Northern Pike Fishing Tips & Tactics
Northern Pike, like any fish, have their up-&-down days because of weather and atmospheric pressure. Generally Northern Pike are very easy to catch and hit almost any lure. On Crotch Lake you can go into the back weedy bays with a weedless Johnston Silver Minnow and catch them all day long up to twenty-six inches. Most people specifically targeting Northern Pike are trying to catch a trophy. There is plenty of trophy Northern Pike over forty inches in Crotch Lake; you just need to know their location and use the right tactics to catch them.
Where the Northern Pike Are Located:
The lures and baits you use are less important than recognizing where the big Northern Pike are located. Smaller pike are generally hiding near the weeds or in the back of bays where it's shallow. The bigger pike in the twenty-six to thirty-six-inch range will be near the points leading into bays or around structure. Most Northern Pike are ambush predators so they use the rocky points leading into bays because that's were you will find small Walleyes, bass and minnows. You will also find them at the mouth of feeder streams or the mouths of narrow passages where feeder fish are migrating through. Points leading into these types of structures are always a great place to start because there could be holding Northern Pike over forty inches. Casting Daredevils, Thomson Pike Spoons, Mepps Syclops, Mepps Muskie Killers, Johnson Silver Minnow and light shallow-running spinnerbaits should produce results. You can cast Rapalas, Thundersticks, crank baits and rattle baits but the problem with these lures is they have multiple small treble hooks. If you use these lures you will spend half your day removing your lure from the pike's mouth and you are more likely to cause harm to the fish. If you don't have proper jaw openers and long needle-nose pliers you will end up slicing your hands apart as Northern Pike have teeth that are sharper than razor blades. Using lures with one big treble or single hook is best because you can shake the fish off at the boat most time.
The bigger Northern Pike are not always at the points. Sometimes a really large trophy pike will move into the area and take over the whole bay and at the same time chase all the other pike out. When you approach a point leading into the bay and you cast your lure at the points with no hits, it may be because the pike is sitting off in deeper water at the face of the bay. The first thing to do is when you cast at the points let your lure slap the water and make noise. If you are using floating lures let them sit on the surface for a while before reeling in and give the lure violent jerks so it makes some splashing noise. This may bring the pike out of the deeper water and towards the points to investigate. If you do not get any hits at the points, try casting across the face of the bay so your lure passes both points and over the deeper water at the face of the bay. As your lure starts to go over deeper water stop reeling and let you lure sink a few feet. While your lure is sinking you can jerk the line to give it some action.
A big Northern Pike is also more attracted to baitfish that are swimming into the bay. The pike thinks of the bay as a giant minnow trap. If you quietly move your boat into the back of the bay and then cast out past the points and reel your lure back into the bay this might trigger a strike. Large Northern Pike tend to sit off in deeper water at the face of the bay but when they are really hungry they swim to the outside of the points and then chase baitfish into the bay where it's harder for them to escape and they become more concentrated.
If you look at Diagram 1 you will see arrow lines showing how a pike goes to the outside of the points and then corals the baitfish into the bay while cutting off their escape. This attack is usually launched from the deeper water out in front of the bay.
Best Lure Colors for Northern Pike:
Northern Pike are all different and react to different colors. If you are not getting hits on one lure you either change the lure or change the color. You never know what they are hitting best that day. The most popular colors are yellow five-of-diamonds, red-&-white, red-&-black, fire tiger, pink, black-&-white, perch color, gold-&-black and all white. Many Northern Pike hunters feel that if it's a bright day use a silver-backed spoon and if it's a dull day use a copper-backed spoon.
Fly- Fishing for Northern Pike:
Many people don't believe you can catch a twenty-pound pike on a fly but actually; fly-fishing for pike is gaining popularity quickly because so many people are finding success. The advantage of fly-fishing for Northern Pike is the ability to drop a bait into a clear patch of water that is contained within a thick weed bed or being able to drop it among Lily Pads. The most popular pike flies are as followed:
· Barry Reynolds Pike Bunny
· English Pike Fly
· Mickey Finn Streamer
· Whistler Fly
· Shiner Flies
· Red & White Pike Fly
· Rabbit Strip Pike Bunny
Top Water Baits:
The most fun way to fish for Northern Pike is with top-water baits. Poppers, blade streamers, jitterbugs, hula poppers, rubber frogs, rubber minnow, rubber twister tails and spooks are all very popular. With all top water baits, the secret is to cast up high so the lure hits the surface of the water with force and makes a splash. It's the splash that will get the attention of the pike. Don't reel in right away. Let your lure float on top and give it a few violent jerks to make the lure look like an injured frog or bird. Then reel in a few feet and then stop; giving the lure a couple more jerks. This usually gets the pike excited and the pike will smash the lure causing a big splash or swirl at the surface. Northern Pike may go after your lure several times and put on quite a show before you hook them.
A top water bait that is the most fun and takes a little skill to master is the spook. There is a specific motion that needs to be achieved to get maximum results. The Heddon Lure Company was established in 1898 but they did not introduce the Zara Spook until 1932. It was originally designed as a top water lure for Tarpon and then later smaller versions were produced for Largemouth Bass. By the 1950s it was one of the top Northern Pike Lures being used by pike hunters. The spook was a very popular lure until the 1980s when an explosion of new lures hit the market. Now in present day the spook has made a comeback and learning how to use them to get the right motion is critical.
Top-Water Pike Fishing Using a Spook:
Top-water fishing for Northern Pike with a Heddon Spook is an art-form that seems to have been lost and needs to be carried on. There is no fishing method for Pike that is more exciting then working the surface with a Spook and getting those Monster Pike splashing at the surface.
You have to cast your Spook out. The perfect spot to cast a Spook is over-top a thick weed bed that is just under the surface, in between patches of lily pads or along side Bulrushes. The whole purpose is to be able to fish in places that are not practical for other lures.
Once your Spook hits the surface, don't start reeling in yet. Give it a couple of yanks so it makes splashes on the surface like a wounded frog or bird. Many times the Pike will hit the Spook before you start reeling in.
This is the tricky part. You have to hold your rod up as high as you can and pull the line tight so your fishing line is not in the water or even touching the surface. Your line has to be out of the water or the Spook will not make the proper motion when you reel it in.
Start to reel in slowly at a constant speed. While reeling in you have to jerk your rod every second. When you jerk your rod, the Spook will slide to one side. When you jerk it again, it should slide to the other side in a crisscrossing motion. You have to get a rhythm going. As you are slowly reeling in while jigging the lure, your Spook splashes from side-to side and this drives the Pike crazy. Below is an animation of the proper motion.
Deep Water Trophy Pike Fishing:
Crotch Lake is a big lake and it has big Northern Pike. Most seasoned trophy Northern Pike hunters will tell you that you have to fish deeper for big northerns, especially later in the summer because by mid-August just about all the big pike are deep.
The really impressive trophy size Northern Pike focus on deep water to hunt for schools of Cisco and Whitefish. The pike can get three times the calories from a Whitefish vs. other shallow-water species of the same size. It's because the Whitefish has a lot more oil in their skin and meat than Walleyes or bass have. Our Walleye fishing guests who are jigging the twenty to thirty-foot ridges will testify to this. It seems most of the trophy pike get caught deep while Walleye fishing. If you use your depth finder and find these deep ridges; there is a good chance that a big pike hanging around. What the pike do is use these reefs as launching points to take off into the deep for short periods of time to catch Whitefish. You have two choices; you can fish the deep reef or fish the deeper water where the Whitefish are. Whitefish are usually found between fifty and sixty feet deep.
To fish the reef, you just need to sink your bait down so it's just off bottom or suspended just out from the reef. You can use a jig-head and rubber, you can jig ice-fishing spoons or you can get a big minnow on a hook and sink it down. Northern Pike hit just about any lure. These reefs are usually too small to keep trolling back and forth over so fishing straight down is the most effective.
Three-way Swivel Trolling Deep for Pike:
If you want to spend some time down deep where the Whitefish are you can back-troll slowly with a 3-way swivel rig. Just remember to always use steel leaders. A Northern Pike's teeth can go through the thickest monofilament or braded line like butter. Using the 3-way swivel rig you need to use lighter lures. Using a big heavy Daredevles will not work because in order to go fast enough for the lure to work means you are going too fast for the rig and you will never find bottom. You can go to stores like Wal-Mart and buy cheap generic versions of DareDevles that are much thinner and lighter. Other light spoons such as William's Wobblers and MooseLook Spoons work good. Any light fluttering Lake Trout spoon will work. There is a new thin light-weight Mepps Syclops on the market. It is not available in Canada yet and can only be bought in the USA. A light weight Syclops would be a killer pike lure down deep.
If you are using your heavy pike rod with heavier line you may need to go to a three ounce weight because of the extra friction the line will have with the water. We suggest a three ounce weight. You will also need a three-way swivel, a steel leader and a light weight pike lure. Tie the rig as shown in the diagram.
Dropping the Three-Way-Swivel Rig Down Deep
Do not cast the rig and don't let it free fall to the bottom or it just gets all tangled. Place the rig just under the surface of the water, un-lock your bail and slowly reel backwards fifty times. This should get you fifty feet down and in the strike zone. If you feel the sinker hit bottom reel up a foot or two. If you have a bigger boat that is not equipped with an electric motor you may have to go with a heavier weight or abandon trying this technique all together. If you can get down deep try trolling past structure or along the contour of the shore in the fifty to sixty-foot range. When you get a strike set the hook hard. The think amount catching a deep-water Northern Pike is many times they don't start fighting until just under the surface and can catch you off guard. If you think you are dragging a stick up from the depths treat it like it's a big pike about the freak out on you.
Lets say its sixty-five feet deep and you can see on your depth finder that there is a school of fish at fifty-five feet. To know exactly where your lure is slowly drop the rig down until you hit bottom and then reel in approximately ten feet. Then you know your lure is in the strike zone.