The Pike Perch-Video

by Fly Fisherman

The Pike Perch
(Stizostedion vitreum)

ORIGINAL HABITAT.—The pike perch originally inhabited the fresh waters from Lake Champlain, in Vermont, northward into Canada and westward to Minnesota, southward to the Mississippi Valley and the Great Lakes basin.

PRESENT HABITAT.—ThrOugh artificial propagation and distribution it now inhabits waters of thirty-two of the forty-eight states. The only states of the far West inhabited by this fish are Wyoming and Montana, where they have been introduced with little or no success.

FAMILY.—This fish, a member of the perch family of fishes, is no doubt better known in many localities as the walleyed pike, and probably derives the name through its large glassy eyes.

OTHER SPECIES.—There is another fish—the sauger—of the same family of fishes which is very similar ; however, it is a smaller fish, lighter in color, has a much smaller eye, and its head is more pointed.

USUAL WATERS INHABITED.—It prefers the deep waters of the rivers, lakes, or ponds with gravel, sand, or rock bottoms, where it remains near the bed of the stream or lake, and is usually found in schools. There are many instances where this fish has been introduced in mud-bottom ponds and while it seems to thrive, providing there is plenty of food, there does not seem to be any natural propagation which is successful. Pike perch found in these mud-bottom ponds are usually very dark in color and they have often been mistaken for some other species of fish. This, however, is very largely due to the lack of light penetrating the water which causes the dark color of the fish. As a general rule any species of fish found in the lakes and ponds is much heavier than those of the same species which may be found in the rivers. This is due to the fish having no current to battle at any time.

GENERAL LINES, Erc.—The pike perch is built somewhat on the same lines as the members of the pike family such as the pickerel, muskellunge, and Northern pike. The pike perch, however, has a heavier body and is of entirely different color and general markings—the color being an olive background with overmarkings of intermingled brassy yellow. In place of the finer scales characteristic of the pickerel it has larger and much stiffer scales. The fins also are much different as to construction and general location. The pickerel has but one dorsal fin, a soft ray, that is located directly above the dorsal fin, while the pike perch has two dorsal fins, one of a spiny ray or the anterior dorsal fin with twelve to thirteen spines; the other a soft ray or the posterior dorsal fin located directly back of the spiny ray. The ventral fin of the pike perch is directly below the pectoral fin while on the pickerel it is located midway between the pectoral and anal fins.

SIZE.—It has been known to attain a size of twenty-five

FRESH WATER FISHING
pounds in weight although pike perch of this size have seldom been taken on rod and line. The average size runs from three to five pounds. I have personal knowledge of two pike perch which weighed twenty-five pounds each; however, they were not caught in a legal or sporting manner. The world’s record with rod and line is eighteen pounds and was caught in Wisconsin in 1933.

FOOD AND FEEDING HABITS.—This fish is a nocturnal feeder and his food consists chiefly of other fish regardless of size or species. He also eats crayfish to some extent. Being equipped with a good set of caninelike teeth he is able to catch and hold almost any fish he chooses to tackle. It is not uncommon for a large pike perch to strike a good-sized bass which is being pulled in by a fisherman. As night approaches the pike perch leaves the deep water to seek food in the shallow water or along the shore lines. It does not rove about in search of food but remains almost motionless to be in position to attack any fish which may come near enough.

SPAWNING.—It is a spring spawner but builds no nest, and when not confined to a lake or pond usually moves upstream during the spawning season which is in April and May—usually in May. The eggs are deposited in the shallow water on sand or gravel. It is a prolific spawner, and a very large fish may produce 300,000 eggs, although the average number is from ts,000 to 150,000. The incubation period is from eighteen to twenty-one days. In view of the fact that this fish does not build a nest, it of course does not protect the eggs or young fish after they are hatched.

ARTIFICIAL PROPAGATION.—Even though this fish is a
prolific spawner in naturally stocking the waters it inhabits it lends itself very easily to artificial propagation, this fact being, no doubt, one very good reason for its wide distribution today. In artificial propagation the female fish are stripped of the eggs after which they are impregnated by the milt extruded from the male fish. The eggs are then placed in a series of glass jars or batteries where a constant flow of fresh water is maintained. Because of the vast numbers of these fish hatched they cannot be retained at the hatcheries and are shipped immediately for distribution.

SPORTING VALUE.—While the pike perch are classed in most states as game fish, they are not much as fighters until they catch sight of the fisherman. Then they put up more of a battle, which usually is in spurts of short runs. However, a big fish will give any fisherman all the sport desired for one day’s fishing.

FISHING METHODS.-NO doubt the best time to fish for this fellow is from daybreak to about eight or nine o’clock in the morning, although he may be caught at any time of the day or night. One of the most popular and successful methods is by trolling. This is done by employing a large spinner and hook baited with a night crawler or small lamprey eel. Even a piece of pork rind or the windpipe of a fowl is often used with great success. The spinner is attached to a long line on which a heavy sinker is fastened to weight it to the bottom of the streams. The boat is then slowly rowed forward while the lure trolls behind in the deep water. Being a night feeder the pike perch is also taken at night by trolling.

PLUG BAITS.—In more recent years many fishermen employ bait-casting rods and plug baits for either day or night fishing.

FLY FISHING.—The fly fishermen also catch their share of pike perch on much smaller lures than other fishermen,
Toward evening is no doubt the best time to use the small fly and spinner.

LIVE BAIT.—The bait fishermen using live bait employ either the small stone catfish or minnows with great success. Either still fishing or drifting in a boat may bring the desired results by live-bait fishing.

MARKET VALUE.—The pike perch has a fine commercial market value and the Great Lakes produce several million pounds annually by means of the commercial fishery industry. The flesh of this fish is firm, white, flaky, and very tasty.

VALUE TO OTHER Fish.—As a value to other fish the pike perch may be considered as an enemy since its chief food consists of other fish.

VALUE TO MANKIND.—As a value to man it covers several angles. The recreation value cannot be estimated and the food it furnishes to mankind is very valuable.

LOCAL NAMEs.—There is considerable confusion concerning the names of this fish. It is often called a yellow bass, the Susquehanna salmon, jack salmon, salmon, yellow pickerel, pike, jack pike, walleyed pike, dose, etc.

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