Northern Pike Teeth (Facts And Pictures)


northern pike teeth

I haven’t caught a big old pike in a while, so the other day, I was thinking about these hunting machines and their mouths of terror. Northern pike teeth are the stuff of nightmares, but they are also extremely fascinating, which is why I wanted to find out more about them.

Northern pike have plenty of smaller needle-like and larger fang-like teeth. In fact, they can have up to 700 of them and all of these teeth are razor-sharp. Pikes do not shed all their teeth during winter and they do not bite humans, but they can certainly hurt and injure a fisherman’s hand.

If you’re also wondering if northern pike can bite through fluorocarbon and braid line, or if they could actually manage to bite off a finger, you should definitely keep reading.

Northern Pike Teeth: An Evolutionary Masterpiece

northern pike teeth
Courtesy of Joe Ward

Evolution has made the Northern pike a perfect hunter and killer. Fishermen often refer to pike as “water wolves”, a nickname which is more than apt when it comes to this fish. This holds especially true when you look at a pike’s teeth; they really do resemble those of crocodiles, at least partly.

Pike have rather large, fang-like teeth, both along the upper and lower jawline. In the frontal area, the teeth are smaller than the ones on the side, but they are more numerous. They are usually also somewhat angled inward.

These teeth, which are somewhat apart from each other (between 0.5-2.5 cm or 0.2-1 inch), are used to grab hold of a prey fish. The pike can literally sink its large teeth into its meal and anchor them there.

On the roof of the pike’s mouth, there are two parallel pads of plenty of tiny, needle-like teeth. These are angled inward as well and perfectly prevent any prey from escaping. If you were a bait fish and you would end up in a pike’s mouth, you would almost certainly never get out again, unless the pike would loosen its jaw grip on you for a moment.

The pike’s jaw additionally helps to secure a prey fish, by applying an enormous amount of pressure. Pike have rather large heads and hence, their jaws become large and powerful as well.

This lethal combination of sharp large and small teeth, powerful jaws, and an ability to open these jaws extremely wide, makes the Northern pike a well-armed and highly evolved predator. Its high level of evolution and efficiency is further supported by its geographical distribution, as pikes can be found all over the Northern hemisphere; in both Russia, Europe and North America. Hence, the name Northern pike.

Did you know that you can catch pike in saltwater in some parts of the world? If you want to find out more, also check out this article I wrote: How to Fish for Saltwater Pike (A Complete Guide)

How Many Teeth Do Pike Have?

northern pike
Courtesy of Tobias Ekvall

If we add all its large and small teeth, a normal-sized pike can have anything between 300 and 600 teeth in its mouth. Most of these would however belong to the pads on the roof of its mouth (the small needle-like ones). These make up around 90% if its teeth. The large, fang-like teeth are actually quite few.

These can however grow to an enormous size. I myself have caught pike with teeth of at least 2 cm (0.8 inches). I actually keep one as a trophy in my wallet, from a pike I caught on the ice many years ago. That tooth was stuck in the bait fish that the pike still had in its mouth when I landed it, pretty cool!

If you want to learn more about how to catch pike with baitfish on the ice, make sure to read this article I wrote a while back: The Absolutely Best Way to Ice Fish for Northern Pike

You definitely have respect for a tooth like that, I can tell you that much. There is a newspaper article that talks of a dead pike skull that was found near the River Cherwell in the U.K. This enormous pike is said to have weighed 50 lbs and had a total of 700 teeth in its mouth. The skull alone measured 12 inches and it actually contained teeth that were over 1 inch in length! That is one big mother of a pike!

Do Northern Pike Really Shed Their Teeth?

northern pike teeth
Courtesy of Johnny Delaney

There are many folklore and tales when it comes to Northern pike and this is definitely one of the more interesting varieties. Many fishermen in the U.S. proclaim that Northern pike shed all, or most of their teeth once a year. Other U.S. fishermen disregard it as a fairy tale. So, is it true or not?

In Europe, most anglers have not even heard of this theory and it is certain to say that European pikes do not shed their teeth. Of course, this could be a regional phenomenon that only happens in North America. However, this appears to be rather unlikely, for these three main reasons:

  1. There is a lack of scientific data that pike would shed their teeth
  2. Too many U.S. fishermen do not share this belief
  3. The statement is conflicted, as some say the pike shed their teeth in winter, while others say it takes place during summer

On the other hand, there is pretty solid data that confirms that pike do not shed their teeth once a year. According to a study made in Lake Ontario, researchers found out that there is no measurable loss of teeth or any indication of gum weakness in Northern Pike.

This is not to say that pike do not lose some of their teeth at times! On the contrary, this happens fairly often. For example during the spawning season, when things are heating up, or when a pike bites into a rather hard scale, fin or bone of a prey fish. All of the lost teeth usually grow back though.

