As northern pike anglers, we are always looking for that next trophy. In searching for my own trophy I asked myself how fast do northern pike grow? Knowing the growth rate will help you analyze your fisheries potential and also provide a better understanding of large fish holding locations.
So, how much do northern pike grow in a year? The northern pike growth rate is accelerated for the first two years of their life with fish seeing size increases of up to 10” per year. After this period the growth rate slows significantly.
This fast growth allows the fish to reach sexual maturity faster and ensure their population thrives. Males will mature more quickly than females and mature at a smaller size. Males will grow 16 to 18 inches within one to two years while females will be 20 to 22 inches in a two to three year time period.
Adult Northern Pike Growth Rate
The growth rate of northern pike decreases after year three of the fish’s life. They are taking the next four years to grow a mere 12 inches from 25 to 37 inches. One thing to note about the growth rate of northern pike is their girth in relation to length. During the first years of exponential growth in length, most fish are rather skinny. As these fish age and the growth in length slows, you will notice a more significant increase in their overall size and weight.
Pike World Records
Wondering how big can a northern pike get? The Largest Northern Pike recorded was caught in 1986 by Lothar Louis on Greffern lake in West Germany. It took nearly 40 minutes for Lothar to bring in a 55 lb 1 oz fish. The previous world record and still North American record was caught in 1940 on Great Sacandaga Lake in New York by angler Peter Dubuc. The Northern Pike tipped the scales at 46 lbs 2 oz and measured 52.5” long.
Use The Knowledge To Increase Your Catch
Knowing the life stages of northern pike will help you as an angler to find larger fish on your local body of water. The first stages of life as an egg and sac fry are not of great importance from an angling standpoint. After about one month northern pike will be approximately the size of a finger, hence the term fingerling. This is a period of time where their first teeth are growing, and they start to become the predators we know them to be. The first year of life for most pike is spent in the warm marshy backwater where pike will need to eat 5-6 pounds of food for every pound of body weight gained.
Juvenile Life and Spawning
After the first year when the northern pike is between 10 and 12 inches long, it requires larger food sources and more lukewarm water — pushing the fish into the lake where its larger counterparts and other new predators live. It is an important and vulnerable stage of the fish’s life. If it can survive its first year in this new environment, it will be near sexual maturity and ready to return to the marshy backwaters it was born in. In the spring when spawning season occurs northern pike spawn and lay eggs that attach to vegetation.
Finding Larger Fish
This is vital information for us anglers — depending on the time of year, we will be fishing different waters for large pike. In the spring when spawning season occurs some of the largest fish may be taken in the shallow ponds and backwaters. Depending on water clarity you can sometimes see large fish staging in areas pre and post spawn. This is an excellent time to use larger baits that mimic smaller mature northern pike. The males will enter spawning territory before the females looking to stake the claim on prime habitat. By using large baits, you will often entice territorial responses from the largest males awaiting their female spawning partners.
Post spawn some of the best angling waters for large pike will be the areas used for travel from the colder deep waters of the lake to the marsh. The channels and rivers are often smaller than the lakes. This concentrates fish population and makes the northern pike much easier to target even from the shore. Often this can be some of the best fishing had throughout the year making for exciting days on the water and big fish in your net.
Northern Pike Growth Rates To Find The Best Water
Using your knowledge of the northern pikes’ growth rate and life stages plays a vital role in judging a body of waters potential to hold large fish. The first thing to look for is appropriate spawning habitat connected to the lake. Keep in mind this does not have to be extremely close as this fish will travel reasonably far distances if the interconnecting waterways allow. If you find what seems to be an excellent marshy spawning ground the next step is to analyze other life in the area. Keep in mind that smaller northern pike require 5-6 pounds of food to gain each pound. The abundance of baitfish, frogs, and insects are all positive signs of a productive area and a healthy ecosystem.
With excellent spawning habitat located look at the lakes depth, water temperature, and structure. Northern pike will be most comfortable in shallow lakes that remain cool. Coldwater rivers entering the lake or springs are perfect for creating favorable conditions. You also need to look at how much and what type of cover is available. As ambush predators, adult northern pike will use weed beds, logs, and rock piles separately and in conjunction to feed.
How Long Do Northern Pike Live?
In the wild northern pike have a typical lifespan of 7 years. This will put the 37-inch class fish near the end of the species normal life. With that said many Northern Pike surpassing this size are caught. In the wild fish have been aged as old as 25 years and in captivity to 75 years.
It is also important to point out that the female northern pike