KILDARE WILDLIFE WATCH: A weapon of the water — the pike!

Bog of Allen Nature Centre

Nuala Madigan

Reporter:

Nuala Madigan

Email:

editor@leinsterleader.ie

KILDARE WILDLIFE WATCH: A weapon of the water — the pike!

I visited Athleague in Co Roscommon two weeks ago as their community took part in a BioBlitz Challenge.

A BioBlitz brings together a community, and over an intense time period of 24 hours they carry out biological surveys in an attempt to record all the living species within a designated area.

I supported this group’s BioBlitz by recording the variety of invertebrates within the River Suck. During this time I came across a young fish and with the unusual shape of the head identified it as a pike (liús as Gaeilge).

It is said this fish gets its name due to the shape of the head. It resembles a pike, which was once a pole weapon used throughout Europe in infantry from the Middle Ages until the 18th century.

Pike are widespread in Irish water courses, however it has long been debated whether pike are a native or introduced species. It was thought that pike was an introduced species, introduced to Irish waters when the use of live bait was allowed before Ireland banned its use in 1977.

However, a genetic study from UCD later suggested that the species arrived in Ireland some 8,000 years ago through the glacial freshwater flows.

The adult pike can grow to up to one metre in length. Fully grown, they can weigh up to 35kgs and they feed using their sharp teeth on a variety of species including frogs, ducklings, other fish species.

The body is slender, with large eyes and a flattened snout. Young pike are known as ‘jacks’ and these will feed on the variety of freshwater invertebrates. It is believed that the females can lay up to 500,000 eggs per year and always return to the same area to breed.

There is no statutory closed season for pike fishing in Ireland and as a result it is now one of the most popular sport fish species in Europe.

If you would like help identifying a wildlife species, let me know at the contact details below!

If you would like to suggest a species to focus on for ‘Wildlife Watch’ contact the Bog of Allen Nature Centre on 045 860133 or email bogs@ipcc.ie