Pike Fish: An Angler’s Comprehensive Guide

1. Introduction

What are Pike Fish?

Pike, known scientifically as Esox lucius, are a species of carnivorous fish that are revered by anglers for their fierce demeanor and challenging nature. Native to North America and parts of Europe, these fish are known for their elongated bodies and sharp teeth, making them a top predator in freshwater habitats.

Why are they popular among anglers?

Pike are sought after not only for their size—some reaching over 20 pounds—but also for the thrill of the catch. Their aggressive strikes and vigorous fights make them an exciting target for sport fishing.

2. Understanding Pike Fish

Pike fish, known for their impressive and somewhat intimidating appearance, are a favorite among anglers for both sport and challenge. Here we delve deeper into their physical characteristics and habitats, enriching your knowledge about these fascinating creatures.

Physical Characteristics

Pike fish, or Esox lucius in scientific terms, are immediately recognizable by their elongated bodies and distinct coloration. The key features include:

  • Body Color and Markings: Pike typically exhibit a greenish to gray body. The sides are adorned with short, light, bar-like spots which provide excellent camouflage among underwater vegetation. This coloring is not just for show; it’s a critical adaptation for their hunting lifestyle.
  • Distinctive Mouth Structure: One of the most striking features of pike fish is their duck-billed shaped mouth, which is broad and flat. This mouth is equipped with numerous sharp, backward-slanting teeth. These teeth are not only formidable but are perfectly designed to grip and hold onto slippery prey such as fish and frogs.
  • Size: Pike can grow to significant lengths, with some specimens reaching up to 1.5 meters (about 5 feet) and weighing over 25 kilograms (55 pounds). However, sizes around 70-120 cm (27-47 inches) are more common.

These physical traits make the pike an apex predator in its environment, capable of fast and lethal attacks on its prey.

Habitat and Distribution

Understanding the preferred habitats and distribution of pike fish can greatly enhance your chances of a successful fishing trip. Pike are versatile in their habitat preferences, but certain conditions are more conducive to their presence:

  • Preferred Environments: Pike thrive in cold, clear waters. They are often found in lakes and rivers where there are ample underwater structures such as submerged trees, weed beds, and other places where they can easily ambush prey.
  • Adaptability: While pike prefer certain conditions, they are highly adaptable and can survive in a variety of freshwater habitats. This includes murky waters as long as there is sufficient cover for hunting.
  • Geographical Spread: The distribution of pike covers a broad area across the Northern Hemisphere. In North America, they are found from Alaska down through Canada to the Northeastern United States. In Europe, their presence stretches from the United Kingdom across Scandinavia and into parts of Russia.
  • Impact of Temperature: Water temperature plays a crucial role in the distribution of pike. They generally prefer cooler waters and are more active during the colder months of the year. During warmer periods, they may move to deeper, cooler parts of lakes and rivers.

3. Behavior of Pike Fish

The pike fish is an intriguing species known for its predatory skills and distinct behavioral patterns. These behaviors are pivotal to understanding how to effectively fish for pike, making it essential for anglers to grasp the nuances of how pike interact with their environment.

Feeding Habits

Pike are quintessential ambush predators, utilizing both their environment and innate abilities to capture prey. Their feeding habits are characterized by several key behaviors:

  • Ambush Strategy: Pike often remain motionless, camouflaged within the aquatic vegetation or other natural covers. They wait patiently for unsuspecting prey to come within range before launching a rapid and powerful attack.
  • Dietary Flexibility: The diet of pike fish is predominantly opportunistic, adjusting based on prey availability. Their primary diet includes:
    • Smaller Fish: Pike will prey on any fish smaller than themselves, including species like perch, trout, and even smaller pike.
    • Amphibians and Insects: Frogs and large aquatic insects are common in the pike’s diet, especially in environments where these are plentiful.
    • Mammals and Birds: In rare instances, pike can consume small mammals like mice or waterfowl chicks that venture too close to the water’s edge.

This dietary adaptability makes pike a top predator in their ecosystems, capable of thriving in diverse conditions by exploiting the available food sources.

