of blue to wow the eyes. In
three days, we had managed to catch three blue pike. Including the
previous year, we had caught 28 fish in one lake – 27 pike and one blue
pike. In the second lake, we caught 76 fish, 73 pike and three blue pike.
That worked out to four blue pike out of 100 pike in total. Given the
fact Tregenza has never caught a pike from any of these lakes which
appeared to be a cross between blues and normal pike, it would seem to
verify the earlier evidence that these two pike forms are breeding true
to their own. Or perhaps, a regularly - occurring genetic mutation is
present in the normal pike population that periodically produces these
unique looking fish. These two fish were caught from the same lake and
are approximately the same size. 

Subsequent examination of the blue pike specimen by Dr. Casselman
revealed several interesting pieces of information. First, the fish was
determined to be from the 1989 year class and about average for length
and weight given its age, but had abnormally slow first year growth.
Casselman also noted that the tips of the blue pike’s tail are
significantly more pointed than those found on northern pike, more
closely resembling the pointed tails of muskellunge. He also noted the
shape of the snout was straighter in blue pike than normal pike, which
tend to exhibit a marked concavity from the eyes to the tip of the snout.
Of interest also was the fact the lakes from which these fish were caught
are from an area where no previous specimens have been documented (the
closest spot being about 100 kilometres away). 

Blue Pike Locations 

For those interested in seeking out blue pike, here are some spots where
specimens have been reported: the St. Lawrence River in eastern Ontario;
the Mississippi River and associated chains of lakes in eastern Ontario;
Lac Seul, Eagle Lake, Little Vcrmilion Lake, Poobah Lake and Crooked Lake
in northwestern Ontario; Gort Lake near Geraldton; the Jocko River east
of North Bay; Silver Lake near Maberly; and the waters in the Sturgeon
River drainage basin of the Temagami region. If you, or somebody you
know, has caught a blue pike, Ontario Fisherman would like to hear about
it. Write us and send along a picture. Editor’s Note: Ontario Fisherman
wishes to acknowledge the resources provided and scientific wisdom from
Dr. E.J. Crossman and Dr. John Casselman in researching this article. 

Marten River Lodge
Phone: 705-892-2351
Fax: 750-892-2289
Toll Free 1-800-561-2067
(North America)

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