pike, common name for the family Esocidae, freshwater game and food fishes of Europe, Asia, and North America. The pike, the muskellunge, and the pickerel form a small but well-known group of long, thin fishes with spineless dorsal fins, large anal fins, and long, narrow jaws with formidable teeth. There are five species in the single genus Esox, found in the lakes and streams of central and E North America. The muskellunge, named by the Native Americans, is the largest of these, averaging from 2 to 7 ft (61–213.5 cm) in length and from 10 to 20 lb (4.5 to 9 kg) in weight, though some may reach 60 lb (27 kg). Carnivorous and solitary except at spawning time, muskellunges feed on fish, frogs, snakes, and even the young of aquatic mammals and waterfowl. The American, northern, or great northern pike, Esox lucius, called jackfish in Canada, is also voracious, lurking in weedy shallows to ambush its prey. This pike, believed to be the same species as the European pike, is said to consume one fifth of its own weight (10–35 lb or 4.5–16 kg) daily. Although a prized game fish in its native habitat, it has been reviled as a pest with the potential to devastate other game species in areas where it has been introduced. The pickerels are smaller members of the family. The grass, or barred, pickerel rarely exceeds 1 ft (30 cm) in length and 1 lb (.45 kg) in weight; the larger Eastern pickerel is found in clear lakes and streams together with bass. Pikes are stubborn fighters and are valued as game fishes; their flesh, though bony, is delicious. The walleyed pike is really a perch. Pikes are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Osteichthyes, order Clupeiformes, family Esocidae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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