Pike in Russia

I was sent this interesting extract by friend Alex Marinushkin in Russia.  It is an extract from a book from by Russian author L.P. Sabaneev dated 1875 and talks about the Pike in Russia.  Some of the words have got lost in translation but I thought it might be interesting to post it up here for people to have a read.


The description of a pike from L.P.Sabaneev’s book “Fishes of Russia. Life and catching of our fresh-water fishes” (1875).

On the rapacity, universal distribution and size which concedes only far not to so numerous som, the pike, undoubtedly, makes one of the most remarkable and most known fresh-water breeds of fishes. Rapacity, gluttony and her quickness were included into a proverb; it isn’t found only in small still waters and that with numerous exceptions; in many districts, at last, it reaches 32, even 48 and more kilograms of weight and 2-meter length.


Already on one exterior of a pike it is possible to judge her quickness and rapacity. Almost cylindrical trunk terminates huge long to the flat head which is looking like a shuttle, with an outstanding bottom jaw; its wide mouth is covered from above and from below with the continuous sharp crossed teeth. The long and flat head reminding crocodile, and back fin far removed back distinguish it from all other fresh-water fishes. Eyes at a pike rather the very mobile: she almost as well sees over herself, as well as sideways. Scales of a pike small, smooth; back at it dark, trunk sides gray or glaucous with more or less considerable yellowish spots and strips; the whitish belly is ordinary covered with grayish specks; unpaired fins brownish with black specks or twisting borders, steam rooms — orange color.


Color of this fish, however, very various; in general the pike happens that more dark, than she is more senior; the same is noticed and in deaf and silty lakes where all fish is much more black, than in lakes and the rivers with a sandy bottom. Besides, it is noticed also that in northern Russia pikes happen always is much lighter and are more motley, than in the southern. Shchuryata within the first year of life always happen more or less dark green color; on the 2nd year the primary green color turns gray and on it pale spots which on the third year become yellow are already sharply allocated. In provinces situated near Moscow distinguish on color and a residence two versions — the large ground, black pike living in holes deeply, and a small pike-travyanku, greenish, living on small places. To these versions correspond so-called April and March to southwest part of our country from which the first are larger and more dark than the last and spawn later, in April. Marchuka is reached seldom by 2,5-3 kg of weight. In my opinion, any pike can become ground or grassy, but is undoubted that the majority of these fishes, having reached known age, settles in deep places.

The pike reaches the huge size and extreme old age, the 16-kilogram pike can be found everywhere. At us the largest pikes are found in the northern rivers and lakes probably because of their smaller availability compared with South Russians. In Kama and in deep бочагах many Ural small rivers the 48-kilogram occasionally comes across; also in some oozy lakes of Cisural edge; in the lake Uveldakh e.g., the pike in 56 kg was caught about 25 years ago. 64-kilogram pikes, under the certificate of prof. Kessler, meet in Lake Onega whereas in Ladoga these predators seldom happen more than 16 kg is powerful.


The hugest pikes are found, apparently, in Vychegda and other northern rivers. Under Arsenyev’s certificate, the monk of the Ulyanovsk monastery caught here on a path, i.e. on a running spinner, a pike in 80 kg. The same writer tells the following interesting case. In Nyuvchimsky plant (in 30 kilometers from Ust-Sysolsk) in a pond of the small river of Nyuvchim workers in July, 1885 heard unusual fuss at locks; the mass of workers saw the head of an enormous pike who seized across another, more than 1,5 m, therefore, about 16 kg is powerful; fuss proceeded about ten minutes, at last the caught ceased to fight, and the winner fell with it by a bottom.


Siberia very large pikes, apparently, meet less than in northern Russia, and only in lakes. Argentov speaks about 2-meter pikes (can be, it is other look) in lakes of water system of the Kolyma River, but other instructions on big pikes aren’t available. It is very possible that the reason of a rarity of big pikes in the Siberian and South Russian rivers — a joint residence with stronger predator. Large таймень in Siberia, and in the south of Russia big som can easily cope and with a 16-kilogram pike.


In Western Europe huge pikes met and in the XIX century, and in the past and in the Middle Ages they even were frequent. In 1862, according to Genzik, reflected in Born, in Bregenz the pike in 58 kg was caught. The largest pike from ever caught — is the historical pike of emperor Friedrich II Barbarossa let by it as appeared on a ring, in 1230 to one lake near Heylbronn and pulled out by a seine in 1497, i.e. in 267 years. From an old age fish absolutely turned white. Its size was 5,7 m, and it weighed 140 kg. The portrait of this pike remains still in Lautern’s lock, and a skeleton and a ring — to Mangeyme.Mneniya, any pike can become ground or grassy, but is undoubted that the majority of these fishes, having reached known age, settles in deep places.

