Growth Rates

The range in weight between fish of the same age and length is caused by such things as availability of food, quality of food (different species of fish have varying protein/ fats/ water & calorie content) and competition for food in given water.

Pike are thought to live to an absolute maximum age of twenty-five years but only grow for between 10 and 15 of those years. However, the maximum age is difficult to ascertain as the only methods of age determination involve counting either growth annuli on the opercular bones or the radial striae on the scales. Both these methods rely on linear growth, but unfortunately as a fish approaches maximum size its linear growth slows down and eventually stops. This means that no more circulii will be laid down on scales or opercular bones, or at best they will be so close together that individual rings can easily be missed. Over the years, the possible maximum weight, which can be achieved by Esox lucius, has caused much speculation.

Fred Butler in his ‘Doomsday Book of Mammoth Pike’ mentions three Irish pike weighing in excess of 90 lbs, but in truth, there is little or no real evidence in support of these fish. However, Barrie Rickards and Martin Gay in their authoritative book ‘Pike’ point out that it is noticeable that most (if not all) of the really huge pike listed come from a period when communications were poor, putting the alleged large size of these fish down to ‚Äúdistortion caused by history, by addition and subtraction, by rumour, and by failure to record the details fully at the time, If a closer look is taken at the Buller list, it shows that the largest fish on it, which can be verified photographically, is a 58 lb 6oz pike from Grarup Lake in Denmark. Further study shows that there has never been a fully authenticated 50 pounder from Britain and only one from Ireland (John Garvin’s 53 pounder from Laugh Conn, Co. Mayo). Similarly there are no officially recognised pike of over 50 pounds from the North American continent. The situation within the old Soviet Union is harder to determine because of the closed nature of that country until recently.

In his writings, Buller mentions a book, ‘Freshwater Fishes of the U.S.S.R. and Adjacent Countries’ by Leo S. Berg (1962). In this, a pike of 77 lb 3 oz was reported by the Russian scientist N. V. Khvostov as having come from Lake Illman near Leningrad in 1930. Once again, however, no corroborating evidence is provided. It is now generally accepted, at present, that the probable maximum weight of Esox lucius is around 60 pounds. In Europe, the majority of really big pike (50 lb+) come from the mainland and this is thought to be because the weather conditions in winter are more stable than, say in Britain. While the mainland weather is generally colder, it is more constant than the U.K.’s maritime (unsettled) climate, which does not allow pike the same scope for sustained winter-feeding.
In Scotland, the largest authenticated pike was a 47 lb II oz fish caught by Tommy Morgan on Loch Lomond in 1945. This fish stood as the official British Record for 20 years before a highly political decision was taken to remove it on an unstated technicality. The important fact, however, was that it weighed in at the figure stated.