How Old Is a 40 Inch Northern Pike?

Catching a monster pike is one heck of an experience, and one that I hope every serious angler gets to enjoy at some point. There are few freshwater fish that fight so hard pound for pound, and big pike will multiply the fight from every single pound of weight, every single inch of length.

Add in the fact that pike are aggressive predators that will eat any small fish that come by, including other pike, and it makes you respect those giant 40-inch pike even more. There’s a lot of history from a fish that size, which brings up a great question: “Just how old is a 40 inch northern pike?”

On average a 40 inch male northern pike will be around 20 years old while a female 40 inch pike will be between 16-20 years old. A 40 inch pike from further north will be a little bit older, while those in their southern range of natural habitat will be a little younger.

That’s a Beauty! Picture courtesy of North Dakota Game & Fish.

Why the age difference between males and females? Just how much of a difference does habitat and location make?

Read on to find out!

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Northern Pike Average Growth Rates

Here at Northern Pike Fishing Tips we wrote a pretty great article on northern pike size by age. This includes multiple resources, as well as a pretty nifty average age chart looking at various years, gender, length, and weight of pike.

While averages are never going to be 100% accurate, there are some basic averages you can use as rules of thumb before honing in on the area where you catch the pike.

A few examples of the possible age of a 40 inch pike based on different sources in different locations:

  • 18-20 years according to Wilderness North looking at northern Ontario (this is probably on the conservative/slow safe side)
  • 8-9 years in the state of Wisconsin (I think this is a touch fast but it is extrapolated and pike do grow faster in the southern range of their habitat)
  • 10-11 years in Georgian Bay, Ontario according to Outdoor Canada
  • Over 15 years in Lake Athabasca, Saskatchewan and Great Bear Lake of the Northwest Territories (both from the same source as above)

In other words, the range in age can be nearly a decade between two different 40 inch pike depending on where exactly you caught yours, although it will be extremely rare to see one that is under a decade in age.

Meaning it’s pretty safe to say that 40-inch pike is certainly over 10 years old and possibly even above 20 in many cases. Especially to the far northern range of their natural habitat.

Why Is There Such an Age Difference Between 40 Inch Pike?

Environment is one of the biggest factors when it comes to how fast the average pike in the area grows. Because of this, any really accurate answer to how old a 20-inch, 30-inch, or 40-inch northern pike is will depend not only on the area – but often even the exact lake.

Just look at the estimated growth rates between northern Ontario and Wisconsin. The yearly difference is 2x to 3x as much, which really opens up quickly.

There can be other local factors that also affect growth in a positive or negative way.

Is there enough food? Is there an abundance of food? How is the weather for multiple years (ice breaks, spawning conditions, long winters or summers, etc)? What are the catch and release regulations in an area?

However, for a healthy population of pike the biggest factor comes to latitude. Where are they located? What is the fish’s sex?

Those determine the growth rates more than any other factors at a location by location level.

Why Are Almost All 40+ Inch Pike Female?

The answer is that males live much shorter lives than female pike. This makes sense from an evolution standpoint because females are more important to keep the species going than males.

A male pike reaching 25 years of age, for example, is so rare that calling them a “freakish genetic anomaly” isn’t an insult – it’s actually a very accurate description.

The average upper end of life for a male pike is 15-25 years. You just don’t find any male pike that live longer than that. Because of slightly slower rates of growth, that lower life span really limits the number of male pike that make it up to 40 inches in length.

Female northern pike often live 8-10 years longer, and there are a few isolated instances of them living even longer than that.

In Conclusion

How far north or south you are in the pike’s natural habitat will have a big effect on how they grow. While a 40-inch pike in rare instances can be as young as 9 years old, in many others they will be as old as 25 years or more.

Most will fall somewhere in the middle based on sex, geographic location, and the overall conditions of the lakes or rivers they are found in. One thing that can be agreed on: a 40-inch pike is an old, beautiful freshwater monster.