Pike,picherel, Muskellunge, And Pike-perch
( Originally Published 1912 )
EXCEPT for the last named fish in the title of this chapter, all of those named belong to one family, and resemble one another so much that frequently one is mistaken for another. The last named, the pike-perch or wall-eyed pike, does not belong to the pike family, but is included in this chapter because of its name and its general resemblance to a pike.
The pike, known in Canada sometimes by the name of jackfish, is found throughout the Great Lake region, practically all of Canada, and a part of Alaska, also in less numbers in the eastern states and upper Mississippi valley, but never south of the 'Ohio river. Its natural home is Canada; in parts of the dominion it is very abundant and grows to a large size. The "pike" of other parts of North America are pickerel.
The usual weight of full grown pike is about ten pounds, but it may be more or less in certain waters and in various parts of the range. Specimens of thirty pounds are some-times taken. The color is dark gray or greenish gray on the back, lighter on the sides, and silvery white on the under parts. The sides show many irregular oblong spots lighter than the ground color. The dorsal and anal fins and tail show dark or black blotches. As on all the pikes, the dorsal and anal fins are on a vertical line. The body is long and the head is about one-fourth of the length of the fish over all. The jaws are long and armed with sharp teeth, for the pike is very voracious and preys on all smaller fish.
The fish are found mostly in shallow, grassy lakes and ponds. The places to look for them are over shoals and bars near the lily pads or wild rice beds. When caught on light tackle they put up a game fight, and are almost the equal of the muskellunge of the same weight.
Pike may be caught with natural or artificial bait, or by trolling. Perhaps more of them are taken by trolling with a spoon bait than in any other way. The directions given for catching muskellunge will answer very well for pike, as these two fish inhabit the same waters, their habits are much the same, and the same methods of fishing may be employed for both, in fact you are as likely to catch one as the other. The tackle for pike may be lighter throughout than for muskellunge. For bait fishing a regular bait rod, good sized multiplying reel, and good weight raw silk line should be used. The Archer Spinner with large minnow bait is an excellent lure. A plain hook, an O'Shaughnessy or Pennel, No. 3/ on a pointed piano wire is good for natural bait. If a trolling spoon is used, one having a blade about 2 1/4 inches long is about the right size. In all cases there must be a short section of wire above the hook to keep the fish from biting the line.
The pike is not worth very much as a food fish, but is superior to such, fish as carp and suckers. They are better in spring, fall and winter than in summer when the water is warm. In places where other fish are plentiful they are seldom used for food. The fish may be taken in early spring by fishing through the ice with pickerel traps, as described elsewhere.
Of the pickerel there are three species, namely, the Eastern pickerel, Western pickerel, and banded pickerel. These are the "pike" of some parts of the country. The Eastern pickerel is also called chain-pickerel and jack It is found in all of the eastern states, east of the Alleghanies. it resembles the pike in general appearance, but is smaller, seldom if ever growing to a greater length than two feet, and a weight exceeding eight pounds, and the average is probably three pounds. It is more slender than the pike, and the markings on the sides form a network, hence the name chain-pickerel. The ground color is brown or green, lighter in under and, as on all of the pickerels there is a dark spot below the eye. Like the pike it is voracious and feeds on fish, frogs, etc. The same methods of fishing and the same tackle may be employed as for pike.
The Western pickerel is a small fish never more than a foot long and usually less. It is found throughout the Middle West in quiet grassy waters. In all but size it resembles the Eastern pickerel. It may be caught with any light tackle, such as is used for black bass.
The banded pickerel is a small fish resembling the one described last, but is found in eastern waters. It is at home in all of the sea-going streams east of the Alleghanies, from the New England states southward.
The muskellunge, a fish known by perhaps a score of other names, all quite similar, is the largest and most important fish of the pike family. He is known to fishermen in general as the musky. The muskellunge is a voracious, vicious fish, feeding on all fish smaller than himself, even his own kind.
The appearance of this fish does not belie his reputed nature; he is as vicious looking as. he is vicious. The head is about a fourth of the length of the body, the jaws long and the lower jaw longer and projecting beyond the upper. They are both armed with long, double-edged, dagger-like teeth and when you catch one be sure that you don't get your hand in his mouth; he wouldn't lose an opportunity to close down on it.
Regarding the size of this fish it is said that some have been captured that weighed as much as 100 pounds, but those over forty pounds are very rare and the usual catch weighs from fifteen to thirty pounds. Nevertheless, the musky angler is always on the lookout for the fifty pound fish.
This fish is found throughout the Great Lake region, tipper- Wisconsin and the adjoining parts of Canada and the St. Lawrence. It is said that they range southward into Tennessee, but if so they are known locally as the pike. It is in the lakes of northern Wisconsin that they appear to be most numerous.
As before said, there is apt to be confusion regarding the identity of pike, pickerel and muskellunge. But when the fish are placed side by side it will be noted that a difference exists. There is a difference in the shape of the body, the musky being deeper in the belly, and there is a difference in the spots, the muskellunge having small black spots on a lighter ground while the pike has larger light spots on the dark ground, but there is such a difference in the markings and they are sometimes so indistinct that it is best to look for a more definite distinction. By comparing a pickerel, pike, and muskellunge it will be found that the pickerel has both cheeks and gill covers completely scaled ; the pike has ;cales on the cheek and the upper half only of the gill covers ; and the muskellunge has only the upper half of both cheeks and gill covers scaled. This is the surest means of identification.
Ordinarily the fish will be found in water from five to twelve feet deep, near the weeds, water lilies and grass that grow in the water. He is solitary in his habits and haunts the same place daily as a rule. He feeds both in morning and evening but the best time to fish is in the evening, from the middle of the afternoon until dark.
