Let’s have a look at the best pike fishing tips for beginners. Using this guide, you will learn how to crank in the monstrous 40-pound northern pike that put up some of the best fights in the water.
What Does a Northern Pike Look Like?
You can easily distinguish a northern pike based on its dark brown body, yellow spots and a white underbelly.
Pike differ from muskellunge in that muskies will have pores on the underside of their lower jaw meant to detect nearby vibrations. This can warn them of prey or predators to be wary of. If you count five or fewer pores near the sides of the jaw, you have a pike. If you count six or more, then you have a muskie.
How to Hook the Big One
As it is with pike fishing for beginners, you may not be aware of how to hook the pike. When you feel a strike on your lure, you will want to jerk the rod back to set the hook. This will put the northern pike on your line, and you will have the beginning of a wicked battle between man and fish.
Hooking the big one comes down to preparation for when the strike hits your rod. It’s an unmistakable feeling. You don’t want to set the hook too early, or you could miss your meal and too late and you’ll miss it altogether. Covering a lot of water is good because of how it can help you to cover more ground. This gives you a higher chance that you will hook the big one. Many times, the bigger northern pike won’t be hunting in the same places where all the other northern pike like to hunt.
Troll to Learn the Strike Zones
Trolling in a boat with a buddy can be one of the most memorable experiences that you can have while fishing. Let’s say that you don’t know a lake real well. You can choose to troll over the water to cover a vast body of water.
After a while, you will get a sense for where the northern pike like to strike, and you might troll this area exclusively. You will find that it works because you will get a lot of strikes in this area.
When you go fishing for northern pike, a lot of it comes down to location. This differs from fishing for carp in the sense that northern pike are predator fish. This means that putting out spod mix to draw them in won’t work. Instead, you have to take your fishing efforts to them. Northern pike hunt where their prey go, which means that they follow the prey.
What Do Northern Pike Feed On?
Northern pike feed on most things that they can wrap their jaws around. Some of the things that they feed on include:
- Largemouth bass
Northern pike are such an aggressive species that they will even cannibalize on younger northern pike. In most cases, when northern pike strike, they will attack their prey headfirst. Using this style of attack, pike can swallow fish with sharp gills and fins more easily. While the muskie will start to fade in its feeding habits once the winter season hits, northern pike stay strong with its feeding habits throughout the year.
I love to target this species because of how they’re not finicky like the walleye or carp. In addition, when you go to crank in a northern pike, they put up a splendid fight. These monsters can grow to especially large size in areas where they don’t experience as much fishing pressure. The average length will be anywhere from 16 to 22 inches, but you can crank in some fish giants. The maximum record for a northern pike is 59 inches. Meanwhile, the average muskellunge will measure anywhere from 24 inches up to 48 inches. Nevertheless, you have recorded cases where muskie’s reached 6 feet long.
Fish the Right Spots
If you happen to be trolling through an area without pike, you won’t catch any. You can normally find them through finding where their prey likes to hide. It may seem obvious, but in this pike guide for beginners, we will warn you that if you fish where the pike aren’t, you won’t catch any.
To understand where to fish for them, look at the list of prey that I previously outlined. If you can see a lot of prey like this near the area, you will most likely have northern pike lurking in the shadows waiting for the right moment to strike a meal–it’s time the hunter became the hunted, boys.
Another great rule is that if you know where the pike are hiding, don’t leave the area if they stop biting. Instead, you can catch more northern pike through switching baits to see what they will find the most attractive.
Where to Find the Northern Pike
We recommend that you use this as a general rule of thumb, but you shouldn’t let it stop you from checking other places either.
Pike like to go after silverfish, and for that reason, you should look for roach and rudd because silverfish feed off roach and rudd. In addition, you will often find them in areas of the water where they have a more consistent temperature.
Look for features on the lake such as weedy areas, ledges or bars. Especially over the fall season, northern pike like to nestle in among the weeds as a type of camouflage. During the winter season, most fish will slow down drastically, and northern pike are no exception. You tend to find them in water between 10 to 15 feet deep, and you may have to switch your tactics up during this season.
On the river, you should look for pike near alcoves and inlays because they like to hide here waiting to attack their prey. Some fishermen even recommend that you place a dead bait close by to lure them out of hiding.
Let’s say that despite everything, you still can’t manage to locate the northern pike. We’d recommend that you look for the silverfish because pike love to feed off them. In addition, look for small birds or other small fish because you can usually count on hunting near these areas.
