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The ferocity and strength of the massive Pike

Posted in Fish, Nature, Wildlife on Tuesday, 15 November 2011

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This edited article about fish originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 862 published on  22 July 1978.

Pike, picture, image, illustration

A pike attacking a duck

Lying among the reeds near the river bank lurks a large fish. About a metre in length and coloured with a mottling of brown, green and yellow, it looks almost like a log as it waits motionless in the water.

Suddenly, the fish is galvanised into action. A smaller fish swimming by has caught its eye. The big fish darts upon its victim and seizes it in its strong jaws.

The predator is a pike, which is a terror of the waterways. Not only does it hunt and destroy weaker fishes of all sorts, including its own smaller relatives, but it also catches and eats frogs, rats and young water birds. In fact, it will kill and eat anything that is not too big for it to tackle.

The pike reveals its aggressive nature soon after it is hatched. When it is no longer than a goldfish, it begins to prey on other baby fishes. And the older and stronger it grows, the more aggressive does it become.

A solitary river fish, the pike prefers to live and hunt alone, and it will chase away any other pike that ventures on to its own particular feeding ground.

In addition to the strong teeth with which its jaws are armed, the pike has several rows of teeth, pointing backwards, set in the roof of its mouth. These prevent the escape of the victim, however hard it may struggle.

Fishermen do not like the pike because they destroy large quantities of salmon, trout and other fishes which Man uses as food. Whether they haunt the streams of Europe or America, all pike are fierce predators. Supreme among them all is the muskellunge, the giant pike of North America. This is a monster about two metres long which spends its days hunting and killing other fish. It makes its home in the Great Lakes and deep northern rivers where there is plenty of room for it to move about.

Another giant of the North American lakes and rivers is the gar-fish or gar-pike, as it is often called, although it is not really a pike. In many ways, however, the gar-fish is very like a pike, for it loves to lie in wait among the reeds and dash out with a sudden swift rush upon its luckless prey.

The gar-fish is very long and very thin with a snout that is like a long, flat, narrow beak. Its long, thin body is clothed in a complete suit of armour composed of hard, bony scales which shine as if they had been well polished. And its fearsome-looking mouth is armed along the entire length of each side with strong, sharp teeth.

There are two species of this fish in the Great Lakes of Canada and also farther south. These are the long-nosed gar and the short-nosed gar. A giant among the members of this family is the alligator-gar of Mexico, which can be four metres long.

Although they are not really pike, baby gar-fish soon show the characteristics of pikes. As soon as they are big enough, they chase other smaller fishes in their stream and eat those they catch. And it is only a matter of time before they have developed jaws as vicious and deadly as those other terrors of the waterways – the pikes.

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