Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Are big northern pike dangerous to people?

Big Red Lake northern pike
In a word, no, but that doesn't stop people's imaginations from thinking that they are.

Northern pike never purposely try to bite you. When you net or pick up one of these magnificent fish all they want to do is get away.

The only way they know how to do this is to swim, of course, and sometimes anglers will drop a fish on the floor of the boat and the fish starts "swimming" toward them. Thus the myth that the fish was trying to "get them." It was just trying to get back in the water, that's all.

On the other hand, northern pike have a mouthful of wicked teeth and even their gills are razor sharp. So they must be handled carefully when removing fish hooks.

In just about every instance it just takes long-handled hook-removing tools. The best of these is the Baker Hookout (see Best Fish Unhooking Tools).

Grasp the fish over the top of the back near its head, being careful not to squeeze too tightly on its gill plates. Then use the Hookout or long needlenose pliers to reach in the mouth and remove the hooks.

If the fish won't open its mouth then use a set of pliers or a jaw spreader to hold it open. Your fishing partner can also help by holding the fish across the back with one hand while slipping his other hand along the jawbone from beneath and pulling the mouth open.

Never put your fingers into a pike's mouth because there is no telling when it might snap shut.

The real danger in catching pike isn't from the pike but from the lures used to catch them.

Long stick baits with three sets of treble hooks are very treacherous. All it takes is for the fish to flop while you are holding it and one of the trebles gets in your hand.

We've removed a lot of fish hooks from people over the years and 99 per cent of them were from stick baits!

Lures that have only one set of treble hooks, like spoons and spinners and even some crankbaits are very safe.
I don't believe I've ever seen someone get hooked from a lure with a single hook such as a jig, spinner bait or Johnson's Silver Minnow.

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