Difference Between Northern Pike & Peamouth

Written by in Fishing
Image Credits: Pixabay.com

In recent conversation, I heard the names Northern Pike and Peamouth a few times, which prompted me to do some of my own research to learn about the species. As a result, I came up with a guide on how to tell the difference between the two.

How can you tell the difference between a Northern Pike and a Peamouth? In order to tell the difference between a Northern Pike and a Peamouth, you will need to observe the color, mouth, and dorsal fins to identify which type of fish you have caught.

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When they are sitting right next to each other, it can seem easy to tell the difference between a Northern Pike and a Peamouth. 

However, it is not so simple in the absence of the other fish. 

This guide will tell you everything you need to know to become a Northern Pike vs Peamouth expert.

How to Tell a Northern Pike From a Peamouth

While attempting to differentiate between a Northern Pike and a Peamouth, there are a few characteristics of each one that are a dead giveaway. 

These characteristics include the overall color and shape of the fish, as well as more minute details such as the scale patterns and length of the mouth.

Northern Pike Identifiers:

  1. Large, narrow mouth
  2. Olive green skin
  3. Dorsal fin closest to tail
  4. Corner of mouth extends to eye level
  5. Scales on the upper half of gill cover
  6. No scales on the lower half of gill cover
  7. Scales covering the forward area of gill plate
  8. 5 pairs of pores on lower jaw
  9. Short, horizontal markings (white or yellow)

Peamouth Identifiers:

  1. Round shaped mouth
  2. Small mouth (tip of a finger)
  3. Corner of mouth ends before eye
  4. Rounded head shape
  5. Dorsal fin stands up on center of back
  6. Lateral bars on side of head (dark red)

To make things more simple instead of trying to remember all of these identifiers all on their own, you can go through a series of steps that should help you compare the two fish in the easiest way possible.

How To Tell a Northern Pike From a Peamouth:

  1. Look at the color
  2. Locate the dorsal fin
  3. Observe the shape of the mouth
  4. Look for unique markings

In order to tell a Northern Pike from a Peamouth, you should first look at the color. A Northern Pike will have a dark, olive green color with some yellow or white accents. 

A peamouth, on the other hand, will be black and silver with red undertones and accents.

If these observations alone do not help you to identify what type of fish you have caught, you will move on to locating the dorsal fin. 

On a Northern Pike, the dorsal fin recedes back almost touching the tail.

You will be able to tell if the fish is a peamouth by locating the dorsal fin on the center of the back, standing up vertically.

Next, the shape of the mouth will be a clear identification of what type of fish you have. 

The Peamouth fish is not called “pea mouth” for no reason. 

Their mouths are very small, typically the size of a fingertip, and the corner ends before it reaches the eye.

The Northern Pike has a long and narrow mouth, and when looking from the side of its face, you will see that the corner of its mouth extends almost past the eyeball.

Finally, you should try to identify the unique markings on the fish. 

The Northern Pike will have horizontal markings, either white or yellow, on the scales when it reaches adult size. 

The Peamouth will have dark red lateral bards on the side of the face instead.

Northern Pike

Northern Pike Characteristics:

  1. Olive green skin with yellow/white belly
  2. Actinopterygil (bony fish)
  3. Live in slow streams and rivers
  4. Aggressive hunters/cannibals
  5. 16-22 inches long
  6. Up to 50 pounds
  7. Large population
  8. Fished for sport
  9. Located in North America and Russia
  10. Survive in Arctic Environments

The Northern Pike is a carnivorous species of freshwater fish that lives in the Northern Hemisphere area. 

They are classified as Actinopterygill, which means they are very bony fish.

Usually found in slow and shallow waters such as streams and lakes, they are aggressive hunters with cannibalistic tendencies. 

In other words, these fish will eat almost anything they can get their hands on, including other pike.

Their appearance is olive green with yellow or white accents, especially in the stomach area. 

They can grow to be up to 22 inches long, with a large mass of up to 50 pounds.

Northern Pike are regularly fished for sport, but rarely eaten by humans. Although they are indeed edible, they have been rumored to have a very unpleasant taste.


Peamouth Characteristics:

  1. Freshwater fish
  2. Can survive in saltwater
  3. Western North America
  4. Slim body
  5. Compacted shape
  6. Large Eyes
  7. Round Mouth
  8. Dark black with silver undertones / red accents
  9. Hide in shallow water
  10. Spawn in spring

The Peamouth, or Peamouth chub, is a freshwater fish that belongs to the family of Cyprinidae. 

Similar to carp and minnows, it is found in the western areas of North America.

Although it is a member of the Cyprinidae class, it is the only member of Mylocheilus, its classifying genus.

While Peamouth are technically freshwater fish, they are able to survive in saltwater environments if needed. 

Regardless of the type of water, they reside in shallow areas of lakes and rivers, usually hiding behind weeds and vegetation.

The body of a pea mouth is very slim and compacted, with large eyes and a rounded mouth. 

The scales are dark black in color, with some silver accents and undertones in some areas of the body.

This species of fish carries out its spawning process in the warmer months of Spring around May and June. 

At this time, the water reaches more comfortable temperatures of the mid 50s to 60s.

Throughout this season, they are subject to spawn more than once, with no distinct pattern about it.

As far as their use for humans, the peamouth fish has been caught for food, although it is not usually considered a delicacy. Those who have tried it, however, would compare it to a whitefish such as cod.

Although they are very different fish, the Northern Pike and Peamouth are interesting creatures. 

While they have some similarities in where they live and how they behave, there are some key differentiating factors that will help you tell the difference between the two.

Hopefully after reading this guide, you have found out everything you needed to know about telling the difference between Northern Pike and Peamouth in preparation for your next fishing trip.

Related Questions

Are there any limits when it comes to fishing for Northern Pike?

Depending on the region in which the fishing takes place, fishermen are allowed to catch anywhere from 2 to 10 Northern Pike in the same day. This limit will vary from North Central, Northeast, and Southern regions.

Do people eat Northern Pike?

While it is true that Northern Pike is able to be safely consumed, most people prefer to leave this fish alone. Due to the distinct and unpleasant taste that comes with this aquatic creature, those who are experienced in fishing will stay away from eating Pike. However, it is edible and can be eaten at the fisherman’s discretion.

Is it harder to fish for Northern Pike or Peamouth?

Both Northern Pike and Peamouth are extremely hungry fish that have a very large appetite. No matter what you put in front of them, they are most likely to take the bait and eat it. This makes both of these fish a relatively simple catch while fishing. However, due to the fact that Peamouth are significantly smaller in weight, the Northern Pike might be the hardest to reel in.

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