It is undoubted that pikes can live not one hundred years. Near Moscow when cleaning Tsaritsynsky ponds (at the end of the last century) the 2-meter pike with the Golden Ring in a branchiate cover and with an inscription was caught: “tsar Boris Fedorovich put”. Most likely, it weighed about 64 kg. Blansher says that in 1610 the huge pike with a copper ring on which 1448 was designated was caught in Maas.


Judging by these data, the pike grows very quickly though, certainly, in kormny places it is much rather, than in the low-fish. Males besides always happen considerably less or rather it is easier (more than on a third), than females of one years, and differ from them more extended body and a bigger progonistost. However, relative thickness depends not only on an ox, but also on abundance of a forage and on age. In very kormny lakes large ikryanik are similar to short stumps and weighing one and a half times, even it is twice more, than the females of the identical length living in waters, poor fish. The pike grows in more temperate climate quicker, than in the north where she is doomed to more long winter post. At us, in Russia, the gain of this fish never happens is so considerable, as in Western Europe. At last, it is necessary to notice that to grind large pikes grows rather, than to grind small, and that the gain year for a year isn’t necessary and depends on a crop thresh also quantities of small fish, in general forages. This remark concerns and to all other fishes. Thus, exact definition of age of a pike and her annual gain very difficult and probably only approximately for any separately taken reservoir. I found in the Moskvoretsk creeks in July last year’s щурят, about 200 g weighing only whereas those in the Senezhsky lake had already more than 400 g. In the trans-Ural lakes of a pike grow even quicker. In general the one-year-old shchuchka has at us from 22 to 31 cm of length, two-year-old — 30-40 cm and hardly reach 1,2 kg of weight. Approximately it is possible to accept that at us in fish waters to a pike (female) it is so much years, how many pounds weighs. It is undoubted that the pike grows quicker than all our purely river fishes (i.e. not including a semi-sea beluga and a sturgeon), except for som. Having reached the size of 70 cm, i.e. 2-2,5 kg, at us on 4-5 year of life it increases in length slowly and grows more in thickness. On my supervision, the adult pike grows annually about 2 cm. 16-kilogram copies have in length always about 1,5 m and have to have not less than 20 years, and is more often 30 and more.

The pike has very extensive distribution. It meets in all Europe, except for the Iberian Peninsula, in Siberia and in Turkestan. It, apparently, isn’t present in the rivers of the Taurian peninsula and in the Caucasus. In Eastern Siberia, most likely, another meets already, though a close look — Esox reicherti. Though the pike everywhere belongs to number of the most ordinary fishes, but she, probably, avoids the cold, swift-flowing and stony rivers and prefers a quiet current. The rivers and flowing lakes with kamyshisty (the stone a bottom) and grassy coast and gulfs make its favourite residence that explains why it is so rare in some mountain rivers of Northern Urals, also in Smotrich, Dnestr and Bug where mostly comes only casually from channels. But, except the rivers and flowing lakes, the pike is found much and in many still waters, in ponds not freezing by winter, even the bogs which are giving rise to the rivers, at last, in deep holes from brick-works and slabby withdrawal pains. In the north it is quite often possible to meet it in the lakes which have been almost absolutely tightened by the bog in which there were only few so-called “windows”. In the spring the pike meets even in superficial holes and in pools of water meadows where comes into spawning time. In general it almost as is unpretentious in a habitat, as well as the crucian, and like it lives in saltish lakes, for example in such Barabinsk lakes where it is the share of 400 g of water in the summer to 2 g of salt. Lakes with sulfur water also abound both pikes, and perches. But in small waters freezing through to the bottom, the pike can’t winter, and in severe winters perishes in a set even in deep lakes if in them there are no keys or didn’t become ice-holes. The cause of death — “sdykhaniye”, or “zamor” (death of fish), is caused by development of harmful gases from the decaying remains of plants, and sometimes from the big maintenance of oxides of iron. Everywhere as in the rivers, and lakes the pike chooses as the residence of a place not so deep, grassy and ordinary keeps about coast. Only the very big live at a depth, in holes and under крутоярами where large fish on whom they feed keeps also. The small and average pike lives constantly in canes, in a grass and, for the lack of this or that, in the north buries in a moss or hides behind snags, under the bushes, the hung coast, big stones, etc. shelters.


