Fish stories

There's a killer in the pit/Wikimedia Commons

The fish story of the year, probably the decade, has emerged out of North Pole, Alaska where a woman claims a northern pike mauled her husky-mix dog.

North Pole resident Shannon Dhondt told KUAC public radio in Fairbanks that Murphy, a husky-greyhound mix, went down to the edge of a block-long, gravel-pit pond in September “and out of nowhere, bam, here’s this big old huge fish, which, I didn’t know what it was; three feet (long) hanging off his muzzle, you know, and he starts shaking his head and this thing is holding on.”

After doing some online research, Dhondt concluded the attacker was not someone’s escaped pet alligator, a species known to attack and devour dogs, but a pike, a species not previously known to attack dogs.

Pike, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” full of pike, eat mainly “other fishes but a northern will pursue any living thing up to a third its body length that will go down its throat: ducks, mice, rats, frogs, snakes, crayfish, and nearly all fishes, including other pikes.”

Minnesota, with its warmer waters, is home to big pike. The state record weighed 45 pounds, 12 ounces. The Alaska record, in a state significantly farther north where colder water inhibits growth, weighed about 85 percent of that at 38 pounds, 8 ounces. 

Record-size fish of any species are uncommon and not usually found in small gravel pit ponds.  A three-foot-long pike, according to length-weight charts compiled to help catch-and-release anglers estimate the size of the fish they let go, would weigh, on average, about 12 pounds.

Eagle size fish

That would make it about the size of a large bald eagle. They too are reported to weigh up to 12 pounds.

“Every few years a story makes the rounds about a bald eagle carrying off a dog or trying to snatch someone’s cat,” according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

State biologist Ron Clark, who has studied birds of prey and hunts with raptors, has estimated a bald eagle with a good head of steam could pick up a dog of 8 to 10 pounds.

There have been reports of eagles attacking husky breeds of any mix.

And oo one has bothered to estimate the size of dog a pike might try to make prey, but if that Minnesota estimate of pike dining on anything a third their length or less, and dog up to 12-inches long might become a victim.

Murphy, in the photos posted by KUAC’s website, appears to be significantly more than 12 inches long, but there is no telling the strange things that happen in nature.

“Dhondt has a video that a friend shot of a pike – possibly the same one that bit her dog Murphy  – going after a beaver in the gravel pit,” KUAC reported. “She said nobody has been able to catch the fish.”

KUAC did not provide the video or a link to it, and surely if someone wanted to catch the fish, they could just attach a treble hook to the tail of their dog and have it swim around in the gravel pit until the pike attacked.

Which is to say Dhondt’s story – which included photos of Murphy leaving her home “looking like something from a slasher movie” due to the injuries inflicted by the pike – sounds a little fishy.

‘Official’ approval

Still, state fisheries biologist Klaus Wuttig in Fairbanks was willing to bite. He admitted he’d never heard of a pike biting a dog, but told the radio station that he wasn’t “necessarily surprised.”

“They’re programmed to eat, right?” he told KUAC . “Pike are pretty renowned for hitting baby ducks, voles on the surface, and so the dog snout, could that activate a pike to strike? Surely.”

And if you go online, you can find a YouTube video of a man purporting to have lost a hand in a pike attack and another of what is purported to be a pike attacking a kitten. 

The latter, which appeared in 2014, stirred considerable debate over whether the pike seriously injured or killed the kitten. 

And then, of course, there is the “Legend of the Water Wolf,” as fisherman John Paxton labeled the “Mannheim Pike, a monster that was said to have lived for 267 years and weighed over 550 pounds.”

Paxton did track down documented accounts of northern pike or muskellunge attacking the feet of children, but it must be noted the musky, a cousin of the pike, can grow to about twice the size of pike.

Paxton’s deep dive into pike attacks and possible attacks also revealed that   “Allegheny College and the University of South Florida (once) examined the bite force of northern pike compared to barracuda.

“(They) found that the posterior bite force for the largest pike in the study (a roughly 32-inch northern) was 44.0 (Newtons), well below the 154 Newtons required to amputate a finger, according to a recent biomechanical study.”

So getting “mauled” by a pike is not exactly like getting  “mauled” by a grizzly bear with a reported bite force of 1,410 Newtons or a black bear at 744 Newtons.

But Paxton did note that 300 to 700 needle-like teeth in the mouth of a pike can cut one up pretty good, but so can paper, which is why the internet was invented: to put an end to paper cuts.







8 replies »

  1. East twin lakes kantishna my brother cought a pike that couldn’t be pulled out of 3 auger holes. Late 70s . Early 80s .. “true” fish story. There have been a lot of big pike taken that are not entered into books in alaska .

  2. “…….which is why the internet was invented: to put an end to paper cuts.”
    So, Al Gore actually did accomplish a humanitarian milestone?

  3. The old saying “truth is stranger than fiction” applies to the many bizarre events that happen in nature. Craig, You have likely seen several events that have caught You off guard and left You amazed and in disbelief.

  4. I remember as a kid water skiing on Rainy Lake (Int’l Falls MN) with a brand new pair of water skis and while waiting to take off something grabbed the bottom portion of the ski and tugged. When I got back to shore there were scratch marks all over the ski. Rainy Lake has pike and muskellunge. Not sure which species but it sure scared the heck out of this 11 year old.

    • Hey, my family made an annual pilgrimage to Rainy and Kabetogama when I was a kid, but it was all about walleye pike and not northern pike.

      Snapping turtle? They can grab and really hold and would certainly scratch up a ski.

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