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DEEP WATER WALLEYE FISHING

When you catch a big Walleye, big meaning over 6-pounds, there is a 95% chance that it’s a female. The big females generally only to into the shallows in the spring where they are up along the shore, in rivers or over sandbars, which are their favorite places to spawn. The smaller males seem to stay in the 2 to 15 foot range all year. The bigger females tend to go deeper then 15 feet. When fishing deep for big mid-summer Walleye fish between 20 and 40 feet deep.

Why do the big females go deep? There are several explanations depending on the size of the lake and how far north the lake is.

1) Bigger females have a larger air bladder, which makes them hyper sensitive to changes in atmospheric pressure. Being deeper makes the adjustment a little easier when the weather changes.LOTM-rapala-ice-jig

2) Bigger females spend too much energy chasing small bait fish that are found in shallow water. The bigger bait fish that are found is shallow water like perch etc., are hard to swallow as they have defensive spins in their fins. Lake Chub, Whitefish, Lake Herring  are all found in abundance down deep AND abundant in Wawang Lake. They are easier to swallow and more rewarding when considering the amount of energy needed to catch them. These deep water bait fish, especially Whitefish, have more oil in their meat thus more calories.

3) A walleye metabolism speeds up in shallow warm water. As a result, the bigger they get, the more food they need to maintain their weight. If the food is not there, they go to deeper cold water so their metabolism slows down. The dangerous thing about this is there is a fine threshold between eating more or conserving energy. If a big Walleye gets to the point where they can not find enough food to maintain their weight, they do get smaller, then they die. As soon as a Walleye gets to the point where they are starting to weaken from lack of food energy, they do not have the energy to catch bait fish and starve to death.

4) In smaller northern lakes, there is a larger population of Pike regularly attack walleye and bigger slower moving females are an easy target. This is another reason why they go deep right after they spawn.

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Some Types of Lures to Use on the Big Lake:

When you are Walleye fishing on big water like Wawang Lake, the walleye tend to stay suspended along with the schools of bait fish. Lets say you were on a big  part of the lake, , the best thing to do is troll until you come across a deeper school of bait fish and then keep trolling over the bait school.

These schools of bait-fish can be 15 to 40 feet deep and the walleye will be there too. The most popular lures are the Rapala Husky Jerks and the Rattlin’ Fat Raps.
–> 10 to 20 feet deep – Regular Husky Jerks
–> 20 to 40 feet deep – Down Deep Husky Jerk or Down Deep Rattlin’ Fat Rap

Just troll around and use your depth finder to spot schools of fish. To determine how deep you are, the Regular Husky Jerks go down about 1 foot for every 10 feet of line out. The Down Deep Rapalas go down about 3 feet for every 10 feet of line out. So using a Down Deep Rapala, getting down 30 feet deep means you need 100 feet of line out. This is just a general estimate. The speed of your troll will affect how deep the lures will go.

3-Way Swivel Rig:

 The best way to fish down deep for Walleye is with 10-pound test line and a 3-way swivel rig. This technique is also excellent for other fish that are right on bottom in the 20 to 60-feet of water.

You need 8 to 10 pound test because thicker line has too much friction with the water and it will be hard to find the bottom. You also need a 1-oz or 2-oz weight, a 3-way swivel and a lure that does not sink. Use an Original floating Rapala, Junior Thunderstick, Countdown Rapala or a worm harness with small spinner blades and a big fat worm. 

This rig is smaller than the standard type; You need a 3-foot lead line from the 3-way swivel to the sinker. Then you need a 5 or 6-foot lead line to your lure.  Get a strait slow troll going and slowly let out line until your sinker hits the bottom. Then reel up a foot and wait.. Keep those lines tight!

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Walleye Habitat and Characteristics

walleye_catchIf you want to fish walleye, it helps to be familiar with their habits and haunts. The more you know about your adversary, the better success you’ll have.

Walleye Biology
The walleye (Sander vitreus) is olive to off brown in color, broken up by darker stripes extending down the flanks to its lighter colored belly. The dorsal and anal fins are distinctly spiny and the mouth contains an army of very sharp teeth. The walleye is named for its large, marble-like glowing eyes, caused by the tapetum lucidum, a reflective layer of pigment that allows it to see prey at night and in deeper, dark water. Its lifespan ranges from 5-6 years and a mature walleye can reach 30 inches and weigh up to 20 pounds.

Walleye spawn in spring, soon after the ice breaks up and the water temperature hovers in the 38 to 45° range. In rivers, they prefer to broadcast their eggs over gravel or rocky areas. Lake walleyes will spawn in weeds, or over reefs and shoals.

netting walleye

Young walleye feed on plankton and insect larvae until they’re large enough to eat fish smaller than them, namely minnows. Minnows remain a favorite meal throughout the walleye’s life, although they also appreciate yellow perch, largely because they frequent the same locations and share similar diets. But, don’t let the walleye’s love for fish keep you from using night crawlers, leeches or artificial baits. The pros will tell you walleye feed on a variety of critters if presented correctly, and many anglers can second that from personal experiences.

