Winning at the Spring Pike Game - Wilderness North

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Winning at the Spring Pike Game

When it comes to sport fish, northern pike are one of the biggest, baddest fish available to anglers. All teeth and attitude, pike are especially ferocious in the spring and early summer, when they are on the prowl after a long winter and spawn.

Some of the best spring and early summer pike action takes place at river-mouths, where warm run-off enters the cooler lake water. Pike love to soak up warmth in the shallows, and huge boils are often visible near shore as they slash at schools of minnows. A stealthy approach and a long cast are important in these situations, so you don’t spook the fish.

River mouths are often quite shallow, so you must use shallow running lures that float, or are neutrally buoyant. Long slender plugs such as the floating Rapala or Husky Jerk work well in water less than three feet deep. But for the maximum fun, try one of the soft plastic jerkbaits such as the Slug-Go or Jerk Shad. Large plastic baits can be Texas Rigged so the hook is not exposed. Large plastic is often the only bait that won’t spook pike that are in very shallow water. A weedless plastic bait can be fished in skinny water without getting hung up. Some of the strikes these baits elicit from pike are pretty wild. Usually, the landing of the plastic near shore is all that’s needed to make a pike erupt and take the bait in a huge swirl. It’s tough not to pull the lure right out of the fishes mouth.

In dark water lakes and at stream mouths that empty stained rivers, pike will be quite active, regardless of weather and air temp. This is because dark water, and dark bottoms, absorb heat. In big, cold, clear water lakes, the spring bite can be a lot tougher. The reason is again water temperature. Clear lakes generally take longer to warm up, and the pike require the heat of the sun, or a persistent warm wind to heat up the shallows.

In clear water lakes, it is not uncommon to see pike sitting almost immobile on the bottom in sand bottom bays. These seemingly zonked out pike are among the toughest fish to catch. That’s frustrating because they can also be the largest.

If you get three solid days of warm sun after a cold stretch, pike will get active. Look for clear water pike to be feeding in large protected bays and near emerging weed growth. This is when classic pike baits like the Johnson Silver Minnow, Mepps Musky Killer and Eppinger Daredevle can be excellent. When the weather is chilly, slow-moving, cold water pike requires a slightly different presentation to get them interested.


Generally, medium heavy rods and reels handle large pike better than light tackle. Spinning reels are sufficient for most fishing, but when casting large lures such as spoons, spinnerbaits or jerkbaits, a bait-cast system may be more comfortable. I like an Abu Garcia 5500 bait-cast reel and flipping stick.

Monofilament Lines of 10 to 17-pound test or braid of 30-pound test is adequate for most fish, although pike can cut both types of line with their sharp teeth. You should have a good selection of steel leaders handy unless you want to see your lures disappear.

Always have a quality set of jaw spreaders, needle nose pliers with hook cutters, wool gloves and a first aid kit when pike fishing. You need to handle pike carefully and be careful not to get your hands and finer in those teeth.

Prime pike fishing time will be upon us soon. Get out there and find out just how wild these fish can be.

By: Gord Ellis

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