Northern Pike are an aggressive fish that will pretty much attack anything you throw at them.
While they are not present in all areas of the United States they are in a large amount of the U.S and Canada.
These fish while aggressive, are also large and will quite often put up a hell of a fight.
If you’re looking to spice up your fishing life, I suggest giving Pike a Try.
Why Fish For Northern Pike
The Northern Pike is a great game species to fish for many reasons. Most experienced anglers want a fish that will put up a fight. The Northern Pike fits the bill in this respect.
Secondly, Pike tend to be a large fish, growing to be well over 30 inches in length. Lastly, Pike are found is a pretty much all rivers, streams, and lakes throughout Canada and the northern United States.
Pike are an aggressive fish that attacks fast and hard. Unlike Trout, Pike are a sit and wait type of fish. Meaning they will often sit in weeded areas and wait for their prey to come into range.
The great thing about these fish is they will pretty much attack anything. Artificial or natural it doesn’t really matter to them. This makes them a great fish to target for both experienced and new anglers.
Pike is more often than not olive green with shading from yellow to white along their belly. Their sides are often peppered with yellow bar-like spots, with tight groupings of black spots along the edge of their fins.
Younger Pike will have yellow stripes on a green body. Over time the stripes will break up and their color will become the more traditional olive green.
Pike are typically found in sluggish streams and shallow, weedy places, Pike can be found in waters from 2’ - 15’ deep. These fish are right at home, hidden among aquatic vegetation as well as in rocky areas in colder water.
Pike are an ambush predator and will remain still, hidden within vegetation. Patiently waiting for the right prey to come along.
These fish can pretty much be found in any body of water that contains fish. However, a suitable place for spawning is necessary. This is mainly due to the cannibalistic nature of the Pike. Young Pike need a place to hide so that they can avoid being eaten.
The Northern Pike can be found throughout most of Canada (though finding them in the eastern territories is rare) and the northern and middle parts of the United States. They can even be found in parts of northern Texas and northern New Mexico.
Pike also exist throughout Russia and Europe as well.
Some effort in the United States has been made to stock them in western lakes, but this often leads to trouble, as Pike threaten other species of fish such as Bass and Trout.
Northern Pike Tackle Considerations
One of the best-known characteristics of Pike is their sharp teeth. When fishing for Northern Pike it’s best to leave the monofilament at home and instead opt for braided line. A pike’s teeth will cut monofilament with no issue.
15 - 20-pound braid is fine for catching small and large Pike. If you want to use monofilament, I would suggest using a steel leader with it.
Rod and Reel Setup
When it comes to selecting a rod and reel for Pike, many anglers will tell you a baitcaster is the only way to go. Mainly because of the smooth drag you often get with a baitcaster.
Don’t get me wrong, baitcasters are great and if you have one you should use it. However, I am here to tell you, you can do just fine with a decent spinning rod and reel setup.
As for the rod, you will want a medium - heavy rod. You want a rod that has a lot of backbone toward the bottom and kind of flimsy towards the top. Honestly, the new Ugly Stik GX2’s tend to serve this purpose well.
The common rhetoric is to catch large Pike you have to throw large lures. I don’t know if I actually believe that or not. I can certainly see the logic behind it. As with any fish species you are targeting, it’s going to be a lot of trial and error. Let the Pike tell you what they want.
Pike Baits Live vs Artificial
When it comes to Pike, bait selection is pretty easy. They will pretty much eat anything including but not limited to small mammals, worms, crayfish, other fish (including their own species), minnows, and frogs.
Imitation baits will work just as well as live bait. The choice is yours rather you want to use live or artificial bait. Again it is a matter of trial and error.
For artificial baits the best ones to use include:
Crankbaits - Use deep diving crankbaits in deeper water and jointed float baits when fishing shallow water. Crankbaits can also be trolled, which will cause a disturbance in the water that acts as an attractant for hungry Pike.
