One of my favorite fish to catch, pike put up one heck of a fight once you get them on your line. This aggressive fish acts predatory by nature, and they will attack anything in the water. In fact, in times of scarcity, northern pike have been known to cannibalize the smaller pike. For that reason, the mortality rate among this fish species is quite high.
In general, the best month to set your scopes on northern pike will be around May as they start to recover from their spawning. You will see this fish targeting the baitfish and the panfish during this time.
Part of the thing that makes pike a great target during this time comes from how the weed vegetation hasn’t grown high enough to where they can strike off ambushes. In addition, they haven’t seen a lure in six months, which makes them less cautious. Spring pike fishing time rolls around, and I have my fishing pole in the boat and ready to go!
Let’s have a look at how you can increase your success rate against northern pike.
Tackle to Catch Pike
You will find that you can catch pike on a variety of tackle that ranges. Some of the most common tackle to catch northern pike include:
- Live bait
- Dead bait
- Buzz baits
As you can see, northern pike will go after many types of baits, which is what makes them so darned fun to fish.
Don’t Be Afraid to Go Big
In general, northern pike act aggressively, and they have a reputation for targeting lures bigger than their stomach. Don’t be afraid to put a big lure on your rod. It will help you to catch some of the bigger pike, but you will still get some of the smaller ones as well. Sometimes, the smaller pike have been called snakes because of their long and thin body that resembles snakes. Bigger baits can be spotted from far off, which the pike will take off after.
Northern pike have even been known to go after things half their length. In general, you usually want to use a stinger treble in the back of your baitfish because of how pike have a reputation for taking the fish right in the middle. With stinger hooks, set the hook immediately, but with a single hook, you want to let the pike play with it a little before you set it to make sure he’s fully on it.
The Infamous Reputation of Northern Pike
Northern pike have a reputation as being some of the most aggressive fish out there. They’re not as elusive as their cousin, the muskellunge. Northern pike are hard to raise in fisheries because of how they tend to cannibalize on each other. In fact, if you put a bunch of northern pike in a fishery, what you will often have left at the end of the day is one giant pike that ate all the others.
What Kind of Live Baits to Pike Go After?
Some of the live baits that northern pike like to go after include:
- Smaller pike
Know the Size of Your Target Pike
Before you ever put a lure to the water, you should first understand the size of the northern pike that you want to catch. As we stated, you don’t have to be afraid to use a bigger lure when it comes to pike because of how they tend to target even the prey half their size. They will chase at nearly anything and bite it, which makes them a fun target.
Leave Stupid at Home: Stupidity and Pike Don’t Mix
Don’t play with northern pike. Keep your distance when you remove the hook, use gloves and a pliers to get the lure out of their mouth. You don’t want to do anything stupid where you would offer up a public display of affection to it. For example, a peck on the lips. In fact, one overjoyed Russian ice fisherman did this, and the pike wound up clamping onto his nose. In the end, they had to surgically remove his nose.
It may sound like common sense, but you should never try to kiss a northern pike on the lips. These fish have sharp teeth that can cause a lot of damage. When you’re taking them off the line, use your long needle nose pliers and a thick pair of gloves can’t hurt either.
Use a Net Bringing Them into the Boat
You have to think of how northern pike see you. They have just been hooked, and they’re ready to fight no matter the cost. For that reason, you want to use a net when you bring it into the boat. They can do some damage if you don’t take precautions as that last caution story with the Russian should highlight. Respect the fish. Slide the net under the fish to bring it aboard. It will be in a state of frenzy as you do this.
Trolling vs Casting
I think each choice has its virtues. Let’s have a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of each. First, trolling gives you the advantage of covering a lot of water all at once. You can find where the fish are hiding in this way. In addition, trolling provides you with a precise speed control that remains consistent and gives the lure a realistic appearance.
The disadvantage of trolling comes from how the fish don’t get evenly distributed across the lake. In fact, you will notice how certain areas have become a hot zone whereas other areas will be dead. The other disadvantage of trolling comes from how it uses gas.
Casting, on the other hand, has the advantage in that you can target a specific area to cast out and crank it back in. Not to mention, you get your exercise better through this method. However, casting can get tiring after a while, and if you’re in an area with no pike, you have even less chance of finding them with this method than with trolling where you cover a lot of ground.
Gaudy Lure Colors
One of the great things about northern pike is that they will attack just about anything. As visual feeders, they have been known to go after bright colored lures. What color you should use will depend on the day. Some of the ones that I have seen a lot of success from include bright orange, yellow, red and white.
Some of the most popular lures that pike will go after with gaudy colors include spinnerbaits, lipless cranks, inline spinners, buzz baits and walking baits. In addition, a lure that has a rattle has been known to become a target of northern pike. They also hunt on vibration, and they will sense it coming before attacking the lure.
Use Strong Line
You can’t use weak fishing line when fishing for northern pike. If you were previously fishing for sunfish, you will want to have stronger line. In general, you will want between 10 to 16 pound test to hold the vast majority of pike. You might upgrade to 20 pound test to be on the safe side.
