Pike are reported to have been eaten by Kaska (of Upper Liard and Dease River), Champagne and Aishihik, Inland Tlingit, Teslin Tlingit, Tutchone, Tagish, Tanana, Koyukon, Han, Ingalik, Tanaina, Yupik of Southwest Alaska, Chipewyan, Dene/Metis of Fort Good Hope, Colville Lake, Wood Buffalo National Park, Moose-Deer Island House People (Dene), Hare (Sahtu), Fort Nelson Slave (Sahtu), Dogrib, Kutchin (Gwich’in) (including the Chandalar Kutchin, Crow River Kutchin, Yukon Flats Kutchin, Chalkyitsik Kutchin, Vunta Kutchin), Inuvialuit of Aklavik and Kugaluk, Inuit of Coronation Gulf, Anishnabeg Ojibway (Anishinabek), Saulteaux, Muscago, Cree (including Red Earth Cree, Northern Manitoba Cree, Plains Cree, Omushkego Cree, Attawapiskat Cree, Eastmain Cree, Paint Hills Cree, Fort George Cree, James Bay Cree, Western Woods Cree, Waswanipi Cree, Mistissini Cree), Northern Iroquois, Huron, Attikamek and St. Lawrence River Montagnais (Innu) [1-62]. Although the species of pike involved was not often reported, in most localities and instances, northern pike is likely to have been the most commonly caught and eaten species, but other pike including muskellunge, chain pickerel, and grass pickerel were likely locally important in eastern North America. The Huron are specifically noted to have eaten muskellunge, caught primarily in spring during the spawning period, but also sometimes in fall in shallow waters .
In general, pike were usually caught in fall and winter, although a few cultures caught them in spring; the Waswanipi Cree concentrated their catch in spring. Pike were caught using nets, spears, traps and fishhooks depending on the season in which they were caught [9, 11, 12, 14, 21, 23, 26, 27, 31].
Mainland Southwest Alaskan Yupik (who caught them in the fall), Mistissini Cree and Tagish employed gill nets, while most Central River Yupik used spears in river ice holes during winter [12, 21, 31]. Yupik caught them in tundra lakes near the lower Kuskokwim, and the Tagish caught them in lakes including the Little Atlin Lake; the Tagish used cotton twine gill nets in ice holes [12, 31]. These nets were attached to wood floats and sinkers made of lead, sandbags or wood. In earlier times, they used nets made of sinew, which were attached to poles anchored in the lake bottom, and to unspecified kinds of floats and sinkers. While fishing they would put their hands into the water constantly in order to untangle the pike and place them on a pile. This type of fishing involved the job of “running the net”, subjecting one’s bare hands to air and water, thus one’s hands got quite cold. It was believed that “If one’s mother had rubbed one’s hands on a beaver skin during childhood, this would prevent cold hands”. The Tagish also caught pike by jigging in ice holes using baited hooks, many of them attached to a single line. The hook was a wood shaft attached to a bone or was a one-piece hook made from a moose’s nose bone. Before setting the hook, the fisherman is reported to have blown over it, rotating it in the air and to “speak to the fish for the hook” so: “I’ll bet you want to grab this in a hurry. That’s what your friend says to you!” Or he would address the hook directly as “my grandfather” and exhort it to catch some fish. The Tagish also sang a unique song while they jigged for pike, the song being considered as an “invitation for the fish to bite at the hook”. Tradition says that they learned this song from the “bad little fellow” who had lived one year in the stomach of a huge pike .
The Waswanipi, Tanaina and Inland Tlingit caught pike with hooks, among other methods [9, 12, 27]. The Waswanipi caught them in the winter using a hook and line in ice holes, but in May when they concentrated pike fishing, they are reported to shoot them in shallow weedy regions using .22 calibre rifles . The Tanaina used bone hooks, and in later times metal ones. They also placed nets in ponds under-ice . In the fall and spring, the Inland Tlingit used fish hooks covered with a white fish tail or a squirrel skin reversed inside out if the fish tail was unobtainable. This hook was made of a dry wood shank and a bone barb constructed from the second or fourth metatarsal of a moose. The barb was attached to the shank with the aid of babiche, which had been immersed in an ash and water mixture or a red alder and water mixture. In the spring, they also used sinew or twisted willow bark nets .
The Huron and Kutchin caught pike using spears; the Kutchin also using unbaited bone hooks [11, 23]. The Koyukon and Ingalik used traps at various seasons. Koyukon men caught pike in late fall by placing keyhole or basket traps, and in latter times, nets under river ice. The women caught them in April with nets while the men were engaged in hunting muskrat, beaver and waterfowl The Ingalik caught them in the winter by placing traps under ice and in spring by setting pike-run traps at fishing sites shared by a group of men. They also caught pike using a sinew line and a caribou bone hook, the line being connected to a short pole [14, 26].
