Fishing Tips for Northern Pike
Anglers have a special affinity for northern pike. This most accommodating of fish bites readily during the daylight hours, sparing those in pursuit of fishing thrills the agony of rising before dawn. Northern pike while similar are far less wary than muskellunge: on average, it takes about eight hours of fishing to hook a northern, while anglers must log nearly 100 hours on the water to get a glimpse of a muskellunge.
Lots of people like to fish for northern pike. Because they are such voracious fish, they will attack lures and baits and are not too difficult to catch. When you fish for northerns, you will need to use a steel leader, (a short piece of steel line) at the end of your line. The pike's sharp teeth will cut easily through most fishing regular fishing line. Ice fishing is a very popular way to catch northerns. People like to use live minnows for bait, but in some areas it is against the law to use live minnows. Then pike anglers will use jigs or sometimes they will even cut a large hole in the ice and try to spear the fish as it swims past.
Effective lures and bait for pike are "LARGE" spoons, spinners, plugs or waterdogs. Pike can be taken on live bait (primarily large minnows) and all manner of artificial lures, either by trolling or casting. Large diving or topwater plugs, spoons - the red and white Daredevil is a classic - and spinners all produce. Because of the pike's sharp teeth, many anglers recommend the use of wire leaders.
Most fishermen use a fairly large hook, such as a No. 1 or No. 2 short-shanked single hook or a No. 1 or No. 1/0 treble attached to a steel leader one to three feet long. The steel leader keeps the northern's formidable teeth from cutting the line.
Tip-ups are the nearly unanimous choice among pike fishermen, although their rigs vary. They usually fill their spools with heavy braided line in the 20 to 50 pound-test range just in case they tie into one of the lunkers they dream about.
The best bait is a lively chub or large shiner hooked beneath the dorsal fin or a bluegill of about four inches. In some waters where live bait is prohibited, a piece of red meat, a dead minnow or a piece of smelt is used.
Most pike fishermen have the best success by keeping their bait about one foot off the bottom. On occasion, pike prowl just beneath the ice, and it is a good idea to set one or two lines to hold the bait about three feet below the ice. If the deep rigs have been unproductive all day, give the shallow setting a try on all tip-ups.
Fish for northern pike in marshy areas or weed beds when the water is cool the best times are late spring and early summer, late summer and early fall, and in winter soon after the ice forms. If you’re hoping to hook a northern when the water is warm, fish the cool depths. Northern pike feed by sight and bite best during the daylight hours; keep the bait moving and you’re sure to get a strike.
After a northern pike takes the bait, it will usually run a short distance, then swallow the bait. When using minnows, anglers should wait for this to happen before they set the hook. A northern pike may strike a lure repeatedly, or follow a lure right to the boat before charging.
Once hooked, the stubborn northern pike will challenge the angler by thrashing unseen down in the depths, then lying still on the bottom for long periods of time. Just as the angler becomes convinced that what he or she hooked was nothing more than a submerged tree, the northern pike will pull mightily on the line, careening around
submerged obstacles like a fish on the way to victory in an aquatic Grand Prix.
Seasonal Fishing Approaches for Northern Pike
Spring: Live or dead bait; spinnerbaits with Colorado blades; suspending stickbaits like Husky Jerks; muskie lures such as Bull Dawgs. After ice-out, fish are looking for spawning areas. Target the marshes, flooded areas, or shallow bays, especially the north and east shorelines where the water warms fastest.
Late Spring: Soft Plastics like Slug-Go or Berkley Gulps; buzzbaits; spinnerbaits, and smaller Muskie lures. Noisy, bright, crankbaits with a medium-fast retrieve near vegetation and rock points; occasionally "pump" the lure on the retrieve. Fish deeper/cooler water, near weed lines, downed trees and stump fields.
Summer: The summer bite is very slow. Try Mepps spinners or large wiggling crankbaits with rattles. Fish the thermocline or springs entering water in the mornings. Look for springs and cool feeder creeks. Lakes are stratified and fish will stay in colder water near the thermocline but will rise up to feed.
Fall: Spinnerbaits; buzzbaits; large brightly colored deep-diving crankbaits bouncing off the bottom.Skim the top of vegetation and deepwater structures. In cooler temperatures pike cruise weed beds looking for their next meal.
Winter: Large minnows and suckers through ice; Daredevil, bluefox, and other small wobbling spoons and spinnerbaits. Dead bait fished near the bottom under a bobber. Cast with a slow retrieve. Pike are cruising the shorelines, bays, and shallow bars looking for suitable spawning areas with aquatic vegetation.
Northern Pike Fishing