Be Careful of Your Hand
After you have caught a northern pike, you have to watch out for pike because they use their jaws to crush and dismember their prey. After you have caught a pike, you may want to put on some gloves and use a pliers to dislodge the hook from its mouth. This can be a tricky business. You don’t want to get your hand caught in its mouth full of teeth.
Maintain control of the pike with both hands. Just when you think this fish goes docile, it sweeps back into striking action that can leave some serious marks on your hand.
How to Bait Northern Pike
Before you choose a bait, you should first look at the laws and regulations of your state. You don’t want to deal with a big fine from the DNR. You have a couple of different baits that have become popular for use like:
- Dead baits
- Live baits
You have one golden rule when it comes to choosing a bait to catch a northern pike. That rule is, “Know the size of the pike that you want to catch and choose the bait accordingly.”
Not only are pike predators, they also tend to be scavengers as well. You have a number of available dead baits when it comes to northern pike and what works one day might not work the next because of how the tastes of the pike change with the season. Some of the available dead baits include:
- Frozen mackerel
- Small whitefish
The pike go wild for mackerel because of how it has a high oil content and smells attractive them. Some types of dead bait will be better than others. Soft-rayed fish, for example, will make great bait because of how they have lots of natural oil in the skin, and their flesh makes the best dead bait. The natural oils enter the waters to catch the attention of the pike.
Most likely, the most accessible dead bait that you will find are suckers. They can be bought at almost any bait shop in the country. The sucker is the most popular, but some of the other great choices include small whitefish, alewives and chubs. If you choose a smaller minnow, it might tempt some of the non-target fish and the smaller pikes. That may be fine if that’s what you want, but otherwise, you may want to use a bigger type of dead bait. Sucker minnows will usually be anywhere from 8 to 12 inches in length. If you have leftover dead bait, you can refreeze it again.
When it comes to the best hook size for pike, you will want 3/0 in treble hooks, 2/0 or 1/0 in partridge style hooks. A larger hook usually has the advantage that you will hook more fish and get them into the boat. That’s because larger hooks usually go deeper into the throat, and this makes it easier for you to release them.
At what point should you employ dead bait? In general, this works best when you set it up so that the minnow hangs horizontal in the water. It will sit anywhere from 1 to 2 feet off the bottom of the water. In addition, it works especially well in areas where you have a lot of weed coverage.
Dead bait works especially well in the early spring. During this time, you will often catch northern pike desperate for food.
You can get live baits in many shapes and sizes, and you have some fishermen who swear by using this method. People have used anything from small insects to small fish to lure in the pike.
As another general rule of thumb, the larger the lake, the larger the bait that you should choose.
The live baits are like the dead baits in that the pike will often go for the same type of fish, except they’re alive. When choosing a bait, do some research on where you plan to go fishing.
To bait a hook with live bait, you have a fairly straightforward process. Attach two hooks and use a single leader. You will also tie a wire to the end of it. Not only does this increase the strength of the line to keep it from snapping, it also keeps the northern pike from coming around and biting the line to free itself.
In many cases, pike like to strike their prey right in the center. As they do this, they will carry it away, but they will often spit it out and eat it head-first at that point because it will either be much weaker or dead.
You have a number of different types of lures, and one of the advantages of using a lure when fishing is how you don’t have to constantly replenish your source. You can reuse a daredevil for many years. With live bait, eventually, it becomes dead bait. Meanwhile, there comes a point with dead bait where you can’t use it anymore. That’s not the case with lures.
Some of the most popular lures for catching northern pike include:
First, let’s have a look at daredevils and the advantages and disadvantages of this lure. In the hands of a master angler, you will crank in the fish like no one else. As simple as a lure can get, the both Chinese and the Egyptians fashioned up this lure back in 2,000 BC. At that time, they were made from bone and wood, but today, they’re largely made from steel and plastic. This
Spoons make an awesome lure for a beginner pike angler because of how you can simply cast them out and get started. You don’t have to do anything too complicated. The spoon does most of the work, and you simply wait for a strike. Spoons offer precision, and at the same time, you might catch some bass, trout or muskies as well. If you want to start from fishing tradition, spoons offer you the start of it all.
Spinnerbaits are one of the most popular lures when it comes to catching a northern pike. You have a couple of advantages that stem right from the design of them. First, you have to understand how pike have a hyper sensitivity to the vibrations in the waters. That’s one of the reasons that you should never let your fishing pole rest on a vibrating boat because it can scare them off.
You have a safety pin style that comes with spinnerbaits. The wire often acts as a hook guard as it works around weeds and other obstacles. Spinnerbaits have the advantage around weeds. You might use this particular bait to troll along a weed line or drop off with some success.
As you crank in the spinnerbait, you want to reel it in fast enough to where it looks realistic. The trick to catching more pike with a spinnerbait is to just lightly nick the top of the weeds. As the blades spin and throb and vibrate, it mimics the prey that northern pike like to go after.
Essential Pike Fishing Tackle
In this pike fishing for beginners guide, we want to outline some of the most important things that you should have in your tacklebox. Some of the things that you need to have in your tacklebox include:
- Wire-trace with 28 pounds of breaking strain
- Minimum 15-pound mainline fishing line for northern pike
- Treble hooks
- Free spool type of reel (recommended but not necessary)
In general, if you already had carp angling fishing tackle, you could most likely get by with that.
Best Time to Catch Northern Pike
You can catch northern pike at any time of the day, but they tend to come alive from dawn until two hours before sunrise. Meanwhile, they also tend to come alive in the later afternoon two hours before dark. Northern pike have keen daytime vision, and they often scope out their prey before the prey even notices them.
Covering as Much Ground as Possible
Let’s say that you have a hard time with finding the pike. One of the things that you can do is to troll in the boat and cover as much ground as possible. As soon as you notice a strike, take a mental note of it because you will often find more northern pike in this area if you continue trolling there.
Most fishermen have praised trolling as one of the best ways for figuring out where the fish hide.
Spring Pike Fishing
In the spring of the year, the northern pike will most likely be coming off from the winter season. They will move more slowly, so you might want to choose a bait that will be slower moving. As stated previously, using a dead bait during this time has been known to work especially well. You might use shallow-diving plugs and jigs. During this season, pike most likely won’t feel up to exerting a lot of energy.
Summer Pike Fishing
As the water temperatures heat up, northern pike come alive, and they grow more aggressive than any other season. In general, northern pike have a tendency of gobbling down the baits during this time. You can use either live baits or dead baits with incredible success. In addition, a lot of fishermen have had luck with lures during this time.
Autumn Pike Fishing
As the winter comes, the weeds will start to turn brown and die, and you will have less oxygen and food in this area. That will prove a less attractive spot for pike. Instead, look for the weeds that remain green because the pike will often like to hide here. During this time, you might find it advantageous to fish on the outer weed beds. In this way, you can still catch fish without scaring the others.
Winter Pike Fishing
Over the winter season, northern pike will act less aggressive than their normal way. You might find it advantageous to use live bait during this season. Pike also tend to be more active when you have more light, which is why northern pike have a tendency to have a lot of activity on lakes with a lot of light in the winter months. They aren’t as active in muddy waters.
Using Jerk Baits
In general, using jerk baits during the middle of the day will have the most success, especially in the mid spring. Even some of the larger pike will hit these smaller baits. You want to use small pops on the bait instead of using a hard and abrupt jerk because it will help it to look more realistic. This especially becomes an advantageous choice to a beginner.
Fish the Northern Bays in the Morning
The northern bays of the lake will warm up first over the southern bays. That’s because the sun will hit this area directly during this time. Especially if you’re out fishing at early sunlight before dawn, this can give you a strict advantage, and keep you warmer as well.
Attract Them through Scents
Adding some kind of scent to your bait can make it easier to attract northern pike. You don’t necessarily need anything special to use scents to catch them. You should also beware of unnatural odors and keep them off the baits because of how it can repel the fish. The leader in products for fish scents is called Pro-Cure. They make their scents from oils from alewives, herring, smelt, leeches, nightcrawlers and real crayfish.
Most anglers believe that if they use scented products they don’t have to add scent to it, but these products work great on both live baits and lures. You want a long-lasting and attractive scent to the fish in the water.
Hopefully this guide to pike fishing for beginners has helped you to improve your fishing. Understanding the fish that you hunt for can go a long way in helping you to catch more. In general, the female northern pike will normally be larger than the male northern pike. These fish are extremely aggressive. When there’s not enough food, these fish will often resort to cannibalism, which has become one of the reasons that northern pike often suffer a relatively high young mortality rate.