Their sensitivity to light dictates that walleye hang out in deeper pools or in the shelter of sunken trees or weed beds during the day. They take advantage of their visual acuteness to feed at dawn, dusk and into the nighttime hours. However, walleye will feed during daylight hours if the water is murky or if the weather is overcast. They are also more active on windy days when “walleye chop” cuts down on light penetrating the water.

WalleyeUnderwater

Walleye Habitat
Walleyes are particular about their surroundings. Their hangouts depend on the season, time of day, water temperature, availability of baitfish, etc. They can tolerate temperatures from 32° to 90° Fahrenheit, but they’re happiest in 70 degree waters. Lake walleye will usually hang at the bottom during daylight and move to the shallows to feed around dawn and dusk. Similarly, river walleyes will spend daytime near drop-offs or in holes to escape the sunlight and move to the shallows in the dark hours. They also like to hold near dams, out of the main current. No matter their location, walleye prefer packed sand, gravel or rocky bottoms and will use weed beds, submerged trees or other structures as cover during the day.

Hopefully, this information gives you a good foundation for how to catch a walleye.

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Fishing for Walleye

Fishing for Walleye
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Brandon and Jaime Guptill (5th generation Guptill clan Anglers) with their beautiful walleye caught on a remote lake near Wawang Lake Resort. Grandpa Jim Guptill was the guide!

Vertical jigging can be an invaluable technique, especially when it is placed into the mix with trolling, casting and static-line methods. It can be another powerful weapon in the angler’s arsenal, but, unfortunately, it is perhaps not used as frequently as it should be.

The advocates of vertical jigging state that not only is it a fun-filled way to while away the hours, but it is also a highly productive way to fish. Many anglers dramatically increase their success rate when they begin to use a vertical jig.

In fact, in some locations, vertical jigging is not simply one of the beneficial tactics, but it is the most productive method of fishing for walleye. The advantages of vertical jigging are numerous. For example, it is widely accepted as a cost-effective technique. In addition, it only requires a small amount of physical exertion and, most importantly, it is a basic approach that can be adopted by anybody.

imagesGFPQKYIDThe success of vertical jigging is made possible through the accuracy of the technique. Rather than trolling wide expanses of water, it is required that the angler does a little research first. By establishing the structure of the lake or river that you are fishing in, you can locate the positions that are most likely to contain the walleye. Of course, if you have radar equipment, then you will find pinpointing the walleye spots even more easy, but this is not necessary and a comprehensive map of the water should be sufficient.

There will be times when establishing the position of the fish leads you to the deep sections of the lake or river. If you are fishing for walleye in particularly deep waters, you may wish to consider using a partial glow head and spinner blade on your jig, as this is a great combination for deep fishing or trolling.

In terms of bait, when it comes to vertical jigging it really is a matter of choice. Any bait can be used, so, if you find that minnows, crawlers or leeches work best for you then, by all means, use any of those. Personal preference is such a large part of successful fishing.

More good news for beginners is that vertical jigging can allow for a margin of error. In other words, if you have let a walleye get away, but you know it is still Nature-Jigs-1-Whiteunder your boat, the vertical rig allows you to get right under the boat to try for a second chance. With many presentations, you may not expect to get a bite until the bait has reached the lakebed. However, with the vertical jig, you are just as likely to find success as the bait is on its way down. Subsequently, it is always a good idea to be prepared for those walleye.

Vertical jigging, or V-jigging as it is sometimes known, is an extremely enjoyable way to fish. It relies heavily on skill and technique, which is hugely satisfying for an angler. However, that does not mean to say that it is difficult to learn. Even beginners can take to vertical jigging and can be extremely successful with this method

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Love of Loons – Wawang Lake

by Alan Schwoegler  - Madison, WI
(friend & guest of Wawang Lake)

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People love Wawang Lake’s loons. Their calls and antics are a part of every hour at the lake. During my very first vacation there, I was overjoyed to see how many loons called Wawang their home.

I have been monitoring and learning about loons through WI Loon Watch since the early ‘80’s. Most recently, I have been closely following the latest loon research and am a Loon Watch trained educational speaker. I’d like to share some things I’ve learned.

To start, the loons we love in WI, MN, MI and Ontario are Common Loons, one of 5 species of loons. There is a large nesting population in Ontario, estimated at about 200,000. In the US lower 48 states, the Common is the only loon species nesting. WI has about 4000 loons.

Loons are the oldest, most primitive, living bird. They are from ancestors at least 20 million years old.

Loons have solid bones allowing them to sink, dive and swim like masters of the water. But, flying requires a water take-off “runway” of ¼ mile (400m) to become airborne. Their legs are far back on their torso, an awkward set-up for water-landings. Legs at the rear and need for long flight take-offs make loons helpless on land. They can’t walk on land; only push themselves along for short distances. They can’t take off from land. If forced to land on ‘land’, they will starve, stuck at the landing spot. Sometimes, during migration, loons mistake wet roads for rivers. They land, and die unless rescued by people. Landing in a ‘too small’ pond for take-offs also means doom.

