If hunting for giant pike is your thing, there is no better time than in the spring and early summer. Trophy pike – and I consider any pike over 40 inches in that league – are simply not that easy to catch for much of the year. Pike are a top predator, yet have a real sensitivity to water temperature. Unlike their close relative the muskellunge, big pike can’t abide by soupy, summer water temps. The big pike need cold water, and head into the depths, springs or current to find the cool come summer. This is perhaps why the old legend about pike losing their teeth in summer gained so much traction. They do seem to disappear but do not lose teeth. However, in northern Ontario lakes and river, the water warms more slowly and the big pike hang around longer. Here are five tips to fine tuning a giant gator this spring.
1. Fish The Sunny Shore – Pike in really cold water tend to gravitate to bays that warm up quickly. By and large, these bays will have good sun exposure and are on the receiving end of prevailing winds. The mix of warm water and surface chop is really a great combination for pike. Southern exposed bays are always a good bet , especially in the afternoon, but there are almost always little hotspots within pike bays that have slightly warmer water then the really cold stuff. If you have a fish finder with a temperature probe that’s a big help. But even a n old fashioned hand held water thermometer will tell you a lot. Look for water temps between 50 and 60 F.
2. Don’t Avoid The Weeds – Pike feels comfortable around weeds. They use it for camouflage, and know that weeds also hold minnows, crayfish and other foods they like to eat. Keep your eyes peeled in the spring for old reed beds, floating bogs and clumps of underwater vegetation. All these areas will be pike magnets in the spring an. The importance of vegetation as pike cover becomes even more important in bays or channels that are sandy and lack cover early summer. I’ve seen groups of pike hanging around clumps of weed no larger than a truck tire. Deadheads and logs laying on the bottom are also potential pike cover.
3. Throw A Spinner At Them – There are many great lure types that will catch a big pike. They include spoons, crankbaits and soft plastics. However, day in and day out, an in-line bucktail spinner is the top trophy pike catcher. The Mepps Musky Killer is tough to beat, although the Vibrax Musky Buck is pretty darn good. Other excellent choices includes the Buchertail and Inhaler. There is no need to throw a giant muskie sized spinner at pike as they will eat quite a modest lure. I rarely go heavier than a one and a half ounce spinner and often go lighter than that. In shallow water, a heavy spinner just gathers the grass and gets fouled. You want a spinner that will run fairly close to the surface but at a medium pace. Pike will chase a spinner in cold water but not in a hurry. You will need to have a slower retrieve. The top pike spinner colours are a firetiger blade with yellow and red bucktail skirt and silver blade with white skirt.
4. Keep Your Eyes Peeled – Spring pike in shallow water often reveal themselves. In shallow bays, they will swirl at bait and create both an audible and a visible disruption on the surface. These “boils” can usually be seen in very shallow water and quite close to shore. Early in the season, there is a lot of food near the bank of a bay or incoming creek, so pike will be up tight and shallow . Also, in clear water, a good set of polaroid sunglasses can be a huge help in spotting pike. Sometimes, the fish will be cruising, at other times sitting stock still on the bottom. Keep your eyes peeled for both fish, and the little puffs of sand or debris that show you have spooked a pike off bottom. As often as not, a spooked pike is still quite catchable. In fact, one the pike get active and start moving around – for whatever reason – the bite generally picks up.
5. Be Prepared – Handling big pike is tricky. you need the right tools to do it safely for both you and the fish. Always carry a pair of long, needle nosed pliers, jaw spreaders, side cutters, a slime towel and a cotton glove. Try to take the hooks out of a pike while it’s in the water and in the net. Making your hooks barbless will greatly increase the ease of release and lower over-all grief rates dramatically for all involved.
There is nothing quite as explosive as northern pike. This is the year to tangle with the giant gator of your life.