Northern pike

General information about northern pike (Esox lucius), a cool-water fish species in Alberta.



  • In Alberta, members of this species have been known to weigh up to 22 kilograms (50 pounds).


  • Sometimes called jackfish, northern pike are long, slender fish with sharp, backward-slanting teeth, duck-like jaws and a long, flat head.
  • The back and sides are predominantly dark green to olive-green, with yellow to white spots.
  • Because of a tiny gold spot found on the tip of most scales, pike appear flecked with gold.


  • A popular sport fish, pike are found throughout Alberta.
  • Distribution in the foothills and mountains is limited to a few lakes in the foothills.

Natural History


  • This species prefers shallow, weedy clear waters in lakes and marshes, but also inhabits slow streams.


  • Pike will eat insects, but as voracious predators they feed primarily on fish and other vertebrates.

Reproduction and Growth

Breeding Behaviour

  • Spawning occurs in flooded areas of vegetation in early spring, often when ice is still on the lakes.
  • Northern pike are broadcast spawners, with females and males swimming alongside each other releasing their eggs and milt (excretion of male sperm cells) into the water.
  • Fertilized eggs stick to vegetation and incubate. Hatching occurs in 12 to 17 days.
  • Young of the year are present as early as May.

Conservation and Management


Northern pike are classified as Secure in the current General Status of Alberta Wild Species report. See:

Current management


Northern pike are cool-water game fish subject to current Alberta sportfishing regulations. For details, see the My Wild Alberta website at: