Northern Pike are the apex predators in Crotch Lake; not only because of their ferociousness and tenacity but because of their size. You may be asking yourself; how can big trophy Northern Pike be in a lake that far south in Eastern Ontario? Under normal circumstances your thoughts would be true. Their name itself suggests that Pike are a northern fish. Crotch Lake is different from most other lakes in the region.
Generally, in Southern and Eastern Ontario, water in most lakes is much warmer than in the far north and by summer they contain higher amounts of suspended organic particles and algae. With many lakes in rural areas this effect is accelerated by nitrate run-off from farms. These water conditions are a breading ground for diseases and parasites that are deadly to Northern Pike such as Black Spot Disease and Lymph Sarcoma. As a result, it is very rare for a Northern Pike to live over ten years old in the south or the east. Lakes that are higher elevation or have cool or cold streams running into them escape this summer heating and infestation. Crotch Lake is one of those lakes. Crotch Lake is located on the Frontenac Highlands and at this higher elevation the lake experiences cooler temperatures. It has a deep 103-foot center full of cold water, which moderates water temperatures in the lake all summer. The lake also has many feeder streams. Most of all the lake is constantly refreshed with clean clear water from the Mississippi River. With clean water in Crotch Lake Northern Pike live much longer and reach sizes well over forty inches.
It's not just the water that produces big Pike, it's the food. Crotch Lake has an extremely high population of other species of fish that Pike feed on. In the shallows the Northern Pike are generally smaller and feeding on small bass, sunfish and small Walleyes. If you head into the back bays and work the weeds you will catch many Northerns up to 26" all day long. They are extremely common in this size range. As the Pike get bigger they tend to hang off into deeper water or go to the rocky points leading into weedy bays. In these areas you have a very good chance at catching a few Pike in the 26" to 36" range. On occasion the shallows produce big trophy Northern Pike but most of the time the big Northerns just follow the lure to the boat and turn away, which can be very frustrating. You might be asking the question; why only catch the big ones on occasion and why do they just follow the lure without striking. Here is the answer to your question.
On Crotch Lake; most of the large Northern Pike over 40 inches get caught deep by guests who are Walleye fishing. Since most Walleye fisherpersons don't use steel leaders they often lose their jigs to Pike never knowing how big it was. If you talk to a Northern Pike fishing fanatic, they will tell you that if you are hunting for a big trophy Northern Pike in a lake that has Whitefish you have to go deep. Whitefish are a deep-water fish and they are an oily fish. A large Northern Pike can consume three times the calories with the same expenditure of energy when targeting whitefish vs. feeding on bass, Walleye or Suckers. The big Pike stage off of rocky points and sunken reefs in the same areas where the summer Walleyes congregate. Then they take off into the deep to feed on Whitefish like an Air Force Sortie. After they have fed most Pike will return to the reefs in the 20 to 30-foot range. Sometimes a big Northern Pike with a belly full of Whitefish will swim up into the shallow warm water and sun themselves; thus getting the nickname Gators. People call them Gators because they look like alligators floating around in the weeds. Guests often see these gators but only experience frustrating follows because the Pike are no longer feeding. They still have the instinct to follow the lure and on occasion they will strike. Many people believe the huge Northern Pike temporarily go into the shallow warm water to help with digestion.
Another quality of Crotch Lake that needs to be considered is the low fishing pressure. Crotch Lake is located in a protected wilderness area, which is called the North Frontenac Parklands. It has been protected from development with only one drive-to campground at the very north-end and two lodges at the very south-end, which includes Land O' Lake Lodge. All three were grandfathered into the park. The lake has only four cottages; rather it is a Mecca for wilderness canoeist with backcountry campsites along the shore. It's very much like fishing in a Provincial Park. Only a few canoeists participate in serious fishing thus keeping the Northern Pike population high. Combine this with modern catch-&-release attitudes and you are looking at a Northern Pike fishery that is going to keep getting better every year with the availability of Trophy Northern Pike increasing.
95% of our guests come to Crotch Lake for the fantastic bass and Walleye fishing. Most big trophy Northern Pike are caught by accident because our guests are not targeting them. Still, every year we get a few Northern Pike caught and released in the 40" to 43" range. It is impossible to say how many trophy Northern Pike you will catch if you are targeting them for a whole week but we feel your chances are very good at getting at least one. If you adapt the deep water Pike tactics that we explain on our Northern Pike fishing tips page and combine them with your own experience and knowledge, you should be successful. Realistically, ten times the amount of trophies would be caught if more guests spent more time fishing for Pike.
Crotch Lake is a big lake and it has an endless supply of food for Northern Pike. Big lakes produce big fish. The lake has the right water conditions and the structure of the lake is perfect for Northern Pike. With this in mind we feel it's just a matter of time before one of our guests catches a Monster Northern Pike close to the 50" mark.