Seasonal Behavior

The behavior of pike fish varies throughout the year, influenced significantly by seasonal changes. Understanding these seasonal patterns is crucial for anglers aiming to increase their catch rates:

  • Spring: As the ice thaws, pike move into shallow waters to spawn. This period sees heightened feeding activity as pike work to replenish energy after the winter and prepare for the rigors of spawning. Anglers will find success using lures that mimic small fish or using tactics that take advantage of the pike’s aggressive pre-spawn behavior.
  • Summer: During the warm months, pike often retreat to deeper, cooler waters during the heat of the day and may come into shallows during cooler mornings or late evenings. Fishing during these times using deep-diving lures or adjustable rigs can be particularly effective.
  • Fall: As water temperatures begin to drop, pike become more active again, feeding heavily in preparation for the upcoming winter. This is a prime time for fishing as pike are less selective and more aggressive, increasing the chances of successful catches.
  • Winter: In regions where lakes freeze over, pike can be targeted through ice fishing. They continue to feed under the ice, though their metabolism slows. Using live baits and jigs near the bottom can yield good results during this season.

4. Fishing for Pike: Getting Started

Fishing for Pike: Getting Started

Embarking on a fishing trip targeting pike fish can be thrilling and rewarding, given their reputation as fierce fighters and impressive catches. To increase your chances of success, understanding when to fish and what equipment to use is essential.

Best Times to Fish for Pike

The activity levels of pike vary significantly throughout the day and year, influenced by light and temperature. Here’s how to optimize your fishing times:

  • Early Morning: Pike are most active in the early hours of the morning. This time allows you to catch them during their first feeding of the day, as they take advantage of the low light to ambush prey.
  • Late Evening: Similar to early mornings, the reduced light of late evening stimulates pike to engage in a feeding frenzy before nightfall.
  • Seasonal Considerations: The months surrounding the spawning season in spring (late April through early June, depending on the region) are especially productive. During this period, pike are more aggressive as they prepare to spawn and immediately afterward when they are recovering energy levels.
  • Weather and Overcast Conditions: Overcast, cloudy days can also be ideal for pike fishing as these conditions reduce light penetration into the water, extending the pike’s feeding activities beyond the usual dawn and dusk hours.

Timing your fishing trips during these peak periods increases your likelihood of encountering active pike, ready to strike at your lure or bait.

Necessary Gear and Equipment

Equipping yourself with the right gear is crucial not only for effectively catching pike but also for ensuring an enjoyable fishing experience. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Rod: A medium to heavy action rod is preferred for pike fishing. This type of rod provides the necessary strength to handle the vigorous fight pike are known for and helps in casting larger, heavier lures.
    • Length: Opt for a rod between 6.5 to 8 feet to balance casting ability and control.
  • Reel:
    • Type: Both spinning and baitcasting reels work well for pike.
    • Specifications: Choose a reel that can handle at least a 10-pound test line. Look for reels with a robust drag system to manage the sudden runs and powerful strikes typical of pike.
  • Line:
    • Material: Braided lines are ideal due to their strength and sensitivity. You’ll want a line that can withstand sharp teeth and rough fights.
    • Weight: It’s advisable to use a line in the 20-30 pound range for optimal performance and durability.
  • Leader: Always use a leader when fishing for pike to prevent line cuts.
    • Material: Steel leaders are commonly used because they resist the sharp teeth of the pike.
    • Length: A leader of about 12-18 inches is sufficient.
  • Lures and Bait:
    • Lures: Large spoons, spinnerbaits, and jerkbaits are effective in attracting pike. Choose lures that mimic the pike’s natural prey in size and color.
    • Live Bait: If legal in your area, live bait such as small fish can be very effective, particularly in waters where pike are more cautious or accustomed to natural prey.

5. Techniques for Catching Pike

Successfully targeting pike fish requires a blend of the right techniques, timing, and equipment. Whether you are new to fishing for pike or an experienced angler looking to refine your skills, understanding various techniques can greatly enhance your fishing outings. Here, we’ll explore both basic and advanced techniques tailored to catching pike.

Basic Techniques

Beginners can start with straightforward methods that are easy to learn yet highly effective. These foundational techniques involve simple actions but require attention to detail and local conditions:

  • Casting and Retrieving:
    • Lures to Use: Spoons and spinnerbaits are excellent choices for beginners. These lures are attractive to pike due to their movement and reflective surfaces that mimic small fish.
    • Technique: Cast your lure to the targeted area, ideally where you suspect pike may be hiding such as near weed beds, sunken logs, or other structures. Slowly retrieve the lure, varying the speed to mimic a wounded or fleeing fish.
    • Areas to Focus: Pike are ambush predators, so focus on areas with plenty of cover. Cast near or along the edges of weeds, reeds, or submerged objects where pike are likely to be waiting for prey.

This method allows new anglers to get accustomed to pike fishing without complex setups, providing an enjoyable and often productive experience.

Advanced Techniques

For those with more experience or those looking to expand their pike fishing skills, advanced techniques can offer a deeper engagement with the sport and potentially larger catches:

  • Trolling:
    • Lure Selection: Larger plugs that mimic baitfish are ideal for trolling. These lures can dive deep and create vibrations and visual cues that trigger pike to attack.
    • Technique: Trolling involves pulling a lure through the water behind a slowly moving boat. Adjust the depth and speed based on where you believe the pike to be active, usually considering the time of day and water temperature.
    • Benefits: This method covers more water area and can be particularly effective in larger lakes where pike are spread out.
  • Using Jerkbaits:
    • Lure Characteristics: Jerkbaits are designed to mimic the erratic, jerky movements of an injured fish. These movements provoke the pike’s predatory instincts.
    • Manipulating the Lure: The key to effectively using jerkbaits is mastering the stop-and-go retrieval technique. Cast the jerkbait out, and rather than a steady retrieve, use sharp jerks interspersed with pauses. This mimics a dying fish and is often irresistible to pike.
    • Skill Development: Mastering jerkbait use requires practice, as the effectiveness largely depends on the angler’s ability to manipulate the lure’s speed, depth, and rhythm to simulate real-life prey behaviors.

6. Choosing the Right Lures and Bait for Pike Fish

Choosing the Right Lures and Bait for Pike Fish

Selecting the appropriate lures and bait is crucial for successful pike fishing. Pike are known for their aggressive nature and their preference for certain types of prey, which should be mimicked by the lures and baits you choose. Understanding the differences between various lure types and the circumstances in which to use live bait versus artificial lures can make a significant difference in your fishing outcomes.

Types of Lures

Lures are designed to attract fish visually and through their motion in the water, making them essential tools for pike fishing. Here are some of the most effective types:

  • Spoons:
    • Description: Spoons are simple yet highly effective lures made from oblong pieces of metal that mimic the movement of fish when cast and retrieved or trolled through the water. They reflect light and wobble, which attracts pike.
    • Best Use: Ideal for both casting and trolling, spoons work best in clear water where their reflective properties can catch light and draw attention from a distance.
  • Spinnerbaits:
    • Description: These lures consist of one or more metal blades which spin like a propeller when the lure is moved through the water, creating vibrations and flashes of light.
    • Best Use: Spinnerbaits are perfect for weedy, shallow waters where their unique design allows them to be pulled through vegetation with less risk of snagging.
  • Plugs:
    • Description: Plugs are hard-bodied lures that come in many shapes and sizes, often designed to look and move like a fish. They can have one or more treble hooks and are effective in various depths depending on their design.
    • Best Use: Larger, more lifelike plugs are particularly effective for trolling in deeper waters or during the early morning and late evening when pike are more active.

Live Baits vs. Artificial Lures

Deciding between live baits and artificial lures depends on several factors including local regulations, water conditions, and personal preference:

  • Live Baits:
    • Types: Common live baits for pike include minnows, frogs, and occasionally small fish species permissible under local fishing laws.
    • Advantages: Live bait can be more effective in waters where pike are finicky or accustomed to natural prey. The natural scent, movement, and appearance of live bait often prove irresistible to pike.
    • Considerations: Using live bait requires proper handling to keep the bait alive and active, plus adherence to local fishing regulations concerning bait use.
  • Artificial Lures:
    • Advantages: Lures are more durable and can be used repeatedly. They allow for greater versatility in presentation and can be used in a variety of water conditions.
    • Considerations: While lures require more skill to use effectively, mastering their use can lead to more consistent success across different environments and conditions.

Tips for Selection

  • Water Clarity: In murky water, choose lures that create more vibration or noise to help pike locate them. In clearer water, opt for visually appealing lures that mimic local fish species.
  • Seasonal Preferences: During warmer months, consider topwater lures for an exciting surface strike. In colder months, switch to slower-moving, deeper-running lures like jigs or weighted plugs.
  • Experimentation: Pike can be unpredictable; what works one day may not work the next. Experimenting with different types of lures and baits, and adapting your approach to the conditions, can help identify the most effective method for the day.

7. Setting Up Your Gear

Properly setting up your gear is critical when targeting pike fish, known for their size, strength, and sharp teeth. A well-chosen rod and reel combination, along with appropriate line and leader, can make a significant difference in handling these powerful fish and ultimately in your fishing success. Here’s how to optimize your setup for pike fishing.

Rod and Reel Setup

Choosing the right rod and reel for pike fishing is about balancing control, power, and usability. Here are key considerations:

  • Rod Length and Action:
    • Length: A 7 to 8-foot rod is ideal for pike fishing. This length provides excellent control for lure presentation and enough leverage for long casts, yet it’s still manageable for most anglers.
    • Action: Medium-heavy to heavy action rods are recommended. These rods have the backbone to handle large lures and the strength to fight large pike, yet enough flexibility to cast effectively and absorb the shock of a sudden pike strike.
  • Reel Type:
    • Spinning vs. Baitcasting: Both types of reels can be effective for pike fishing. Beginners may find spinning reels easier to handle, while more experienced anglers often prefer baitcasting reels for better control of heavier lures and line.
    • Drag System: A robust drag system is essential. Pike are capable of powerful, fast runs, so a smooth, reliable drag helps manage these bursts of speed without breaking the line.

Line and Leader Considerations

The right choice of line and leader is crucial not only for casting and retrieving effectively but also for preventing break-offs due to pike’s sharp teeth.

  • Choosing the Right Line:
    • Braided Line: Highly recommended for pike fishing, braided line offers exceptional strength and durability, as well as excellent sensitivity to detect bites. It also has a smaller diameter compared to monofilament, allowing for longer casts and better handling.
    • Line Strength: Typically, a 20-30 pound test line is suitable for most pike fishing situations. This strength ensures that the line can withstand the initial strike and the subsequent fight without sacrificing too much in terms of manageability and casting ability.
  • Leader Material:
    • Importance of a Leader: Pike have very sharp teeth, capable of cutting through most fishing lines easily. A leader is essential to protect your line from being severed.
    • Steel Leaders: These are the most popular choice among pike anglers due to their durability and pike-proof nature. Steel leaders can handle the sharp teeth of pike, preventing line cuts during strikes.
    • Fluorocarbon Leaders: Heavy fluorocarbon leaders (at least 50-80 pound test) are also used, especially in clearer water where stealth is needed. Fluorocarbon is less visible underwater than steel but still offers good abrasion resistance.

Setting Up Your Gear

  1. Assemble Your Rod and Reel: Attach your reel to the rod, ensuring it is securely fastened and aligned with the guides.
  2. Thread the Line: Spool the line onto your reel, being mindful to avoid twists and ensure even distribution across the spool.
  3. Attach the Leader: Connect your leader to the main line using a strong knot, such as a double uni knot or an Albright knot. Make sure the connection is solid and trim any excess tag end.
  4. Select and Attach Your Lure: Choose a lure suitable for the conditions and preferred by pike. Attach it to the leader with a secure knot.

8. Best Fishing Spots for Pike

Identifying the most promising fishing spots is a crucial step in targeting pike fish successfully. Pike prefer habitats that offer ample cover and food resources, making certain lakes and rivers ideal for this type of fishing. Here’s a deeper dive into where to find pike and how to select the best fishing spots.

Lakes and Rivers to Consider

Pike are adaptable fish that can be found in various aquatic environments, but they particularly thrive in:

  • Large Lakes: Look for lakes that have a mix of deep and shallow areas, as pike often move between these depths based on the time of day and the season. Lakes with a good stock of feeder fish like perch and suckers are ideal.
  • Vegetated Areas: Pike prefer waters with abundant aquatic plants. These areas offer cover for ambushing prey and provide oxygen-rich environments conducive to supporting a healthy fish population.
  • Slow-Moving Rivers and Streams: Rivers with a gentle flow are excellent for pike, especially sections where there are backwaters, oxbows, and bayous with less current and more cover.
  • Weedy Flats: Shallow areas with a dense growth of weeds are particularly attractive to pike during the spring and early summer. Pike use these areas for spawning and later as hunting grounds.