The kind of tackle to use for muskellunge depends on the way you want to fish for them. There are several ways of fishing, such as trolling with both hand line and rod, and casting, with live or artificial bait. Trolling is the method most often used, though there is more sport in bait-casting.
For trolling with a hand line, strong tackle must be employed. A line tested to the pull of forty pounds should be used. An excellent line for this purpose is the No. 21 Cuttyhunk, or No. 24 of the same brand, one hundred or more yards long. It should have a steel wire leader with a swivel or two on the end and a spoon bait of most any kind, large and strong. This is simply trailed behind the boat and when a musky strikes he is simply hauled in by main strength. It is productive of fish all right, but lacking in sport when compared with the use of a rod.
For trolling with a rod, a short heavy bait-catsing rod should be used. A steel bait-casting rod with trolling tip to use in place of the ordinary tip is all right, and the Bristol people 'make an excellent muskellunge rod, 6 feet, 6 inches long, weighing thirteen ounces. The latter is preferable if you want to try casting, and it is best if fitted with agate lined first guide and tip. The advantage of a steel rod for trolling is that the continued strain does not warp the tip. A large casting reel, the kind used for surf casting, is best. It should hold several hundred yards of line. It should be fitted with a leather brake or handle drag. The line mentioned above will do for trolling but is no good for casting and if you want to do any of this kind of fishing get a raw braided silk line, tested to a pull of thirty or forty pounds E. J. Martin's Sons make a fine line especially for muskys, tested to stand a strain of forty pounds. The longer your line the better as you can give that much more to the fish if need be and the more nearly full the spool of the reel provided it is not crowded, the better you can reel in a slack line. The same wire swivel and spoon are used as for hand-line fishing.
Trolling should be done over water from eight to twelve feet deep, and you should not go too fast. The rod should not be stuck out over the side of the boat, as the strain is too severe; it should stand straight out behind. You must have a boatman to row and help you land your fish if you want to be sure of him. A good sized sharp gaff hook is a necessity and a revolver or small rifle to shoot the fish before gaffing is a good thing to have.
For bait-casting the same rod and reel are correct, also the same bait if you like, but a live bait, fish or frog, is commonly used. The soft silk line is the only kind for this fishing. A leader of four ply twisted gut with a hook having a wire snell and barrel swivel is best. An excellent hook is the Van Vleck, size No. 4, with short chain and wire swivel. The Van Vleck hook has a double barb on the outside of the point. The bait should be a good sized frog or fair sized minnow. It should be well hooked on through the body as it is useless to try to hook it in such a way that it will live any length of time.
While there are many artificial baits that are very good, it is generally agreed that a natural bait is better and if it is used with a spinner or some arrangement is made to spin the bait, it is all the more attractive. The Archer spinner is excellent.
Much lighter tackle is used and advised by some anglers but it should be employed only by an expert. A thirty pound muskellunge puts up a tremendous fight and in bad water it may require an hour or more to bring him to gaff. You can tire him much more quickly with a heavy rod and reel than with the light kind and with light tackle there is always more danger of losing a big fish no matter how expert you are with rod and reel.
If you are using a trolling spoon or any kind of artificial bait strike instantly, as soon as the fish takes the bait, for he will drop it at once when he finds it is not good to eat. With a natural bait on a hook give him time to swallow the bait before you strike. Give a quick, solid jerk to set the hook ; then there will be something doing.
Musky fishing is sure some sport, but it lacks the delicacy and refinement of trout fishing. But for a thrilling and savage fight no fresh water fish can equal the muskellunge. The muskellunge is good food fish, and like all of the pike family, it spawns in early spring.
The wall-eyed pike or pike perch is also known by many other names, and I fancy many of my readers would not recognize the fish were it not for the illustration and the description. It belongs to the perch family and by comparing the picture of this fish with that of the yellow perch it will be noticed that the wall-eye is simply a long, slender perch, in appearance, with less of a hump on the back and the "finger marks" not so pronounced as on the yellow perch.
The pike perch sometimes grows to a weight of ten pounds or more, but its usual weight is two or three pounds. It is a slender fish, having two dorsal fins, the forward one having olive, brown and yellow markings, and the tail has similar markings, with two sharp spines. The body color of the fish is olive or brown with yellow markings, the under parts salmon pink or yellowish. The eye is large and has a peculiar opaque appearance.
It is found throughout the Great Lakes region and Canada, down into the east-central states, in parts of Pennsylvania, Virginia and the Carolinas, and perhaps elsewhere. It is a good game and food fish. It inhabits only deep water, and in lakes will sometimes be found at a depth of twenty or thirty feet. It prefers cool water with a gravelly or rock bottom. In streams it will be found at the foot of rapids and below log jams and such places.
The tackle for this fish is the same as for bait fishing for black bass. The best bait is a minnow, but crawfish are also used. It is said that they take an artificial fly wery well, on cloudy days and in the evening, as they are mostly nocturnal in feeding habits. The fishing is in fact so much like that employed in the capture of black bass that the same instructions will do for both fish, except that for the wall-eye you should fish deeper, and in deeper water. The fly may be al-lowed to sink several feet after each cast.
Science of Fishing:
Use Of Natural Baits For Fishing
Handling The Hooked Fish
Fishing For Black Bass
Fishing For Trout And Salmon
Pike,picherel, Muskellunge, And Pike-perch
Sunfish, Carp, Catfish And Suckers
Fishing For Tarpon And Tuna
Fishing For Other Sea Fish
Making, Repairing, And Caring For Tackle
General Information And Advice On Fishing
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