Pike (Esox lucius)
Pike belong to the family Escidae, of which there is only one species present in Europe. Pike are predatory fish and can grow to a large size, big specimens can be well over 1m in length. Studies have shown that fish form the majority of pike diet, the species depending on what is available in the water they inhabit. The also take small mammals such as voles, amphibians and even ducklings. In some waters pike have been known to eliminate other fish species with the result that the population exists by preying on each other or invertebrates. However in most cases pike will exist alongside other fish species.
They are generally found in slower flowing reaches of rivers or lochs where they catch prey by ambush. The upper reaches of the River Spey and many of the lochs provide ideal habitat for pike. In the past pike netting was carried out by the fishery board in an attempt to reduce predation on salmon smolts. Nowadays a more holistic approach is taken and whilst it is certain that pike will prey on smolts the removal of large pike is only likely to lead to an increase in the number of smaller pike, each of which would be capable of consuming salmon smolts. The Fishery Board’s focus now is very much on restoring the habitat in the upper river, including restoration of a more natural flow regime, which will help the salmon smolts migrate through the extensive areas of pike habitat.
Their large size makes them popular with anglers and many of the Spey lochs are important pike fishing locations.