Pretty much every angler knows and would recognize a Northern Pike. Esox lucius as it is known to scientists is a species that can be found across the Northern reaches of America, Europe and Asia. As a fierce predator with the potential to grow big (reportedly 150 centimetres and 35 kilograms) the Northern Pike attracts its fair share of interest and plenty of angling devotees.
Few anglers will know as much about the Amur Pike. Esox reichertii is a species in its own right but just what makes it different and where are they found?
The Amur River is one of Asia’s great rivers. It flows for over 4000 kilometres (taking the longest tributary), eventually flowing out into the Pacific Ocean near the Straights of Tartary – the narrow sea between the Siberian mainland and the Island of Sakhalin. For part of its length it forms the border between the Russian Federation and China – an area that remained in dispute right up into the last century.
The Amur River has a number of significant tributaries including the Songhua, Argun, Shilka and Onon Rivers.
The Amur river-system is truly diverse, passing through desert, tundra, taiga and steppe. Many species have a significant Amur variation, including the Amur Tiger (bigger than the Bengal tiger, with a distinct white winter coat), the Amur Cork Tree (used in Traditional Chinese Medicine) and the Amur Pike.
The Amur Pike is very similar to the Northern Pike in its habitat and lifestyle. It too is a predator, preferring to lie in ambush in vegetation and prey upon smaller fish in the water, and frogs, rodents and small birds on the surface.
The Amur Pike does not reach the same size as the Northern Pike but can still reach a size that makes it an attractive target for anglers. The largest on record measured 115 centimetres and 20 kilograms; that’s 45 inches and 44 pounds in old money).
The main distinguishing feature is the skin pattern. Amur Pike are covered in dark spots; hence their other name – Black-spotted Pike.
Amur Pike are only native to the Amur watershed and to Sakhalin Island. Specimens can be found in lakes in the region, especially oxbow lakes that were obviously part of the river system at some point in the not-so-distant past.
Many of the rivers in the Russian federation are heavily fished with nets reducing the chances for rod and line anglers wanting good sport. Some of the best fishing for Amur Pike takes place along the Onon River in Mongolia, which is well protected by poor access.
Amur Pike were introduced to Glendale Lake, Pennsylvania, back in the late sixties. However, the stock was wiped out in the summer of ’76.
Amur Pike make for an exotic alternative to Northern Pike for the serious pike devotee looking for a mission abroad. There is no need for any special gear, nor any restriction upon the methods to be used. Live or dead baits are acceptable; so are lures. Fly fishing for pike is catching on and would be well worth a try, especially as the same rivers also hold Taimen, the largest of the Salmonids. A Catch and Release policy is not compulsory but encouraged.