Many anglers have heard of a striped northern pike, but few have seen one in the flesh. Overall, striped northern pike are relatively rare. Only about one in a 100 northern pike will exhibit this strange striped pattern, while the vast majority of the species are spotted and about 10 percent are silver. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently discovered a 10-pound female while collecting broodstock for the Spirit Lake fish hatchery. According to officials, Spirit Lake reflects the national average and approximately one percent of the northern pike there are striped.
“There are about 20,000 northern pike in Big Spirit Lake, with about 1 percent—or approximately 200 fish—being striped. The fish we captured was female, but unless it’s spring, it’s difficult to determine gender,” the DNR wrote on Facebook.
The DNR also clarified that it is definitely not a chain pickerel, although it looks similar. Notably, chain pickerel is much smaller. The stripped northern pike was released shortly after being collected.
If you live in Iowa, do not be surprised if you see more striped pike in the future. A small but growing amount of striped northerns are stocked throughout the state from Spirit Lake hatchery, which primarily produces muskie, walleye, and pike.
“Other states surrounding Iowa have documented this same pattern of northern pike. We have reproduced this color variation in our hatchery offspring for numerous years by crossing silver and spotted northern pike (the other two color variations in our system),” the DNR said.
Iowa waters are close to being a perfect breeding ground for northern pike, which prefer the slow moving lakes and rivers of the state’s northern two-thirds. Stocking is generally reserved for waters that have been newly impounded or hit by winterkill, and the state has a reputation of raising large specimens. Fish nearing 20 pounds are not unheard of, and the current state record weighs an eye-opening 25 pounds, 5 ounces.
Image courtesy Indiana Department of Natural Resources