I grew up fishing in Southern Ontario, Canada, on the esteemed St. Lawrence River, and I have a bone to pick with the Northern pike (pun intended). Let me enlighten you if you haven't had a run-in with the Esox lucius. They will chase your lure right to the end of your rod before trying their best to bite it off. They will eat your favorite bass plug and take it away like a bully stealing lunch money. If they get hooked, you might pull them into the boat to try to release them. Then they'll freak out, getting slime on your hands you'll never get off, only for you to realize the lure is useless now anyway.
Northern pike seem to bite when nothing else will, or they'll evade you when you're targeting them. They will turn your favorite tackle into a pile of parts, shred your best line, and then laugh while they swim away. They're big, bad, and have a mouthful of teeth made for pain, as every one of us that has ever handled one has likely found out.
Northern pike are such jerks. Let us count the ways.
Northern Pike Bust Your Gear
It's not like any of us haven't had the bad luck to break a rod, a line, or a sweat trying to fish, but it usually happens in other ways. Regarding the Northern pike, manufacturers have long since been making heavy-action freshwater rods and reels to deal with them. Before that, many anglers fishing pike-laden waters used saltwater gear just in case. I can't tell you how often I've fished with a traditional red bobber only to see an upsurge of water encircled it. When I reel it in, I find that it is broken to pieces.
Northern Pike Are Heartbreakers
I'll never forget watching my grandfather use his trusty old closed-faced reel attached to his favorite fly rod and cast a large yellow, red, and black spotted U20 flatfish towards a big weed bed. In seconds the lure full of hooks stopped dead in the water. Something had bent grandad's rod, and he had a smile I'll never forget.
He knew what was at the other end. As ready as he was, he was still using equipment from the late 1960s. Needless to say, the drag didn't work well enough. When we expected his heavy 20-pound test mono (with an old-school steel leader) to break, the alligator-sized pike swam under the boat and straightened out every old wire hook on the lure. I've never seen such a heartbroken look on a fisherman before or since.
Northern Pike Buck Expectations
It's no mystery that the Northern pike is known to attack anything in the water column that moves in front of them, no matter what. There are stories about pike grabbing muskrats and ducklings, sure. But I've heard stories of Northerns grabbing the oars of boats and even small boat anchors. I'm not sure if I believe the last two, but I also didn't know that they would eat each other until I saw the videos.
Maybe the most surprising thing they do is grab your perch, bluegill, or rock bass while you're reeling it in. It's happened to me many times. While you'd think they'd let go (especially when they see you), remember that Northern pikes are greedy, have a mouthful of sharp teeth, and are a Northern pike. Hang on if you want, but you'll either lose the panfish or receive it with your face when the pike spits it spitefully.
Northern Pike Have a Massive Ego
Pike can grow to tremendous sizes in some parts of the world, including North America. This is another reason for their inflated ego. Can fish have egos, you ask? Yes, they can. Remember, these freshwater gamefish think everything that swims belongs to them, including their own kind, and spend their daily lives trying to prove it.
I've seen them attack another pike that had already struck a lure. I've heard of people pulling turtles, giant sunfish, and even grilled brats out of their bellies. When you've seen a Northern pike try to eat an adult mallard bigger than they are, you understand they're just the arrogant jerks we thought they were.
Mastering the Arrogant Northern Pike
The Northern pike can tremendously damage our fishing gear, hands, and self-esteem. We have to solve a mystery about the Northern pike as anglers. Since we were kids fishing in the boat with dad and looking down into the water depths, it seemed like a monster lurked there. We were right.
We haven't even mentioned their admirable cousin, the muskellunge. But most will tell you that, while the muskie can be just as greedy, the pike has a savage disposition. They remind me of the bison standing in the road at Yellowstone, looking like they could care less until some dumb dude walks up and tries to pet one.
Is the Northern pike the arrogant one? Or is it the pike fisherman who dares to throw his bait in the drink with these freshwater piranhas? We have long since been given better tools to battle these voracious beasts. However, hooking a 40-inch monster as long as your leg makes you reconsider your choices as a fisherman.
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