By focusing on these types of water bodies, you can increase your chances of locating and catching pike.

Spot Selection Tips

Choosing the right spot within these environments can make the difference between a successful outing and coming home empty-handed. Here are some tips for selecting the best spots for pike fishing:

  • Look for Structure: Pike are ambush predators that prefer to hide and wait for their prey. Key structures include:
    • Submerged Logs: These provide excellent cover for pike. Cast your lure close to and along the length of fallen trees or logs.
    • Weed Beds: Dense weeds not only hide pike but also attract smaller fish, which are their primary prey. Fishing the edges of weed beds can be particularly productive.
    • Rock Formations: Areas with rocky outcrops or submerged boulders are attractive to pike because they support a healthy ecosystem of aquatic creatures.
  • Points and Drop-offs: Areas where shallow water suddenly becomes deep are known as drop-offs, and they are prime spots for pike, especially during the summer and fall. Pike often patrol these drop-offs for unsuspecting prey.
  • Inlets and Outlets: Sections of a lake or river where water flows in or out can be hotspots for pike. These areas tend to bring in cooler, oxygen-rich water and often carry food, attracting pike.
  • Use Maps and Technology: Before heading out, study maps of your chosen fishing area. Look for features mentioned above and plan your approach. Modern technology like GPS and fish finders can also help in pinpointing ideal fishing spots.

9. Handling and Releasing Pike

Safe Handling Practices

Pike are powerful and can be dangerous to handle due to their sharp teeth. Use a net to land them and always use pliers to remove hooks. Handling the fish with a wet cloth or proper gloves can prevent damage to its slime coat, which protects it from infections.

Catch and Release Tips

When practicing catch and release, handle the pike as little as possible. Ensure your hands are wet before touching the fish, support its weight horizontally, and allow it to regain its strength before releasing it back into the water to ensure a healthy recovery.

11. Pike Fishing Challenges and Solutions

Pike fishing presents anglers with unique challenges that require careful consideration and strategic approaches to overcome. Understanding these challenges and implementing effective solutions can greatly improve your success rate when targeting these formidable predators.

Common Challenges

Here are some of the most common challenges encountered by pike anglers:

  • Weed Snags:
    • Pike are often found in weedy areas, which can lead to frequent snagging of fishing gear.
  • Dull Hooks:
    • Pike have tough mouths that can quickly dull hooks, resulting in missed hooksets and lost fish.

Solutions and Tips

Addressing these challenges requires a combination of strategic approaches and proactive measures:

  • Strategic Casting:
    • Instead of casting directly into dense weed beds, aim to cast parallel to the weed lines. This technique reduces the risk of snagging while still presenting your lure in areas where pike are likely to be hiding.
  • Use of Weedless Lures:
    • Opt for weedless lures designed specifically to minimize snagging in weedy areas. These lures typically feature a streamlined design and concealed hooks, allowing them to glide through vegetation more smoothly.
  • Technique Adjustment:
    • Modify your retrieval technique to avoid getting caught in weeds. Experiment with slower retrieves or jerking motions to keep your lure above the weed tops.
  • Regular Gear Maintenance:
    • Keep your gear in top condition by regularly inspecting and maintaining it. This includes checking and sharpening hooks, inspecting lines for wear and tear, and ensuring reels are properly lubricated and functioning smoothly.
  • Hook Replacement:
    • Replace dull or damaged hooks promptly to maintain optimal hook-setting efficiency. Invest in high-quality hooks that are less prone to dulling and corrosion.
  • Proper Hook Set:
    • When you feel a strike, resist the urge to immediately set the hook with excessive force. Instead, maintain steady pressure and wait until you feel the weight of the fish before setting the hook firmly.

12. Conservation and Ethical Practices

Importance of Conservation

Conserving pike populations and their habitats ensures future generations can also enjoy fishing these magnificent fish. Follow local regulations and limits to support conservation efforts.

Ethical Fishing Practices

Use barbless hooks for easier release, and avoid fishing during spawning periods to allow pike to reproduce successfully without disturbance.

