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Fishing Nasty Northern Pike

By Jack Phillips

Finding and catching small northern pike is relatively easy. They spend most of their time in shallow, weedy areas from 2 to 15 feet deep. But catching those nasty monster northern pike is not as simple. They are found among the smaller pike during the spring, but as it warms up in the summer they move into deeper water, 15 to 30 feet or more. Fishing for these big fish becomes more difficult because they are more scattered. Summer angling for northern pike is also difficult if the water becomes too warm. If pike cannot find cooler water they do not eat as frequently or eat very little.

Northern pike are best fished during the daylight hours. They are rarely caught while fishing later at night but it does happen.

The mature northern pike generally stay in one area, hiding in weedy cover waiting for that bait fish or hopefully your enticing lure or bait. Typically northern pike lay motionless waiting in ambush in the weeds or near submerged cover like logs or rocks. Then they like to make short vicious lunges at passing baite fish and again your enticing offering. They can live in almost any freshwater environment.

Inlets and bays on the larger lakes or even the Great Lakes in Canada and the US harbor large numbers of large northern pike. These bays have slightly warmer water and more food than the open water.

Smaller northern lakes of the Canadian Shield can grow trophy northern pike, usually because they do not have the heavy fishing pressure of the southern lakes, they survive longer and grow to trophy size.

Weedy bays and marshes of most lakes all hold northerns, manmade reservoirs hold large northern pike with all that submerged cover created is perfect environment for these nasty boys.

Bobber fishing for northern pike is a great, fun way to fish. Northerns cannot resist a big minnow dangling from a bobber. They may sit and just stare, but eventually that nasty pike will strike out and attack. Just cast that bobber and bait close to a likely weed-line, drop off, sunken island or point, then just sit back, relax and enjoy.

A bobber rig is easily made, use a 12 inch steel leader and a #1 hook. Attach a 1 1/2 or 2 inch bobber to the line. Add sinkers or split shot to balance. Hook a large minnow in the upper lip or just behind the dorsal fin. Regardless of the type of minnows you use try to use something at least 6 inches long.

The strike of a northern pike is usually violent. The fish may yank the bobber under on one strike. Release the line after the strike. A pike often grabs the bait in the middle or crosswise and then run with it. Then it will stop to swallow the bait, reel in any slack line then make your snap and set the hook. The fight of a big northern pike will test your tackle and of course your skill. Often they will put up very little fight until they are close to the boat or shore. Then without warning that northern will make a few long runs or even clear the surface in a leap to throw that hook, so get out there and have fun and enjoy yourself.

After northerns have left the shallows in summer trolling fast is a great way to entice these nasty predators to strike. Troll just off the weed beds, in about 20 feet of water, with large lipped deep diving plugs that will track straight at higher speeds. Most anglers use a stiff rods and level wind reels with 20 to 30 pound test line.

With that snake-like body, huge head and razor-sharp teeth, the northern pike has a fearsome appearance and a nasty reputation to match. It is not uncommon for a pike to strike a large bass, perch or walleye struggling on the end of your line. In some cases they will just not let go even when up to the boat.

In most waters, the northern pike is top dog. They will also feed on muskrats, mice, turtles, salamanders, small ducks and other birds, although they eat mostly fish. Often they will take on other fish half their size.

When northern pike are prowling the shallows, casting allows you to fish weeds or snag infested areas you could not otherwise fish. Lures; with lively action work best. Metal spoons that wobble entice the strike. Try using bright colors red yellow and silver work fine. Just vary your speed and jerk the bait now and then to attract the fish, again just go fishing and enjoy!

Jack Phillips has been an avid Canadian angler for over 50 years. Fishing Canada provides solid advice for walleye, bass, pike, muskie, a variety of trout, arctic char bass and more. Idea's on when and where to go on your next trip to Canada. Ice fishing tips. Delicious fish recipes also!