What unites the United States and the former Soviet Union? What do Ireland and England have in common? What brought European nations together before the Euro?
Give up? It's the northern pike, which swims through chilly waters around the world. And everywhere it goes, it leaves fanatical anglers in its wake.
Pike appear in all but a handful of states in the U.S. and throughout northern Europe and Asia. You can find them in diverse bodies of water -- from small lakes to rivers to the low-salinity waters of the Baltic Sea. And the diversity of habitats translates into a diversity of fishing methods. You can catch pike by trolling, still fishing, fly fishing, casting -- even ice fishing.
Pike make for enjoyable fishing because they're ferocious predators; they'll attack just about anything. And they'll attack fast. Pike have been observed striking at around 30 yards (27.4 meters) per second -- which works out to roughly 60 mph (96.5 kph). Imagine your pole being attacked by a car traveling at highway speed, and you'll have some idea of why people like fishing for pike. You can also understand why you need a heavy-duty rod with strong line and a wire trace.
Pike have flat snouts with razor-sharp teeth, which point backward, the better to grab and hold large prey. Though they feed mainly by sight, they have well-developed senses of smell, and like sharks they can follow a scent trail through the water. They're even shaped like weapons (the name "pike" comes from the fish's resemblance to a spear). These fish are hunting machines.
In this article, we'll take a look at the best seasonal locations to find pike, as well as the local water and weather conditions you should be aware of. We'll start with springtime, when pike all over the world heed nature's call and spawn. Read on.
Location 4: Spring Pike Locations
Some of the best pike fishing in the world is in Sweden. The Swedish archipelago (or Skärgård) runs along the coast of the Baltic Sea. It contains numerous smaller archipelagos such as Västervik, Trosta, and Blekinge. Stockholm Harbor has yielded some record-breaking fish. Grankullavik Bay has many opportunities for a bite. Sweden's miles of rivers, too, are full of pike. Try the Kalix or the Sangis.
What makes Sweden such a heaven for pike anglers?
- Relatively few people fish here. Laws prevent overfishing by commercial fisheries, so the pike population is stable.
- Baitfish proliferate. Sweden's coastal waters are shallow and extensive, giving baitfish a large reproduction area. Long northern summer days extend feeding times. Pike love being around this much food.
- On the coast, you don't need a license for rod fishing. (In inland waters, however, you will need a license.)
- Sweden has no regulations on fish size, the use of catch bags, or the number of pike you keep. Of course, that doesn't give you justification to fish irresponsibly; practice quick, humane catch-and-release on all pike you don't want to eat.
- Privacy. Rent a boat, bring a tent, and have a whole island to yourself.
For a trip that combines fly fishing with history, take a look at Aland -- the part of the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Finland. Sweden's numerous rivers keep the water here from being too salty. It's been a hallowed fishing ground for several thousand years. Even before the Vikings fished here, early cultures made sacrifices of pike. In Basto Fishing Camp, you can still see pike skulls adorning trees all around the ancient fishing sites.
Ice-off in Sweden happens relatively late, around the second week of May. This is around the same time that pike spawn, however, so you can often find waters teeming with hungry pike. What happens when the waters get warmer? Read on.
Location 3: Summer Pike Locations
In summer, pike move to deeper, cooler waters. So you have a few options.
First, you can stick to your favorite lakes and rivers and move out from the banks. Summer pike fishing can be especially effective near steep dropoffs. Use a depth finder to discover these underwater features, and try trolling around them.
Option two? Go exploring. Where the summer is colder, the pike are closer to shore. There's fantastic summer fishing in Alaska and the Yukon, where pike have been known to tip the scales at 40 pounds [source: Freshwater Fishing Canada]. You'll also see some of the most gorgeous lands in the world -- the craggy northern Rocky Mountains, glaciers, lakes and forests.
Some of the Yukon's lakes are accessible only by airplane, helicopter or float plane. You can easily book these services. Before you plan your trip, search the Web for a lake-by-lake breakdown of fish species. One of these bodies of water can provide the fishing experience of a lifetime. Fishing in the Yukon is subject to certain regulations. You'll need to get a license, and you should pay heed to Canada's conservation efforts.
In early and late summer, as well as the transition times between spring and summer and summer and fall, you might want to consider fishing in Ontario. The province has 15 percent of Earth's freshwater, and that means fishing opportunities abound.
If you want to aim for the history books, take a trip to Lake Grefeern in Germany. This lake was the source of the largest pike on record -- just over 55 pounds (25 kilograms).