The pike possesses big quickness of movements that, of course, is caused by the extended shape of her body. Rare fish manages to avoid a toothy mouth of the predator which has pursued it especially as the last pursues it not only in water, but even in air. Jumps of a pike are amazing: in this regard it concedes unless only to an ide, жереху and to salmons. Without looking, however, at the speed, the pike after all mostly suffices the production from an ambush or, like som, resorts to cunning: so, for example, Aksakov tells that a pike becomes frequent aground the head downstream and a tail stirs up silt so dregs absolutely close it from passing by small fishes. Justice of this supervision I can certify as I many times had to notice similar maneuvers. Tcherkasov, based on the supervision over the caught pikes, believes that the whitebait therefore is so often noticed pikes near not movably standing in a grass that the last allocate mucous threads which attract a trifle which is falling prey of the predator. But free fishes allocate much less slime, than caught, and this slime doesn’t harden and doesn’t receive a form of threads or a veil.

In general the pike roams very little and, strictly speaking, there is quite settled fish; only in the spring before spawning she a little подымается up down the river or on the floodplain, and by winter goes to near whirlpools where has a rest and sometimes doesn’t eat at all. At this time pikes meet quite numerous packs though, however, it is necessary to notice, as then they lie more “separately”, in a decent distance from each other, far it isn’t so difficult, as all karpovy fishes. Besides in such holes gather for winter of a pike of identical age identical or nearly that probably occurs from that, as in the winter the large pike wishes to profit smaller; from fishermen it didn’t happen to whom to find in a stomach or to hear from others that in a stomach of large pikes found also her considerable colleagues: 8-kilogram, for example, easily can заглотать (swallow) 1,5-2-kilogram, and Terletsky tells about the 2,5-kilogram pike who has seized 1,5-kilogram, and their long fuss. Possibly, the greedy predator couldn’t unclench a mouth, увязив (to stick, get stuck teeth) in excessive production the hooked teeth.


Gluttony of these predators and a variety of their food are really surprising, and it is necessary to consider as great happiness that the pike ruthlessly exterminates own to grind that the enormous number of caviar and выклюнувшихся щурят (the been born small pikes) vanishes and is eaten by a bird in those drying-up pools where the caviar was выметана (the caviar got)in a high water. Otherwise at the fertility this fish in the shortest time inevitably would exterminate all other fishes, with it living. It is possible to judge gluttony of pikes already from this that, under the certificate of one English author, 8 pikes, about 2,2 kg everyone, in eight weeks were eaten by 800 gudgeons. During spawning of other fishes, in particular small fry and a verkhoplavka (bleak) (in ponds), the stomach of pikes is chock filled by small fish.

Except fish, the pike doesn’t give mercy of any live creature, and greed it doesn’t know limits: during so-called “zhor” when it all golodny, the pike rushes on large birds, e.g. geese with whom, of course, can’t cope, and on fishes of identical growth with it. Vavilov tells, just it grasped by a foot of a goose and didn’t unclench a mouth and when the last pulled out it on the coast; in Saratov fishermen said to Grimm that there once found a 3-kilogram pike who choked from sticking out at it in a mouth of a 3-kilogram chub. It is however very improbable as the chub is rather much stronger than a pike. Large pikes freely swallow ducklings, even adult ducks why as places and are called as utyatnitsa. I personally many times observed in the Pavdinsky pond (the Verkhotursky district), abounding with these predators as they caught small and large sandpipers, very numerous here on flight, at the end of summer. At first I positively didn’t know that to attribute plaintive peep and then sudden disappearance of birds, but then was convinced that it is tricks of pikes; the sandpiper should have departed only sometimes far away from the coast, up to a breast in water as the predator grabbed it feet, and the unfortunate weevil didn’t manage to squeak and spread wide plaintively wings as the pike dragged off it deep into. Floating sandpipers, especially phalaropes, were swallowed entirely, almost without any alarm.


In the same way pikes devour water rats, shrews, in Siberia mice and protein on crossings during their resettlements. Frogs and tadpoles make delicious food (pond) pikes, and where the last are found, there green (water) frogs make a rarity. The grabbed toad the pike immediately throws out. Small eat sometimes worms, linyuchy crayfish; the drop and the fallen asleep fish of a pike is eaten very seldom, unless by the very hungry. But also live fish not to the same extent enjoys a favor of our fresh-water shark, from time to time, and also at a rich forage very legible in food. So, e.g., the pike doesn’t love tenches, burbots, and in places doesn’t take on crucians, perches and ruffs. In general the pike suffices the production as it is necessary, but swallows by all means from the head; and if the caught fish is too great, squeezes her in teeth until the swallowed part will be digested. Large pikes swallow fishes entirely, almost without damages and where there is a lot of them, there quite often these “vyporotka” go on sale. Digestion at pikes very weak, and in two days it is possible to find in a stomach of undigested fishes still. This fact explains frequency of a zhor of a pike a little. She eats until will be jammed by fish, literally up to a throat, then digests the swallowed food during many days, even for weeks. The enormous quantity of the swallowed and not digested fish gave very wrong concept about quantity of the fish exterminated by pikes and their gluttony.

ruffs, perches, pikes catch carefully and in any case squeeze in teeth until the victim won’t cease to fight. Quite often, however, there are also misses, and probably everyone had to catch fishes with wide wounds on sides and at a tail — it is traces of teeth of a pike. Especially often it pulls out the whole pieces of meat, and in general large production manages to escape from a predator mouth when it has a change of teeth: the old fall off and replaced new, still with the soft. This curious phenomenon occurs ordinary in May; at this time pikes, catching rather large fish, quite often only spoil her, but can’t hold on weakness of teeth why also the nozzle on zherlitsa often happens then only it is crumpled and it isn’t bitten through even not till it bleeds that is well known to each fisherman.


