North Dakota State Fish

Northern Pike

North Dakota State Fish - Northern Pike

(Esox lucius)

Named by resolution and not in codified law. March 3, 1969

Named by resolution rather than bill, the measure does not appear in the North Dakota Century Code as codified law the Northern Pike, (Esox lucius,) is North Dakota's state fish in 1971. The Northern Pike (Esox Lucius) gets it name from its resemblance of the pole-like weapon known as a pike used in the middle ages. Its predation status makes it a fish to be feared by smaller fish.

North Dakota State Fish: Northern Pike

North Dakota State Fish - Northern Pike

North Dakota waters have yielded mammoth size Northern Pike, resulting in a national sports fishing reputation for the state.

As predators, northern pike can have significant impact on their prey species. As with muskies, pike lurk in the cover of vegetation in the lake's clear, shallow, warm waters near shore, although they retreat somewhat deeper in midsummer. Pike consume large numbers of smaller fish - about 90 percent of their diet - but seem willing to supplement their diet with any living creature their huge jaws can surround, including frogs, crayfish, waterfowl, rodents, and other small mammals. Their preferred food size is approximately one third to one half the size of the pike itself.

Characteristics of the Northern Pike

The northern pike (Esox lucius), known simply as a pike in Britain, Ireland, Canada, and most parts of the USA, also called jackfish or simply "northern" in the Upper Midwest of the USA), is a species of carnivorous fish of the genus Esox (the pikes). They are typical of brackish and fresh waters of the Northern Hemisphere (i.e. holarctic in distribution). Pike grow to a relatively large size; lengths of 150 cm (59 in) and weights of 25 kg (55 lb) are not rare. The average length is about 70-120 cm (28-47 in).

Identifying characteristics

Single dorsal fin, light colored spots on darker body, upper half of gill cover and entire cheek has scales.


Northern pike seek areas of dense vegetation in streams, lakes, and large rivers. They tend to occupy the shallow waters near the shore with covering. They prefer cool water, and therefore will head to the deeper water around midsummer.


Great Lakes pike spawn in the shallows in April or May, right after the ice leaves, and before muskies reproduce. As a result of their eating habits, young pike grow rapidly in both length and weight. Females become sexually mature at age three or four years, and males at two to three years. Beyond sexual maturity, pike continue to gain weight, although more slowly. Great Lakes pike have an average life span of 10 to 12 years.

Pike eggs and new hatchlings (which stay inactive, attached to vegetation for their first few days of life) fall prey in large numbers to larger pike, perch, minnows, waterfowl, water mammals, and even some insects. Larger pike have two primary enemies - lampreys, and man. Spawning adult northern pike, exposing themselves recklessly in the shallows, are vulnerable to bears, dogs, and other large carnivores.

Northern pike flesh excels in flavor, thus making them a doubly rewarding game fish. Since their skin has heavy pigmentation and an unappetizing mucous coating, most people skin them or scale them carefully.

Northern Pike FactsNorth Dakota State Fish - Northern Pike

  • The state fish of North Dakota is the Northern Pike.
  • The Northern pike is sometimes called other names: American pike, common pike, Great Lakes pike, jackfish, longhead, and snot rocket.
  • Pike are known as ambush predators.
  • Pike can lie perfectly still for a remarkable period of time.
  • Northern pike can swim 8-10 miles per hour.
  • The older the fish is, the larger it is.
  • Most pike over 18 pounds are female.
  • The world record pike was caught in Germany.
  • Pike do not make nests for their eggs.
  • Neither the male nor the female pike care for the eggs once they are laid.
  • The majority of the fry do not hatch successfully.
  • The "fries"continue to attach onto vegetation because of a sticky patch still on their head. This patch remains there for a couple of weeks.
  • The oldest pike in its natural habitat lived to be 25 years old.
  • The pike is not a picky eater.
  • Adult pike typically have no other predators than humans.

North Dakota Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 2

Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 21 (SCR21), introduced at the end of January, 1969, proposed the Northern Pike as "the State fish of the State of North Dakota." On March 3, 1969, SCR21 had been approved in both houses of the North Dakota Legislative Assembly.


(Wenstrom, Chesrown, Decker, G. Larson)


A concurrent resolution designating the Northern Pike as the State fish of North Dakota.

WHEREAS, the sport of fishing had greatly increased in popularity in North Dakota and the nation over the years, resulting in increased tourism revenues and adding to the relaxation and enjoyment of man; and

WHEREAS, recent years have also seen the game and fish department of this State and private associations and individuals contributing considerable amounts of moneys and time in an effort to increase the game fish population and increase the facilities relating to the sport of fishing; and

WHEREAS, as a result of these efforts the number and size of fish harvested from the waters of the State of North Dakota have gained the attention of the nation; and

WHEREAS, that species of fish known as Northern Pike has especially gained national recognition and prominence due to the mammoth sizes of such species that the waters of this State have yielded; and

WHEREAS, it is quite possible that a world record Northern Pike will be taken from one of the lakes of North Dakota within the next few years;

Now, Therefore, Be It Resolved by the Senate of the State of North Dakota, the House of Representatives Concurring Therein:

That the Northern Pike be officially designated as the State fish of the State of North Dakota.

Filed March 3, 1969

North Dakota Law

The North Dakota state fish was designated by legislative resolution. Named by resolution, the measure is not listed in the North Dakota Century Code as codified law.

Taxonomic Hierarchy: Northern Pike

Kingdom: Animalia - animals
Phylum: Chordata - chordates
    Subphylum: Vertebrata - vertebrates
Class: Actinopterygii - ray-finned fishes
Order: Esociformes
Family: Esocidae
Genus: Esox
Species: Esox lucius

State Fishes
State Fish