Spoons - Go big or go home. Larger spoons typically work well in deeper water. Spoons usually have a shiny side that helps to get the Pike’s attention. Spoons also work great for trout!
Poppers and Topwater Baits - These types of lures typically work better in shallow water. A nice mouse topwater bait is great to work over a weed bed in shallow water. Remember Pike will often eat small mammals.
Finding Northern Pike
Ice-out and Spring
Spring tends to be one of the best times to start fishing for Pike. In early Spring when ice is still on the lake, Pike will begin to move to shallower water to start spawning. Pike are the first freshwater fish to start spawning. Spawning typically starts once the water temperature hits anywhere from 38 - 50 degrees.
Once Pike start spawning they will often move to the back of large bays, then into smaller bays, and eventually into streams where they can fit. Pike will remain in these smaller creeks for a few weeks after spawning.
Finding areas to search is pretty easy. Simply find a satellite view of your lake and look for where streams and creeks flow into the lake. This is where you will want to start your search. Pike typically use the streams as highways to move in and out of an area.
While walking the stream be on the lookout for any potholes you may come across. Pike tend to use these potholes as nurseries. During the spawn, this will be prime Pike area. If you find a small stream or a small bay with Cattails this is another great place to throw a line in and search for Pike.
Summer Deep Water
Pike are typically a cold water fish, so come summer Pike will often move to deeper waters. This makes locating them fairly simple as there are only a few places they will be.
You will want to look for deep well-oxygenated water with a decent forage supply. Structures like channels, rock points, and ledges will be your go-to for finding summer pike.
When looking for pike you will want to look for water depths that are roughly between 10 and 25 foot. Use a lure that works well at the depth and provides a good amount of flash. That will really help you attract Pike.
Fall Feeding Frenzy
As the air turns crisp and thoughts of hunting start to come to our minds instead of fishing, a true Pike fisherman knows that this is prime time.
It is during the fall when Pike really start to ramp up feeding, in anticipation of winter. Fall is the season of heavyweight pike. Once October rolls around, skinny pike will be a thing of the past.
As the season changes, Pike will be on the move again. As their typical beds to start to become brown and die, they will move to greener weed beds. This is because green weeds produce oxygen. This means that larger Pike will be gathering in continually smaller and smaller areas.
Another place to look for Pike during the fall will be in rocky areas. Whitefish and Criscoes tend to spawn during the Fall and Pike will be taking advantage of the spawn, trying to bulk up for winter.
Northern Pike Odds and Ends
Don't Lip Them...Bring pliers
When dealing with Pike, you never want to get to close to their mouth. It is best to bring a long pair of needle nose pliers and even jaw spreaders to remove your hook.
Use Bright Colors and Make Noise
Pike are visual hunters and tend to be attracted to brighter colors. Colors like white and orange tend to work well. Also, lures that create a lot of vibration also tend to work quite well also.
Go big or go home
A Pike’s eyes are often bigger than their stomach. Don’t be afraid to use larger baits. Larger baits tend to catch larger fish. But again Pike will pretty much attack anything you put in front of them. Especially during the Fall months when they are in a feeding frenzy.
Fishing for Northern Pike is a fun and exciting time. Pike are aggressive, they attack indiscriminately, and they can be found throughout most of the United States.
Pike are one of the first freshwater fish to spawn in the spring, and that means it is prime time for the Pike angler to start hitting the lake. After females finish spawning they will become hungry and more aggressive. This is the time to try and catch a trophy Pike.
While most people in the fall start thinking about deer season, true anglers know that the Pike is gearing up for winter and it’ll be prime time once again to be hitting the lake looking for another trophy fish.
Regardless of your experience level, Pike can be caught by novice and experienced anglers alike. This makes them a great fish to target and a whole lot of fun.
If you found this article helpful please share it on social media so others can learn about these amazing fish and hopefully get in on the sport as well.
As always thanks for reading and remember…..adventure is waiting.