Above we already mentioned that in the winter the pike eats nothing and at the same time, contrary to the usage, doesn’t live in isolation the such. But also in other seasons she eats periodically, and is mostly cool her, or “zhor” (strong hunger), happens 3-4 times a year: before spawning, on ice, then in April or May — July and especially in the fall — in September — October. These periods change, depending on the district and climate, and its zhor is almost imperceptible as at this time it has no lack of food and badly goes on rods and zherlitsa (fishing tool): everywhere million young small fish teem then. According to many fishermen, each zhor of a pike proceeds weeks 2-3 and is learned to that then small fish ceases to peck. It isn’t absolutely right, but it is easy to learn the beginning of a zhor of a pike to that she starts “beating”, i.e. to catch, fish on a surface and quite often plotitsa and other “бель” (white fish), taken on a rod suffice. Komi (Zyrians) in the north have sign or more likely a belief that the pike takes only in those numbers in which she threw caviar i.e. if rubbed in the middle of April, in the fifteenth days of every month, up to frosts. It is undoubted that the periods of a zhor have no correctness and are caused mainly by a condition of weather. At high standing of a barometer, i.e. at the established good flying weather, the pike “costs”, i.e. doesn’t move, on the whole hours, even in the afternoon, being in any dozing condition. This “rack” stops as soon as the barometer starts falling, and the good weather more long proceeded and more long there was a pike, the stronger there is her zhor, the more strongly it suffices fish.

The got hungry pike loses any care and as mad, the brilliant rushes on all live, even only. When fishing perches on lakes quite often there are cases that on a whitebait the perch whom the pike suffices will take. In very fish lakes of a pike during a zhor approach to coast the masses though go separately. In the shlyuzovanny (the river with locks) rivers, e.g. in the Moskva River, Meta and others, in general abounding in water, the zhor of a pike, as well as other predators, is in dependence from an amount of water, i.e. from quantity of the dropped-out rains. The current carries away under a dam thresh also small fish much, and this abundance of food forces all pikes to rise up, sometimes for some tens kilometers. Let’s notice, by the way, that during a lock of locks the pike almost is never dumped down, like a pike perch, a sheresper (Жерех) (Asp) (Aspius aspius aspius L.)  and a chub, and remains in тиховодье (still water) which prefers to a rapid. Under locks and mill dams of a pike too choose holes with a vodovorotny (rotary stream) current and the stream avoid.

The first zhor of a pike begins in February or at the beginning of March when she exhausted by a long post, exhausted and emaciated, approaches to suburbs, to mouths of the falling rivers and small rivers and greedy suffices any fish who only can be located in her glutton. This February or March fishing of a pike to many fishers isn’t so known and happens everything more successful on lakes. Packs of pikes leave holes, dissipate and start floating near закраин (suburb). After this the food period the pike doesn’t leave any more on depth and doesn’t hide in secluded places as ordinary, and rise up down the river, goes to small rivers and streams, comes in hollow and in a week — two, in general with flood of the rivers or rather small rivers, begins the spawning. In beds of the big and average rivers the pike never throws calves: it always leaves from here or in streams and small rivers (at first), or (already later) in hollow, mainly in jellied lakes. In Central Russia its spawning takes place in March, is rare at the beginning or the middle of April as it ordinary happens in the north. In lakes the pike in general plays later, than in the rivers that is caused by their late opening. In some mountain trans-Ural lakes, e.g. in Itkul, spawning of this fish happens sometimes at the end of May. On the contrary, in the rivers of the southern Russia, in the bottom Volga, in lower reaches of Don and Dnepr the pike starts throwing caviar in February. However, the entire period of spawning is quite considerable and about a month proceeds: at first throw small three-year-old, after all — the largest. These small 3-4-year-old pikes places are called “a pike – a blue feather” as their fins become brighter; in Kiev — verbnyanka or martsovka (End of March, religious holiday). Large in Kiev lips. are called as berezovka (in White Church), also апрельчуками (Days of a national calendar). In general large pikes throw caviar at the same time with frogs.