There is something unmistakably special about fooling fish to eat on a fly that you’ve tied or a lure that you’ve designed. And it doesn’t mater if it’s a #20 nymph, a foot long synthetic walleye pattern or a balsa wood walk the dog style top water bait. When a fish is fooled by your own creation, anglers feel a sense of accomplishment! That is one of the major reasons anglers tie their own flies and create their own lures. Top water is really all about anticipation.
Another reason anglers like to fish on the surface, is the visual high you get when you see a fish take a swipe at your fly or lure. There is an inherent adrenaline rush when a fish comes out of seemingly nowhere to eat, often literally scaring the angler causing them to jump back. There is nothing like it.
Northern Pike are an interesting fish to target with top water lures or with surface flies. Naturally curious animals, they have been known to follow an offering right back to the boat often lunging for the lure or fly just as you start the motion of removing it from the water. That’s why it’s imperative to fish your lures right back to the boat – there just might be a toothy northern behind it. It is that rush of violence that gets me every time!
And that’s just it, it’s all about the violence with these fish. They are often the apex predator in their body of water. Each one feels the need to show that big fish in a small pond attitude. Even the micro-pike or hammer-handles as some call them can be brutally aggressive for their size in relation to a larger lure or even other pike. You sometimes see pike cannibalize themselves on fish of a similar or smaller size. They really are about attitude.
The attitude of northern pike is felt right from the first sight to release. As mentioned earlier, the pike strike is more often than not, all about the kill. They want to eat, and don’t care who knows it. Once hooked up, your typical northern will fight hard for a few moments, then seemingly give up. However, anyone who has ever fought a northern knows full well they aren’t finished quite yet. Inevitably, you will either reach down to grab your fish by hand or be about to dip your net into the water to retrieve the fish and they will either have one last run in their energy stores, or they will explode into the air violently shaking their head to rid their jaws of your hooks. This is often when anglers fall victim to hook puncture or painless slices in your hand by razor sharp pike teeth. Be sure to allow the fish to have that last explosion of energy before you make physical contact. When you’re ready to release your pike back to the deep, revival is key. Spend the amount of time needed so the fish can “balance” itself in the water.
When a northern is ready to be released, they will let you know. Sometimes you get lucky and they silently and gently slink into the depths. Other times, quite the opposite. Northern’s will explode from your grip showering you with lake water; almost “flipping you the fin” as they charge toward the bottom.
If you think about it, pike really are the perfect predator. Their attitude, the violence of their lifestyle, their lack of fear and their overall physical makeup make them the apex predators that they are. So next time you throw a lure or fly into the water, be ready for the pure power of the northern pike. They are lying in wait, ready to attack.