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Anchorage Daily News
In the blink of an eye, a rainbow trout found itself in the gullet of a northern pike, one of two kept in an aquarium at state Department of Fish and Game headquarters in Anchorage. In their four months in the tank, the pair consumed 174 fish and grew three inches. The pike were part of Fish and Game's efforts to educate Alaskans about the damage pike can do to native fish and to encourage them to go pike hunting.
Predator is both beloved and reviled for its appetite
Long and aggressive, the northern pike makes a fearsome predator to Alaska's trout and salmon populations in Southcentral Alaska. But in the Minto Flats of the Interior, the pike has become a sought-after trophy.
In Alaska, the pike has been a maligned fish. Old-time Alaskans and commercial fishers scorned them, and their only use for many years was as dog food.
With the settling in of former Midwesterners, the stature of the pike has increased, and it is now one of the most important game fishes in Interior Alaska.
In the trout and salmon lakes of Southcentral Alaska, however, the pike is reviled for its voracious appetite. The state has stopped stocking some lakes in the Anchorage area because pike eat so many of the fish. Nevertheless, Red Shirt Lake in the Nancy Lakes State Recreation Area is a popular pike lake.
The Alaska pike is the same species that is popular with midwestern anglers. It has an elongated body and head. The snout is broad and flat, shaped somewhat like a duck bill. The jaws, roof of the mouth, tongue, and gillrakers are armed with numerous sharp teeth which are being constantly replaced. A single soft-rayed dorsal fin is located far back on the body.
The pike is variable in color. A fish from a clear stream or lake will usually be light green, while a pike from a dark slough or river will be considerably darker. The underparts are whitish or yellowish. The marking on the sides form irregular rows of yellow or gold spots.
Males and females are similar in appearance but females live longer and attain greater size. Pike up to 20 pounds are common in some Alaskan rivers, lakes, and sloughs, and fish weighing up to 30 pounds and measuring 4 feet in length have been caught.
Pike have delicious firm, white flesh. Small pike are somewhat bony, but the larger fish filet easily for frying or baking.
38 pounds, caught in 1991 on the Innoko River of Western Alaska by Jack Wagner.
The major pike fishing areas are accessible mainly by airplane or riverboat. The Minto Flats area west of Fairbanks is composed of 800 square miles of interconnected lakes, rivers, and sloughs, and contains an abundant pike population. Trophy-size pike (over 15 pounds) can be caught in the area. Even larger pike can be taken in the clear water tributaries and sloughs of the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers.
Some lakes of the Tanana River system contain populations of pike and receive considerable angling pressure.
Pike can be taken with medium action spinning, bait casting or fly fishing gear. Almost any type of hardware will produce a strike. A wire leader is a must for these sharp-toothed fish.
Sources of information include the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.