Do Pike Bite Humans?

pike teeth
Courtesy of Johnny Delaney

Not intentionally, no! It is understandable that people would get afraid when they see or hear about big pikes in lakes where they are taking a swim. But the chance, or risk, of a pike actually attacking and biting a human in the water, is close to zero!

Of course, lots of fishermen get “bitten” by pikes when trying to unhook them. This is a very delicate and difficult task, especially when you have a very big pike in the net and you have to try to get several trebles out of that mouth! How things can end up in such a situation can be seen in the image above. But that is not an intentional bite per se!

These tools ans can help prevent serious injuries from bike teeth:

  • a jaw spreader
  • pike gloves
  • long pliers
  • an unhooking mat

If you want to start pike fishing and need to gear up, make sure to check out this helpful buyer’s guide I wrote:


Could a Pike Bite Your Finger Off?

No, it could not. Its teeth are simply not strong enough to bite through a human finger bone. Technically, the larger teeth could penetrate through to a bone in your finger, but they could not bite them off.

But be careful nonetheless, as these teeth can definitely skin your fingers or your entire hand! Similar to a bait fish, if your finger or hand gets into that mouth and it snaps shut, it bound to stay there.

Insider tip: Under no circumstances, try to pull out your hand from a closed pike’s mouth!

If and when that happens, remain calm (even though it’ll hurt a lot)! Do not try to instinctively pull out your finger or hand, but try to open the pike’s mouth again first! Then, carefully remove your finger or hand and try to patch things up. Otherwise, seek medical attention.

Can Pike Bite Through Fluorocarbon?

pike teeth
Courtesy of Tobias Ekvall

Moving forward to less dangerous pike bites! Yes, pike can bite through fluorocarbon line, even though they will have a hard time doing so if you use a suitable diameter.

The fact that fluorocarbon line is practically invisible underwater can of course be considered advantageous when using it as a leader. But, it is absolutely essential that you use a fluorocarbon leader of at least 0.80lb, if not 100lb, which I have used myself pretty successfully.

But even with such a diameter, it remains crucial that you check your fluorocarbon leader fairly often, as every pike bite can worsen its abrasion resistance. Better safe than sorry, right?

If you want to read more about the best and most suitable pike leaders (both wire and fluorocarbon), make sure to also check out this article: Do You Need a Wire Leader for Pike?

Can Pike Bite Through Braid?

pike teeth

Here, the answer is a more solid yes, unfortunately. Many fishermen use braided line when fishing for pike, and that is perfectly fine if it is used as the mainline! As braid has a rather low abrasion resistance, pike will have an easy time biting through it. And therefore, it is absolutely not suitable as leader material when the target fish is Northern pike.

Personally, I do not like to fish with braid at all, but I know that many people do prefer this material over monofilament for their mainline. If you do, just make sure you are using either the above mentioned extra-thick fluorocarbon leader or a simple wire leader at the end of your braided mainline. With that combo, you can battle any pike!

Related Predator Articles

If you want to learn more about the northern pike and muskie, you should also check out these articles:

Feature image courtesy of Johnny Delaney

Max Loesche

Hi, I'm Max, the founder and head author of Strike&Catch. I have been a passionate fisherman since 1997 and spend as much time as possible on the bank. Click on my name to read my full biography.

4 thoughts on “Northern Pike Teeth (Facts And Pictures)

  1. Very well written article Max. We do try to avoid their teeth when handling them, especially if hooked deeply. A couple of things should be mentioned: Be careful if putting your hand under their gills to lift them, don’t get into the gill rakers. You can damage them and they’re also sharp. Secondly, please don’t lift a pike that you plan to release by the eye sockets. You can damage their eyes, even blind them hindering their ability to hunt because they are primarily sight feeders. If you plan on keeping one for eating, keep the 50cm to 80cm pike. These are the best table fare and most abundant. Good luck all fishermen everywhere.

  2. I have had a break using braid on a pike.
    The rod started jerking as I have never experienced before and the broken end of the braid was stripped and a fine filament core remained.
    I am going to conclude my wire trace was too short.
    Any opinions welcome
    David

    1. Hi David,

      sounds like you had a real monster on the line there! Too bad that bite-off happened! :/

      I would have to agree with you that the trace was either too short or that the pike somehow got your mainline in its mouth. That does happen occasionally, depending on the angle the pike strikes from. However, it is rather seldom if you ask me.

      How long was your trace? I like to have a length of at least 10-15” for my lure traces when it comes to pike. How long are yours on average?

      Thank you so much for the read, I hope you found it interesting and helpful!

      Tight lines
      /Max

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