13. Learning from the Experts

Notable Pike Anglers

Seek advice from experienced anglers. Many have shared their knowledge in books, articles, and online forums. Learning from their experiences can accelerate your learning curve and improve your techniques.

Easiest Fishing Knots – Waterproof Guide


  • Portability: The guide is pocket-sized, making it convenient to carry along on fishing trips.
  • Waterproof Design: Constructed from premium plastic stock, it’s resistant to water damage, ensuring durability even in wet conditions.
  • Comprehensive Knot Selection: Features 12 easy-to-tie fishing knots suitable for various fishing scenarios, including freshwater, saltwater, and fly fishing.
  • Color-Coded Diagrams: Step-by-step diagrams with color-coded instructions make it easy for beginners to follow along.
  • Includes Mini Carabiner: Comes with a mini carabiner for easy attachment to a pack, vest, or tackle box, ensuring it’s always within reach.
  • Versatile Gift Option: Suitable for anglers of all skill levels, making it a fantastic gift choice.


  • Size: Some users find the card size to be small, although opinions on this aspect vary.

Fish Butchery: Mastering The Catch, Cut, And Craft Book


  • Expert Guidance: Authored by Josh Niland, a James Beard award-winning chef renowned for his innovative approach to fish butchery and cookery.
  • Comprehensive Content: Divided into three sections – Catch, Cut, and Craft – the book offers detailed instructions on fish preparation techniques and over 40 recipes.
  • Sustainability Focus: Emphasizes ethical and sustainable fish handling and consumption practices, reflecting the author’s commitment to culinary sustainability.
  • Beautiful Illustrations: Illustrated by renowned artist Reg Mombassa, the book features stunning visuals that complement the instructional content.
  • Critical Acclaim: Recognized as one of the best books of the year and praised by culinary experts for its groundbreaking approach to fish cookery.


  • Specialized Audience: While suitable for cooking enthusiasts and professional chefs alike, the book may be more targeted towards individuals with a keen interest in culinary arts and sustainability practices.

Resources and Further Reading

Look for resources like fishing clubs, online communities, and detailed guides. They can offer invaluable insights and updated information on pike fishing techniques and hotspots.

14. Conclusion

Pike fishing is an exhilarating experience that combines skill, patience, and knowledge. Whether you’re a beginner eager to land your first pike or an experienced angler refining your techniques, understanding the behavior of pike, using the right gear, and practicing ethical fishing are paramount. Remember, each season offers unique opportunities and challenges, so adapt your strategies accordingly. Embrace the learning process, share your experiences, and contribute to the conservation of this magnificent species. Get out there, enjoy the thrill of the chase, and keep honing your skills with each cast!

15. FAQs

  1. What is the best lure for pike fishing?
    The best lure can vary depending on conditions and time of year, but generally, spoons, spinnerbaits, and jerkbaits are highly effective due to their movement and reflective qualities that attract pike.
  2. How can I avoid pike slipping off the hook?
    Using sharp, high-quality hooks and ensuring a firm and timely hook-set are crucial. Consider using hooks with a slightly larger gap and barbless designs to improve hooking efficiency while facilitating easier release.
  3. Is there a preferred time of day for pike fishing?
    Pike are typically most active during dawn and dusk. These times, often referred to as the “golden hours,” are ideal due to the lower light levels which make pike more likely to chase lures or bait.
  4. Can I catch pike in murky water?
    Yes, pike can be caught in murky waters. In such conditions, use lures that create vibrations or noise, like rattling crankbaits or spinnerbaits, to help pike locate the lure.
  5. What is the biggest challenge when fishing for pike?
    One of the biggest challenges is dealing with pike’s aggressive nature and their habitat in weedy, structured waters which can lead to snags and lost lures. Using the right techniques and gear designed for heavy vegetation can mitigate these issues.


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Ava Mitchell

Hello! I'm Ava Mitchell, the face behind Fishing Fount alongside Sarah Lewis. My journey with fishing has taken me from the stillness of freshwater lakes to the vast expanse of the open sea. Each adventure, each cast, has taught me something new about this wonderful sport and the world beneath the water's surface. We created Fishing Fount to share our experiences, insights, and passion with fellow fishing enthusiasts. Whether you're just starting out or have been casting your line for years, I hope our website serves as a valuable wellspring of information and inspiration. Dive in with us as we explore the art and allure of fishing together.

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