|COARSE FISHING WITH THE ESSEX ANGLER|
What do pike feed on ?|
A pike is above all a predatory fish; it was even considered a monster about fifteen years ago. Like all wild animals it is opportunist and its diet varies during its life and according to the seasons.
After hatching the fry of the pike resemble very delicate larvae which live attached to a support. It is 8 to 9 mm long and turns out to be an easy prey for fish and other aquatic animals. During the 6 to 9 days it lives in this way it is particularly vulnerable to the conditions of the environment (level of the water, current, temperature, composition of the water), and other animals. Afterwards it leaves its support and positions itself horizontally and begins to swim. The fry start to feed. The little monsters are hungry! A few rotifers, some shellfish larvae no more than a few tenths of a millimetre long are devoured and growth starts. It will be rapid: approximately 1 centimetre each week during 6 to 8 weeks! These minute creatures of plankton (daphnies, cyclops) end up in its stomach which seems to be bigger than its head. From the third week the daphnies are replaced by bigger larvae including the red larvae of the chironomes, well known to ground bait fishermen. From the sixth week a few fry of other early species (perch for example) are also snapped up. The young pike, even if it does not disregard a worm or larva from time to time, has become a true predator.
Pike of all sizes take the prey which is the easiest to catch! This is true for all wild animals so there is no reason for it to be any different for fish! At the end of the winter prey is scarce: only the bleak are grouped into shoals. The pike positions itself near the groups and waits for its meagre meal. With the onset of spring it is the awakening of nature, first of all the batracians; they enter the water to lay their eggs. Here is a rather careless prey and easy to swallow! As for the numerous tadpoles the pike only has to open its large mouth to catch them. At the same time the roach come out of their torpor and are added to the menu. The rain in spring bring a few wriggling worms. In June it is euphoria: frogs are in the water, tadpoles still numerous, the roach are laying eggs but the fry of the bream and the bleak are there. Crayfish are also present and begin their transformation. Pike feed on them all year round. In autumn pike add to their menu a few earthworms which have fallen into the river with the rain. It is not until the heart of the winter when all the inhabitants, pike included, seem to be numb that they wind down their hunting trips but the prey is bigger.
The proportion of fish in the diet seems high. Pike feed on fish for 40 to 60 percent of their annual diet, and crayfish, batracians (frogs and toads), and worms at certain periods. They only eat young birds and rats now and again.
It is sometimes said that a pike eats the equivalent of its weight every day. This is true during the first weeks of its life but after that it is not the case. How could a pike weighing one kilo digest one kilo of fish in 24 hours? It only has one stomach! In reality it consumes 4 to 5 kgs of prey in order to gain one kilo in weight.