Getting cosy in freshwater: assumed-to-be brackish pike are not so brackish after all

Kim Birnie-Gauvin*, Lasse Birch Højrup, Theis Kragh, Lene Jacobsen, Kim Aarestrup

*Corresponding author for this work

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Pike (Esox lucius) occupy coastal streams and rivers of the Baltic Sea, where they attain large sizes (>5 kg). These large sizes are perhaps due to the fact that they can tolerate relatively high salinities and can thus forage in the nearby more productive brackish environments. In an attempt to quantify the extent to which pike utilise brackish environments, and to provide some insight into the underlying causes for brackish water migrations, we tagged 30 pike from a western Baltic river with acoustic transmitters and were able to track 21 individuals for 1 year. Based on experienced from local anglers, this population was assumed to be brackish in nature, where individuals underwent freshwater migrations to spawn. Our findings however suggest that the smallest and most active individuals make short exits into brackish waters and do so on rare occasions. Our results further indicate that neither sex nor size is related to activity level. We suggest that these patterns reflect two distinct behaviours—active and passive—and that large pike can be supported by the food availability in the river, without the need to venture into coastal zones, thus defying the conventional view that Baltic pike are all brackish in nature.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEcology of Freshwater Fish
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)376-384
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Brackish
  • Ecosystem functioning
  • Esox lucius
  • Freshwater
  • Reproductive migrations


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