For those of you who had the chance to read last week’s edition, I briefly outlined some of the well- known spawning areas at Wilderness North’s Big 3; Miminiska, Makokibatan, and Whitewater Lake. This week I’d like to elaborate further on some of those locations, and offer some on-lake knowledge of how to successfully fish these locations in the spring time. I’ve decided to get started with Whitewater Lake Pike. Let’s take a look at how Whitewater’s Pike behave after ice out, where they can be found, and what approaches anglers can use to ignite their aggressiveness.
One of my all-time favorite Northern Ontario Pike/Walleye lakes, Whitewater stretches 26 miles from inlet to outlet, forming one of the Ogoki River’s finest creations. The lake, itself, is comprised of an eastern and western basin connected by a dendritic series of channels, narrows, and bays. In both the west and the east, there is no shortage of unbelievable lake structure as well as landscape diversity. Luckily, Wilderness North has the only accommodations on the lake, including American Plan luxury at Strikers Point in the western basin and more rustic, yet unbelievably clean and cozy Housekeeping facilities in the eastern basin. Both lodges are nestled within prime waters, surrounded by some of the most fish-populated zones. Pike spawning areas, in particular, are close by, and there is no doubt about it that the Pike will use them once again this spring.
So… where do we start?
If you’re fishing in the eastern basin, I can tell you this, a huge percentage of pike will use the Grayson river Inflow area to spawn. Why? It is simply because this area has a large expanse of the most suitable pike spawning habitat on the lake. We know from years of experience and the trends that our guests have set over each and every spring that Pike will be there. The key to finding the exact locations within the general area comes with your approach, your methods, and a little bit of common sense.
When I speak of the Grayson River inflow, I don’t mean exactly where the water is flowing in, I mean the whole area in general. That entire expanse is primarily made up of shallow weedier water, much of which is even flood plain (commonly used by spawning pike). This is precisely the cover that Pike are looking for to do their dirty work. With the higher water levels in the spring, anglers can get back to these shallow areas. These are the types of areas I would want to get to immediately following ice out.
Stealth is of absolute importance when fishing the shallows. Many people shut down the motor, lift it out of the water, and use a push pole or a paddle to manoeuvre around these often times, quiet and still waters. If you come in with guns blazing you can forget about it, most fish spook extremely easy under these conditions. At this time of year, you’re going to confront Pike with noticeably different behaviours and appetites. Some will be getting ready to spawn, some will be spawning, and others will be done. If we compare this to a pregnant mother, it can be easily understood (sorry moms). Pre labour feeding frenzies are common, with the females having cravings for a variety of foods. During labour, they can become stubborn and ignore you, however, may lash out with ferocious aggression. Post labour, they will become hungry again, but often times want you to spoon feed them, and be gentle and subtle. This is the concept I would go with when venturing into the Grayson expanse, or Goldsborough Bay, or any other major pike spawning area. Move in shallow first, using stealth, and start off using a variety of baits to see what happens (Top Water, weed-less spoons, texas- rigged Slug go’s/Leeches). If you hit fish right away, obviously keep doing the same thing, in the same types of areas, covering water. If you can’t seem to extract any responses in these areas, pull out slightly to the first transitional water. This means, if you’re fishing in 1-3 feet of vegetated water (dead weeds, etc. in spring), with nothing happening, back out slightly and begin casting around in water say 4-8 feet, with more scattered vegetation and cover. Good choices for this include jerk baits, spinner baits, and swim baits. Fire Tiger, Pearl, Shiner, Shad, Walleye, and Perch, have all been great colours on Whitewater. Work these areas hard and cover water, they are transition zones and eventually you will collide with a brute that is cruising through.
One thing I always do when either entering or exiting these shallower spawning bays is to also fish the water leading into them. If you consider the entrance into the Grayson expanse, you will note a series of islands, points, and narrows, all surrounded by deeper water (10-20 feet), that are holding areas for post spawn pike moving back to the main lake. It is my personal experience on Whitewater Lake that the biggest female Pike do in fact move out of their spawning grounds rather quickly. Although ample amounts still remain where “they should be”, some of the biggest each spring are caught in deeper, more unsuspecting locations. That’s why I always make it a habit to troll or slow drift these connecting waterways. Large Pike expend a lot of energy during the spawn and if you find them at this time, slow presentations often work best. They want the easiest meal possible to regain vital energy stocks. Try slow drifting and pulling soft plastic minnow imitations in these areas. X-Zone Swammers in pearl or cisco and 4” or 5” would be dynamite to try. They are a slow moving, wobble tail, plastic body minnow imitation.
Plenty of Pike also show up at major walleye hot-spots as spring begins to unfold. Down on the West end of the Lake, our guests at Strikers Point catch several 40” plus pike (many much bigger), while fishing in the Narrows, the Ogoki outflow, and around some of the islands that the Walleye also use to spawn. The west end of the lake offers its own uniqueness and a plethora of pike spawning bays and inlets. Many of these go to spots are found down river from the Lodge. There is of course the legendary ‘Bay of Pigs’, which speaks for itself as well as 3 or 4 other bays along the north shore of the river that all house big Pike in the spring.
One of these bays in particular is absolutely ideal. It is the last bay on the north shore before the sharp right turn that takes you to the rapids. It is a long narrow neck adjacent to the whirlpool and opens up into a decent sized bay in the back. This is actually flood plain as often times later in the season it is inaccessible and dried up. I have been witness to some absolute monsters back there as well as some voracious pike frenzies in general. The Pike that use that bay to spawn have it easy. They finish up and simply swim to the edge of the whirlpool and pick off baitfish going by in the current. Then they will duck back into the inlet, relax and digest. They will repeat this process until they are rejuvenated enough to head elsewhere. Using the same methods as described earlier I would put this bay on top of my list for spring time Whitewater Pike.
It is important to point out that you are in for some seriously exhilarating action if your fishing pike on Whitewater this spring, or next, or anytime at all. With this being said, let us remember how important it is to be conservation minded when it comes to the capture, handling, and release of these impressive fish. Single and barbless hooks are very highly recommended as to prevent serious damage to fish and serious damage to ears, fingers, and other appendages. When you net or cradle a fish, you don’t need to reef it in the boat right away. Yes, we’re all excited, but simply leave the fish in the net, in the water and first remove the hook from the fish and clear from the net. When your camera man is ready, gently cradle the fish from the underside using one hand below the caudle peduncle (fat part of tail), and one hand under the throat/chest, with your index finger slightly hooked under the corner of its jaw. Hold it up HORIZONTALLY for a few quick photos and gently place it horizontally back in the water, firmly holding the tail section with your hand. When you get splashed in the face, you’ll know you’ve done everything right and the fish is going to be ok. Studies have proven time and time again, that fish handled properly will go on to grow and be caught again one day. Mishandled fish, dropped fish, and heavy fish held vertically, often die shortly after release, even though they appear to swim away just fine.
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Stay tuned for next week’s Whitewater Walleye Edition!