It is a beautiful spring day, so you've taken your boat out on the lake to fish. You find a peaceful, protected bay, the perfect spot to settle in for an afternoon of fishing. You cast your line and slowly begin to reel the lure back in. Suddenly, your line is hit. Hard. Your adrenaline rushes at the first catch of the season. You fight what must be a big one and finally get it into the boat. But when you take a look, you notice something. You've caught a pike, which isn't the fish you were expecting at all.
Pike are holarctic fish -- meaning they are found all around the globe in the freshwater habitats of most northern and arctic regions. In North America, they can be found in the lakes and rivers of the northern U.S. and throughout Canada. In the U.S., they are sometimes called northern pike, or simply a "northern." They're large, predatory, freshwater fish that sit atop their ecological food chain. They feed on almost anything swimming or thrown in their direction, particularly in the spring. Because of their insatiable appetite, pike grow to be large fish. It is not uncommon to find pike that weigh 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) or more in larger lakes and rivers. Needless to say, pike make a great addition to any trophy wall, dinner platter or photo collection.
You might think pike are easy fish to catch since so many fishermen unintentionally reel them in. While randomly casting might garner a pike every so often, the truth is fishing for pike requires good technique. Read on to learn why live bait, spoons and fly fishing are the top three techniques -- and how they can virtually guarantee a hit.
Technique 3: Pike Fishing with Live Bait
Using live bait is one of the best ways to snag a pike. Live bait comes in many shapes and sizes, from small insects to small fish. There is a simple rule of thumb when choosing bait for pike: Know the size of pike you're fishing for, and match the size of the bait accordingly.
For smaller pike, minnows and other small bait will work just fine. For larger pike, increase the size of the bait fish (instead of minnows, use perch). When choosing bait, it is also a good idea to research where you'll be fishing. In general, the larger the lake, the larger the pike's prey fish; the larger the pike's prey fish, the larger the pike. Therefore, the larger the lake, the larger the bait you'll need.
A great way to bait a hook with live bait is pretty straightforward. Attach two hooks to one leader -- an additional line or wire tied to the end of the fishing line to increase strength [source: Take Me Fishing]. Thread one hook through the midsection and one near the head of the bait. Pike often strike prey around the middle, carry it away, and then spit it out to eat it head-first. Often, waiting to feel the line go in a second time before pulling to set it will ensure hooking the fish.
Often, the best live bait is actually dead. Pike are not only predators but scavengers as well. They often feed on dead animals on the bottom of the lake or river. Attach dead bait (for instance, a dead minnow) to a hook, cast and let it fall to the bottom. If you know pike are in the area, chances are you'll get a hit.
If live bait makes you squeamish, read on to learn about spoon fishing.
Technique 2: Spoon Fishing for Pike
Spoon fishing is an extremely effective pike fishing method. A spoon lure is a piece of flat, curved metal that quite literally resembles the head of a spoon with a hook attached to its base. The spoon shape of the lure causes it to wobble in the water as it is pulled. This simulates the movement of the pike's prey and is often irresistible to the fish.
Spoons come in many colors and sizes. Feel free to try out any combination, but keep in mind that as before, the larger the pike, the larger the spoon.
Cast your spoon just beyond your target area. Wait a moment until the ripples from its entry into the water dissipate before beginning to reel in the spoon. Regardless of technique, this is a great practice to get in the habit of because ripples can spook or distract pike. Vary the speed at which you reel in or troll the spoon because speed affects how much it will wobble.
Now it's time to get out of the boat, hike up your rubber pants and get in the water. Read on to learn about fly fishing.
Technique 1: Fly Fishing for Pike
Fly fishing for pike requires a little more practice and skill than either live bait or spoon fishing, but the time invested in learning the technique can pay off in big catches.
Fly fishing is traditionally done from the water's edge or standing in the water, though it can be done from a boat. This technique involves the use of an entire outfit of specialized equipment including rod, reel, fishing line and lure. While traditional fishing relies on the success of the lure or bait to attract a bite, fly fishing relies on casting technique.
Instead of casting a lure and reeling it back in, with fly fishing you cast a fly (a brightly colored, lightweight lure that floats on the top of the water. Then you continuously raise and lower the fly on and off the water in a casting technique called stripping.
When fishing for pike, use a forward-floating, heavier (8- or 9-pound) weight line and rod and a large fly. [sources: Akl, Macnair] Remember to situate yourself far enough from your target area to easily cast while not spooking the fish with your presence. Pike are known to strike flies at the last second, so do not be surprised to see the fish break the surface of the water going after your lure [source: Akl].
Fly fishing is a perfect technique for catching pike for a number of reasons:
- It is specifically designed for shallow-water fishing.
- Flies are so light that they rarely ever spook pike.
- The quick motion and bright colors of the fly stimulate the pikes' aggression, making them very likely to strike. [source: Barta]
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Akl, Jason. "Spring Pike Fly Fishing." Bass Pro Shops Outdoor Library.http://www.basspro.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/CFPage?storeId=10151&catalogId=10001&langId=-1&mode=article&objectID=30005 (Accessed: 11/13/08)
- Barta, Jim. "Northern Pike Strategies." Game & Fish.http://www.gameandfishmag.com/fishing/muskies-pike-fishing/gf_aa036901a/index.html (Accessed: 11/13/2008)
- Batin, Chris. "Alaska Northern Pike: They're not just called ugly anymore!" Alaska OutdoorsDirectory.http://www.outdoorsdirectory.com/magazine/pike.htm (Accessed: 11/13/08)
- Fishresource. "Northern Pike."http://fishresource.com/fish/fish012.asp (Accessed: 11/13/08)
- Iowa DNR. "Northern Pike."http://www.iowadnr.com/fish/iafish/nop-card.html (Accessed: 11/13/08)
- Macnair, Doug. "Fly Fishing with Doug Macnair: Assembling the System Part 6: The Pike Family." Activeangler.http://www.activeangler.com/flyfishing-articles/macnair-assembly6.shtml (Accessed: 11/13/08)
- Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. "A Fishery Manager's Nightmare."http://fwp.mt.gov/fishing/etiquette/illegalintro.html (Accessed 11/13/08)
- National History Museum. "The Emperor's Pike."http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nature-online/online-exhibitions/art-themes/caught_in_oils/more/pike_more_info.htm (Accessed 11/13/08)
- Shamess, Tim. "Spoon Fed Pike." Ontario Pike Fishing.http://www.ontariopikefishing.com/spoon.html (Accessed: 11/13/08)
- Take Me Fishing. "Fishing Techniques."http://www.takemefishing.org/fishing/fishopedia/how-to-fish/fishing-techniques (Accessed: 11/13/08)
- Take Me Fishing. "Lures, Rigs & Tackle."http://www.takemefishing.org/fishing/fishopedia/bait-and-equipment/lures-and-rigs/lures (Accessed 11/13/08)
- Take Me Fishing. "Northern Pike." Fishopedia.http://www.takemefishing.ord/fishing/fishopedia/species-explorer/details/overview/fish/northern-pike (Accessed 11/13/08)
- Take Me Fishing. " Other Tackle." Lures, Rigs, & Tackle.http://www.takemefishing.org/fishing/fishopedia/bait-and-equipment/lures-and-rigs/other-tackle (Accessed: 11/13/08)
- Vick, Noel. "Tactics for Big Spring Pike." Game & Fish. (Accessed: 11/10/08)http://www.gameandfishmag.com/fishing/muskies-pike-fishing/gf_aa036702a/index.html