Everyone in Minnesota knows the northern pike. This long, lean fish cruises more Minnesota lakes than just about any other fish. Thus, it has inadvertently earned the reputation of being a “second class” fish to the more glamorous walleye.
Actually the northern pike is a misunderstood fish and one that we too often take for granted. So before you distainfully curse the next “hammerhandle”, keep a few things in mind. First, think of all the times a stringer of small northern pike has turned your fishing trip from a complete washout to a success. Or, think about how tasty a northern pike really is when you fry it up at home. The taste is quite similar to a walleye, isn’t it.
But the most intriguing thing about the northern pike is their unique adaptability; they can go anywhere in just about any body of water they want to. Think about it, you’ve probably caught northern pike in rivers; small ponds; shallow, weed-filled lakes; and deep, cold lakes. Most species of fish cannot withstand such extreme temperture and environmental differences; the northern pike is truly an amazing fish.
Regardless of how the northern pike developed into such a well rounded creature, the most coloful explantion is an indian legend told by Dan Gapen in his book, RIVER FISHING. When the Great Spirit finished with the creation of the water and all fishes, he knew there must be a way to keep the small fishes in balance, or they would overpopulate and destroy themselves. With his vast wisdom, the Great Spirit created the northern pike. He gave this fish a voracious appetite and a long, lean, powerful body so it could pursue and catch any fish that swims. He also gave it a massive set of jaws lined with needle sharp teeth to grasp any unfortunate morsel that may come its way. Finally, this fish was given the ability to exist in any depth of water, environment, or circumstance it may encounter. When he was finished, the Great Spririt called the fish “Keeper of the Waters.” Today, the “Keeper” does its job in most of Minnesota lakes and rivers and actually is a great benefit to the ecological balance of fish populations.
So the next time you catch a small northern pike and curse it for being worm- riddled, good-for-nothing stunted fish, pause for a moment and think about the wonder of nature the northern pike really is.