The pike (Esox lucius), which after the Salmonidae is the most valued sporting fish in Great Britain, is a fish of prey pure and simple. Though it will occasionally take a large fly, a worm or other ground-bait, its systematic capture is only essayed with small fish or artificial spinning-baits. A live bait is supposed to be the most deadly lure for big pike, probably because it is the method employed by most anglers. But spinning is more artistic and has been found quite successful enough by those who give it a fair and full trial. Trolling, the method of "sink and draw" with a dead bait, referred to previously in this article, is not much practised nowadays, though at one time it was very popular. It was given up because the traditional form of trolling-tackle was such that the bait had to be swallowed by the pike before the hook would take hold, and that necessitated killing all fish caught, whether large or small. The same objection formerly applied to live-baiting with what was known as a gorge-hook. Now, however, what is called snap-tackle is almost invariably used in live-baiting, and the system is by some few anglers extended to the other method too.
Pike are autumn and winter fish and are at their best in December. They grow to a very considerable size, fish of 20 lb being regarded as "specimens" and an occasional thirty-pounder rewarding the zealous and fortunate. The heaviest pike caught with a rod in recent years which is sufficiently authenticated, weighed 37 lb, but heavier specimens are said to have been taken in Irish lakes. River pike up to about 10 lb in weight are excellent eating.
America has several species of pike, of which the muskelunge of the great lake region (Esox masquinongy) is the most important. It is a very fine fish, excelling Esox lucius both in size and looks. From the angler's point of view it may be considered simply as a large pike and may be caught by similar methods. It occasionally reaches the weight of 80 lb or perhaps more. The pickerel (Esox reticulatus) is the only other of the American pikes which gives any sport. It reaches a respectable size, but is as inferior to the pike as the pike is to the muskelunge.
Next to the pikes come the perches, also predatory fishes. The European perch (Perca fluviatilis) has a place by itself in the affections of anglers. When young it is easy to catch by almost any method of fishing, and a large number of Walton's disciples have been initiated into the art with its help. Worms and small live-baits are the principal lures, but at times the fish will take small bright artificial spinning-baits well, and odd attractions such as boiled shrimps, caddis-grubs, small frogs, maggots, wasp-grubs, etc. are sometimes successful. The drop-minnow is one of the best methods of taking perch. Very occasionally, and principally in shallow pools, the fish will take an artificial fly greedily, a small salmon-fly being the best thing to use in such a case. A perch of 2 lb is a good fish, and a specimen of 4&FRAC12; lb about the limit of angling expectation. There have been rare instances of perch over 5 lb, and there are legends of eight-pounders, which, however, need authentication.