If you have been reading up on pike fishing and exploring the many pike fishing forums online, you will have probably heard the term jack pike being used a lot.
You could be forgiven for thinking that this is a species all of its own, but the reality is a lot more simple. The term jack pike merely refers to smaller members of the species and is something you will hear a lot when talking to fellow anglers.
In this article, we will be looking at the jack pike in a little more depth and discovering what makes them so special.
So What Actually is a Jack Pike?
If you have ever caught a jack pike, you will know that these fish are typically much smaller than a ‘regular’ pike. This is because the term jack pike refers to a pike that is up to around 12lbs, although this weight is largely varied depending on the angler.
There are some anglers that would suggest that pikes remain a jack until they reach double figures. If this is the case, then much of what you will catch will be jack pike. On average, most people succeed in catching pike up to the 10lb mark.
For the most part, jack pike are males. This is because the males tend not to grow anywhere near as large as the females. If you manage to hook an enormous pike, the chances are that it is a girl.
The female pike can grow anywhere up to between 40 and 50lbs, however, it is far more common to see them around the 35lb mark. The current pike record in the UK stands at 46lb 13oz and this has been held for almost 30 years. If you nab anything bigger than this, you’ve just given yourself the title of the new British record holder!
However, it is widely accepted that even a female can be considered a jack, up until she reaches a certain size. Pike can live for quite a long time, the record is 25 years but generally speaking, they live to be around 15. Females would be considered fully grown at around the age of 5. They also tend to live longer and grow much more quickly than males.
Telling the Difference between Male and Female Pike
Judging by what we have learned so far, a male pike will typically be far smaller than his female counterpart. One of the most common musings of an angler, as he sits patiently waiting for a bite, is whether he will be lucky enough to reel in a whopping female. Shortly after this, he may find himself mulling over why the females are so much bigger?
In truth, nobody really knows the answer to this question.
Some studies have shown that after spawning, some pike may become cannibalistic if the food supply is low, and off the back of this, there is a question as to whether only the females behave in this way. But there is no evidence to back this up and it is merely speculation.
Others would argue that females tend to grow bigger so that they can produce more eggs. It isn’t uncommon to see this trait in egg-laying animals. Think about spiders, the females are typically always larger than the males. However, when you look at mammals that don’t lay eggs, females are, for the most part, smaller.
Does the Length of the Pike Matter?
The most common belief as to why female pike grow bigger surrounds the idea that female fish of all species, not only pike, tend to be far less active than the males. Males may get into fights, swim greater distances, and engage in courtship behaviors whereas females spend more time hiding out in deeper water. In male pike, this opening is much narrower compared to the wide opening of the female, which presumably makes laying eggs far easier.
You could spend all day racking your brains, but size aside, there are other ways of distinguishing a male from a female.
The length of the pike is a good way to tell the gender. Females tend to come in around 40 inches whereas, in accordance with their weight, males are much shorter. But if you really want to be sure; just take a look downstairs. Much like humans, the urogenital area of pike differs depending on gender. Fish have what is known as a vent, inside which lie the reproductive organs and the waste openings.
Are Male Pike More Aggressive?
You will also notice that the vent on a female pike will typically be shaped like a V whereas that of the male will be more of a slit shape.
If you are checking the gender of your catch at the beginning of pike season, as the fish are getting ready to spawn, the colour of the vent can also be a giveaway. In females, the vent will turn a pinkish colour at this time. Conversely, the vent of a male pike tends to go purple or blue as he prepares for mating.
By checking the pike this way, studies suggest that you have more than a 90% chance of correctly determining the sex of the pike.
According to some anglers, male pike tends to be much more aggressive when they are hooked so you may find them a little more tricky to reel in. Females, on the other hand, can potentially be much more submissive. This is likely because of their size, being much heavier, they may not need to put up as much of a fight
How to Catch a Jack Pike
If you’re out to catch a jack pike, then you’re in luck. It is not too difficult to nab yourself a nice little jack and while you might not be breaking any records, there is certainly a reward in catching one of these fish. First of all, you need to keep in mind that jack pike can be found in both rivers and lakes. However, those that are in rivers are often a lot smaller and slimmer. This is because they are fighting against the current and need to be more streamlined.
Lake jacks are, therefore, always a little heavier. Pike have incredibly honed senses, they need to have this living in the often murky waters of the Northern lakes and rivers, it helps them seek out prey. But anglers can use this to their advantage since the pike will react to potent bait. For this reason, it is highly recommended that when fishing for jack pike, you use oily fish that has a decent aroma. You can use live or dead bait but the latter tends to work better in the winter.
Pike are less active during the colder months and will be far less likely to chase prey. If it is dead, it’s an easy catch for them; and for you. Lure fishing is an excellent option for pike as it will allow you to cover more water.
You should also consider that while winter is better for pike fishing, you will need to think about where you land your bait. Since the water is colder, the pike’s natural prey will be more likely to shoal closely together and stay in one location; this is where the pike will be.
Once you reel in a jack pike, you must remember to handle it carefully. While these fish may look like the lead in a horror movie with all those sharp teeth, they are actually a rather delicate animal.
A jack pike is a smaller pike, not of a different species but simply of a smaller size. Up until a pike reaches double figures, it is considered to be a jack pike. For the most part, these will be males because females tend to be much larger and while they may be considered a jack while they are young, they don’t remain that way for long.