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Northern Pike Fishing

Biologists holding Northern PIke

Overview

Northern pike (Esox lucius; hereafter referred to as pike) are a circumpolar species native to North America and Eurasia. Indiana represents the southernmost extent of their natural range, where they inhabit approximately one-third of Indiana’s 452 northern glacial lakes. Pike also exist in many of Indiana’s northern rivers including the Iroquois, Kankakee, Tippecanoe, Yellow, Fawn, Pigeon, Elkhart, St. Joseph, Wabash, and Mississinewa rivers. Pike are voracious predators that grow rapidly. The Indiana state record pike is 30 pounds, 2 ounces (48¼ inches), caught at Clear Lake (Steuben County) in 1992 by Jack Barnes.

Habitat

The primary habitat requirements of pike include year-round access to cool-water habitat (≤73°F and ≥3.0 parts per million dissolved oxygen) and suitable spawning habitat. Pike are one of the earliest fish species to begin spawning, often making migrations into shallow spawning grounds immediately after the ice-off on natural lakes.

The preferred spawning habitat for pike is seasonally flooded wetlands and permanently submerged aquatic vegetation. Recently hatched pike will use these shallow vegetated areas for food and protection from predators. After the spawning period, adult pike will progressively migrate deeper in the water column in search of cool-water as spring and summer surface temperatures warm the water.

Population Status

Each year, Indiana DNR’s fisheries biologists complete general fish community surveys at a series of randomly selected natural lakes. From 2010-2019, pike have been detected in approximately one-third of these surveys. Fisheries biologists also complete surveys designed specifically to target pike during the spring. These targeted surveys have shown that most pike populations comprise primarily individuals measuring between 21-28 inches, which are largely male (85%). Conversely, 72% of the pike larger than 28 inches have been females.

Table 1. Targeted pike survey catch-per-net lift at 22 northern Indiana glacial lakes since 2012. Effort for each targeted pike survey consists of eight large trap net lifts. Size categories include stock (14-21 inches), quality (21-28 inches), preferred (28-34 inches) and memorable (34+ inches) sizes.

LakeCountyYear Catch per net lift<StockStockQualityPreferredMemorable
Round Steuben 2012 2.3 00 14 2 2
Clear Steuben 2012 4.1 1 1 22 6 3
Hamilton Steuben 2012 27.3 0 22 176 20 0
Snow Steuben 2013 1.6 00 5 6 2
Winona Kosciusko 2014 12.8 00 73 21 8
Pike Kosciusko 2014

9.9

1 6 12 11 1
Little Chapman Kosciusko 2015 7.8 00 46 14 2
Jimmerson Steuben 2015 0.9 1 2 2 2 0
Crooked Steuben 2016 1.4 00 8 1 2
Syracuse* Kosciusko 2016 1.9 0 6 16 7 1
Wawasee* Kosciusko 2016 1.8 0 6 19 3 0
Lawrence Marshall 2017 2.6 0 1 11 7 2
Myers Marshall 2017 1.0 3 0 4 0 1
Waldron Noble 2017 2.5 0 1 10 8 1
Dewart Kosciusko 2018 3.3 0 5 18 3 0
James Steuben 2018 0.0 00000
Loon Steuben 2018 2.3 1 0 8 7 2
South Twin LaGrange 2019 0.0 00000
Diamond Noble 2019 1.1 00 8 1 0
Silver Steuben 2019 0.8 1 0 2 2 1
Wolf Lake 2020 5.8 0 18 26 2 0
Center Kosciusko 2020 0.8 0 2 1 1 2

*Effort was increased to 16 large trap net lifts.

Table 2. Preliminary targeted Northern pike survey schedule 2021-2026.

LakeCountyYear
Barton Steuben 2021
Big Chapman Kosciusko 2021
Pretty LaGrange 2021
Pine LaPorte 2022
Clear/Round Steuben 2022
Hamilton Steuben 2022
Dallas LaGrange 2022
Hudson LaPorte 2023
Snow Steuben 2023
Jones Noble 2023
Adams LaGrange 2023
Wall LaGrange 2024
Winona Kosciusko 2024
Pike Kosciusko 2024
West Otter Steuben 2025
Waubee Kosciusko 2025
Little Chapman Kosciusko 2025
George Steuben 2026
Tippecanoe Kosciusko 2026
Hunter Elkhart 2026
Big/Little Otter Steuben 2027
Gage Steuben 2027
Big Long LaGrange 2027

Management

Pike are regulated under a statewide three fish bag limit and a 24-inch minimum size limit. Hamilton Lake (Steuben County) has a six fish daily bag limit and no minimum size limit (no more than 1 per day more than 30 inches). The protection and enhancement of pike populations largely hinges on the availability of habitat, including cool-water (≤73°F and ≥3.0 parts per million dissolved oxygen) and suitable spawning habitat. Anthropogenic habitat modifications (i.e., residential development, vegetation management) are believed to be a contributing factor to the eutrophication (i.e., nutrient loading) of lakes and the resulting reduction in year-round access to cool water. In order to protect pike populations, 22 cool-water glacial lake catchments were selected as Conservation Opportunity Areas (COA) in the 2015 State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP).

Resources

Northern Pike Biologist Contact Information

Matthew D. Linn
Fisheries Research Biologist
Indiana Department of Natural Resources
1353 South Governors Drive 
Columbia City, IN 46725
260-244-6805
mlinn@dnr.IN.gov