Pike caught in summer sometimes have a muddy taste. You can get rid of this taste simply by removing the skin before you cook your fish. Of course, if you're practicing catch-and-release fishing, it's not an issue.
Where do you go when the days get shorter? Read on.
Location 2: Fall Pike Locations
Fall is a great time of year for pike fishing. Pike are active everywhere, and as the temperature drops they move closer to shore. You'll have good luck at the edges of deep waters, especially trolling and spinning.
Remember that as the seasons change, so do pike's feeding times. Before, you might have been getting the most bites in the morning. Now, the water takes longer to warm up. Depending on where you are, pike may start attacking your bait around noon. You could also get some bites fishing at dusk [source: Zanderland].
Sweden, Denmark and Finland dominate in this season, not least because pike in the European mainland tend to be bigger. Their food supply is typically stable throughout the summer, and the fish have been doing what pike do best -- eating indiscriminately. Think about a trip to the Swedish archipelago or Finland's Tampere region. Finland's Lake Kulovesi, Lake Längelmävesi and Lake Rautavesi also offer great autumn pike fishing [source: Zanderland].
The pike are typically smaller, but you can find great pike fishing throughout the British Isles in autumn. Ireland's lakes and rivers shine as autumn moves into winter; however, there are also plenty of places to try in Scotland, England and Wales. Pike fishing is especially rich in the Norfolk Broads. Local laws vary, though, and in some places major conservation efforts are underway. Get the most current information from groups such as the Pike Anglers Club of Great Britain, the Irish Pike Society, the Central Fisheries Board and the Pike Anglers Alliance for Scotland.
If you wish the warm weather would last forever, you could try heading to the pike's more southerly habitats. Pike appear in Italy's lake country, at places such as Logo Caselle. And fall is a wonderful time to be in northern Italy -- it's when local delicacies such as truffles, porcini mushrooms, wild boar, clementines and figs come into season. Between the pike fishing, the local farms and the Eurochocolate festival, you could treat yourself to quite a culinary tour.
Finally, there are pike to be caught in the northern United States and Canada. Also try Washington state, Montana, and Minnesota. If you fish in Montana, check out the Pikemasters; not only do they help with conservation and education, but when the pike population needs thinning, they help get the excess fish to relief organizations.
In winter, you can't catch a pike, right? Better hang up the tackle until March. Or you could just take a look at the next page.
Location 1: Winter Pike Locations
In winter, many northerly pike locations ice over. Big surprise -- it's the Arctic. However, you still have a few options.
First, take a look at the waters of Ireland. They offer a couple of major advantages:
- No ice. Ireland's lakes, or loughs, don't freeze over.
- No license. In most fisheries, you won't need a permit.
- No season. You can fish for pike year-round.
- No people. One of the reasons pike are so plentiful is that, as in Sweden, the fish-to-fishers ratio is relatively high.
Ireland has pike in its lakes, rivers and canals. Ireland's lake pike can get as big as 40 pounds (18 kilograms); 20 pounds (9 kilograms) is not uncommon in the rivers. Take a look at Lough Erne (which has an annual Pike Fishing Classic), Lough Ree, Lough Sheelin or Lough Dern. Or try Derryhick Lake, Shannonbridge or Castle Lake. The Erne and Shannon river networks contain numerous smaller lakes. Other rivers with ample bank fishing include the Suck, the Bann and the Barrow. You can find a comprehensive list of Ireland's fisheries -- along with links to ghillies, or angling guides -- on the website of the Central Fisheries Board.
As with any locale, however, make sure you're familiar with the law before you bait a hook. Ireland does not allow the use of live fish as bait. In freshwater, you may fish with rod and line only, and with no more than two rods at once. Catch-and-release is the rule; you may keep one pike a day, but it will be subject to weight requirements.
If you're really determined, you can try ice fishing. The first place to try: Canada. Manitoba is especially well known for its pike, but you can find pike in Ontario and Saskatchewan as well. You'll also find gorgeous scenery, and under all that ice are famously clean waters. Many of north Canada's lakes are accessible only by plane, so gear up and get ready for an adventure.
The other place to try ice fishing is Russia, where long winters give you lots of opportunity. Orel (on the Kama in the Perm province) offers ice-fishing tours starting in October, and depending on the area you can find ice fishing as late as February or early March [source: Ural Expeditions and Tours]. Take a look at the incomparable Ural Mountains. Some tours offer not just ice fishing but also dogsledding, ski walks and mountain treks. Again, be sure to check out local laws and license requirements.
To learn more, visit the links on the next page.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
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