Pike was eaten fresh or dried or frozen for later use [10, 12, 15]. The Southern Tutchone boiled the flesh for immediate consumption and dried or froze it, usually for dog food . The Chandalar Kutchin, Saulteaux and Muscago dried the flesh for storage; the latter two cultures, hung them up by the tail to dry in the sun [10, 15]. The Inland Tlingit stored the fall catch frozen . The Mistissini Cree also are reported to eat the head and pike fat, which they considered “good eating”. Pike was dressed in four different ways: 1) the fins were severed, the skin and scales removed, the head severed, the guts and coagulated blood taken out, and the tail severed and any remaining scales taken off, 2) the fins were removed, the carcass skinned, the head cut off, the guts removed and any remaining scales taken off, 3) for tiny pike, the fins were removed, the skin descaled, head severed, the guts and coagulated blood removed, and the tail severed, 4) if the skin was used to make grease containers, the skin around the base of the head was cut, and the skin peeled from the carcass from the anterior side . The Cree of Fort George, Quebec used pike roe in making bannock .
Many cultures caught them in fall and/or winter, although some caught them in summer or spring. They caught them in lakes, ponds and rivers including the Medicine and Red Earth Lakes, and the Old Crow and Kuskokwim Rivers. They typically used nets to catch pike, though they also used hooks and arrows [12, 32, 33, 40, 41, 43, 47, 50, 52, 57, 59, 64]. The Chalkyitsik Kutchin of Alaska, Athapaskan of the Arctic drainage lowland, Vunta Kutchin, cultures of the far North, Hare (Sahtu), Cree of Fort George and Eastmain, Inland Tlingit and Attawapiskat Western Cree used nets; the Attawapiskat mostly used nets to catch the small ones and hooks to catch the big ones [12, 32, 33, 41, 50, 54, 57, 64]. Cultures of the far North used nets made of “jackfish twine” and the Inland Tlingit and Hare (Sahtu) Indians used fairly small-meshed gill nets. In particular, the Hare (Sahtu) Indians used 4 or 4.5 inch mesh gill nets which required a license, and which had to be renewed annually [54, 64]. The Cree of Fort George and Eastmain used gill nets which they placed in rocky coves . The Peel River Kutchin and the Upper Liard Kaska used hooks and arrows respectively The arrows contained detachable flint points and were employed when the fish swam near shore [40, 51].
The Champagne and Aishihik, Vunta Gwich’in and Teslin Tlingit rarely ate Northern pike because they found it “too bony and its flesh too soft” . The Chalkyitsik Kutchin of Alaska ate it, but considered the flesh to be “poor-tasting and too low in fat” . The flesh was boiled, baked, roasted and dried [37, 49-51]. The liver, intestines, roe, esophagus and head were also eaten [50, 65, 66]. The Peel River Kutchin ate the flesh boiled and roasted, boiling the pieces in a basket of water using hot stones. They roasted it near a fire using a protecting log as an oven . The Dogrib and the Chalkyitsik Kutchin of Alaska dried the flesh, the latter storing it in caches for later use [37, 50]. When preparing Northern pike, the Dogrib sliced it down one side of the backbone and through the stomach and removed the bones and viscera, leaving the head attached to the body. They dried the carcass on a stick with the head facing up . When cleaning the fish, the Tagish gutted it but did not scale it because doing so would dry it. They froze the carcasses in outside caches for later use . Cultures of the far North who ate Northern pike especially in May, the season when they were “fat and well-flavored” also used it as dog food . The Hare (Sahtu) used it as dog food . The reported Sahtu (Hareskin) Dene/Metis of Fort Good Hope and Colville Lake baked the flesh and ate the eggs, esophagus and head [49, 66]. The Cree of James Bay and the Chalkyitsik Kutchin ate the liver; the Chalkyitsik Kutchin considering the fried liver and intestines a delicacy [50, 65].
Because pike are a predatory fish, they contain more mercury than non-predatory fish. Mercury levels above that considered as safe have been found in the liver and flesh of Northern pike harvested in the fall from the James Bay Cree region. Northern pike caught in hydroelectric reservoirs such as the Opinaca reservoir, the nearest reservoir to the Eastmain Cree in James Bay, have been found to be more contaminated that those caught in natural lakes in the James Bay region [36, 65].
The Plains Cree are known to eat pike, which they sometimes called chief fish, catching them in the spring with weirs, and in the winter with spears at open areas in the river ice .
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