Where to Search for Pike
When it comes to fishing for northern pike, you might search for pike right where a river enters a lake. You might also look in areas like near a dam, or you might search in cover areas where they might be hiding. Because northern pike tend to act aggressively toward everything, if you happen to cast a line in an area with them, you will know it.
A Voracious Appetite
Northern pike have a reputation for going after anything that they can wrap their jaws around. Some of the surprising things that they have been known to devour include:
- Baby ducks
Many times an angler will reel in a northern pike that has a wound from a previous pike attack. It’s not entirely uncommon. In their large mouths, they have up to 700 sharp teeth waiting to clamp down on prey. Pike have even eaten similar-sized members of their own whole.
In fact, to give you an idea of the legendary aggression and viciousness, female pike will even eat their own offspring, and if the male that they were reproducing with was of a smaller size, she will eat him too. You have few things not on the menu when it comes to this fish.
Because of the northern pike’s ravenous appetite, they have been know to get big fast. In fact, at one year’s old, they will have grown to 10 and 12 inches. Why do I tell you all these facts about the pike? I tell you this because I want you to intimately know this fish species so that you will have the best understanding for how to target it. If you want to know how to catch pike, you should understand their behavior to present them with something that will catch them.
Look for the Grassy Underwater Areas
Northern pike like to ambush their prey and attack them right in the middle. Because of this, they like to hide in grassy areas with any type of aquatic vegetation. It provides them with a hiding spot until they decide to speed out from the spot and eviscerate their prey.
To find the pike, you might look for them in bays and flats. Search anywhere where you might see a shallow or weedy area because they like to hide in these areas and wait for prey to run past. As this happens, they will attack them full force.
Over the summer months, you might hunt them in wild rice beds, along weed lines and pad fields.
Understanding Live Baits Better
You have some fishermen who like to use a specific kind of live bait because they have advantages. For example, nervous baitfish such as shiners have proven an awesome baitfish over suckers or chubs because of how their nervousness makes them a target to pike.
In general, when you fish near obstructions, you may want to use a bobber. Use a smaller bobber because it lowers the resistance that the pike will feel when it takes the bait.
Nothing Wrong with Trolling the Same Area Twice
Let’s say that you got a hit in a specific area. Even if you cranked the pike right into the boat, you may still want to go fishing that same area because you will sometimes find other pike in the surrounding area. As I said before, the fish don’t evenly distribute themselves on a lake. There will be some areas better for survival than others. In addition, the pike will tend to follow their prey. That means that you will often find other pike following the same area with the pike.
What Kind of Equipment to Make Pike Fishing Easier
You have a few different things that you might want when going pike fishing.
Some of the things to have alongside you for fishing for pike include:
- Fishing net
- Needle-nose pliers
- Fishing pole
Spoons for Northern Pike
As you drop a spoon or daredevil into the water, it will flutter as you retrieve it. This imitates the motion of an injured baitfish, which could be the reason that northern pike go after it. You may want to have several kinds of spoons in different colors because if they don’t bite on one, you can simply switch it over.
A personal favorite of mine when it comes to cranking in the pike, spinnerbaits make a fluttering motion that pike find irresistible. In addition, many spinnerbaits have the advantage of freeing themselves of weeds easily. You might want to make use out of this lure when you have heavy weed coverage because it will make fishing easier for you.
You fish jerkbaits in the same way that the name suggests, through jerking the pole to give a realistic appearance of a baitfish. Most of the time, you will let the jerkbait drop to the bottom and pick it back up. This becomes a great method for getting the attention of the surrounding fish. However, you don’t want to use the jerkbait in areas with heavy foliage because you will get caught on a lot.
Scout the Waters
Before you decide to start casting around, you may want to do some scouting. You might use aerial and depth maps to look for the places that have a bay, inlet or cover. These have become popular hiding places for northern pike. You might also seek out a shallow or marshy area between five to 10 feet of water. Places with undercut banks, fallen trees and submerged logs have all become popular hangouts for pike.
Important to note, just because you haven’t found a pike in the area at one point doesn’t mean that you can’t circle back around later to find one. In general, the areas that have a higher number of baitfish will also hide some northern pike nearby waiting for their opportunity moment to pick off a straggler.
Setting the Hook
I’ve often talked about setting the hook, but for a beginner, they may not know what this means. Setting a hook happens when you give your fishing pole a strong upward tug. You want to do this when you feel a northern pike strike your lure. You don’t have too worry too much about missing it because you will know when you have one on your line. It’s unmistakable, but you do have some strikes that will be more subtle. When you set your hook, it hooks the pike so that you can reel him in!
Missed a Strike?
Let’s say that you set the hook, but you missed your pike. Keep working with the lure. You have cases where the pike like to first play with the prey before gulping them down. In fact, the pike might hit itand spit it and attack it again. You might get a second or even a third opportunity to set your hook and crank that fish back into the boat.
In general, northern pike thrive because of their attitude that everything is on the menu. They’re one of my favorite fish to target. You should understand how northern pike behavior will differ with the seasons. While the activity gets red hot in the summer months, they start to slow down over the winter season.