Tom Williams with his downtown Pittsburgh northern pike.
This definitely qualifies as an unusual catch.
Tom Williams of Mt. Lebanon was fishing at the Point one recent afternoon when he landed a northern pike. He estimated it at about 30 inches long, “easily as long as my arm from tip to shoulder.”
He caught a juvenile musky there last fall that went about 27 inches, but the pike was the first and only one he’s seen. That’s despite fishing there almost daily, he added.
That’s not surprising, as it turns out. Northerns are rare in the waters around Pittsburgh.
“That’s a nice fish, a nice catch for there. We have not handled that many in the three rivers of Pittsburgh,” said Rick Lorson, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s area fisheries manager.
“We hear of occasional catches there, but they’re not a common occurrence until you get into the upper Allegheny.”
Indeed, biologists have handled just four pike in the three rivers in recent years, Lorson said. One came from the Ohio River, discovered in a survey net near Dashields Dam in 2011. They’ve gotten three from the Allegheny near Freeport, one last year and two in 2014, and none from the Monongahela.
Williams caught the northern on a lure very similar to the one that took the musky last fall.
“I caught both of them on 4-inch Keitech swimbaits on 1/8-ounce jigheads. The pike took a white with silver flake. I don’t remember what the muskie took color-wise, but I’m guessing I would have matched the forage as best as possible given how low and clear the river was last fall,” he said.
As for why the fish may have been there to be caught, that’s a mystery, Lorson said, one that shows any cast into the water is potentially a good one.
“It’s not necessarily what you would expect to catch there. But this time of year, things are moving around,” Lorson said.