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Loon Calls: 4 basic calls, hear them at: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/common_loon/sounds

·       Wail – a back and forth location calls: “Where are you?”

·       Yodel – Male only territorial call:  “This place is mine!”

·       Tremolo – Stress, alarm :  “Something’s Wrong”

  • o   Flight Tremolo: similar non stress “Flying. Anybody down there? “

·       Hoot – Soothing, quiet, close-by. “Hello friend, I like you”

 

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Some other facts about our loons:

  • Their average weight is about 10 lbs (4.5kg); males are usually heavier.
  • Male and female loons look identical. Male loons are often slightly larger.
  • Adult loons winter on the oceans. Juvenile loons migrate to the ocean in their first autumn and remain there for 3 full years until mature.
  • Loons have small wings compared to their body size, so they have to move their wings much faster than other waterfowl to stay airborne. 
  • They need about ¼ mile (400m) to take off; a lake at least 10 acres (4 Hectare)  They can fly at up to 70 mph (113 Km/hr), even faster with a tail wind.

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  • In one documented case, a loon flew 670 miles (1078 Km) in 1 day.  1524 m)
  • Loons fly at 3000 – 5000 ft high (914 – 1524 m) 
  • Loons use the Great Lakes extensively as staging areas for rest; migration.
  • Most Great Lakes area and W Ontario area loons migrate to 1) The Gulf of Mexico (Florida’s coast and MS, AL) 2)FL inland lakes  3)Atlantic (Florida east coast, the Carolinas, GA) 
  • For example, some loons from MN and WI were tracked migrating EAST to Lake Michigan; Then they feed, rest and slowly make their way to the south end of Lake Michigan. They may head to the Gulf or SE to the Atlantic, stopping at Lake Erie and then over the Appalachians. Amazing!!
  • Common Loons once nested as far south as Northern IL and N Iowa. (1900). Human population, hunting and loss of habitat pushed their range further north. 
  • Loons do not mate for life; they are more true to a lake and territory than to a mate. However, both male and female will strive to get to the same territory year after year. If they are both able to claim their territory and defend it from others who want it, they nest with last years’ mate, in the same lake or portion of lake.
  • Loons can live 25-30yrs. This is still being researched. Might be longer. 
  • Loons fight to claim and keep a good lake territory where they can nest. 
  • Adult loons consume about 2 lbs of fish and crustaceans per day. Mostly perch. 
  • Loons and their chicks in N WI are highly studied. A large number have been banded with colored, individualized leg bands. The bands allow researchers (and the public) to identify an individual by patiently observing them with binoculars. Adult loons who have returned and juveniles banded-as-chicks can be identified.
  • A female loon has been returning to my WI lake since she was first banded in 1995. She was estimated to be 5-8 years old then. That means she is at least 25 years old if returning in 2015. She has had at least 5 mates since then.

A color leg-banded loon:  photo by Alan Schwoegler
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A Loon’s Year

The beginning: March- April
Adult loons on the ocean molt their flight feathers in late winter Feb-March. They are unable to fly until the new feathers have all grown in. Once feathers are ready, the loons are itchin’ to head north. The male is especially loaded with hormones at this time and ready to head to the area he calls home.

They head north as far as they find ice-free water, utilizing the Great Lakes and river flowages to get north. Many males will hang out on a river or flowage and take flights over their home lake each day to see if the ice is gone. I have seen them fly over my iced-in lake, circle the area and fly back. WI DNR people have identified my lake’s male loon hanging out on the open WI River near Rhinelander as early as 2 weeks before my lake was open.

Territory: May – June
Male loons are usually the first to arrive and claim a territory. The female arrives soon after. As a pair, they may claim the total water area of a small lake or a portion of a larger lake. My WI Lake is 150 acres and oval. It supports one pair of loons who won’t allow others on their territory. This is known as a territorial pair. Irregular shaped or large lakes have multiple territories. I estimated Wawang Lake to have about 75 loon “territories” suitable for nesting. A pair of loons in a territory have to defend it against stronger, younger loons, male or female. A male loon will sometimes fight to the death trying to defend his “spot”. Females are less violent.

Loons with no territory or mate are known as floaters. Floaters stay on lakes or areas of a lake which are not good for nesting but hold fish. Floaters will continually fly into nest territories as intruders and challenge the resident(s) for their territory. Some of the large open areas of Wawang Lake are good examples of floater “hang outs”.

Nesting: June-July
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Preferred nesting areas are shallow areas with islands, points, exposed rock and bog mats. A nest is built from muck, reeds and vegetation gathered from the lake bottom by male and female together. The nest will be built high enough to be out of the water and the loons will push themselves up to sit on it. There are normally one or two eggs. The loon pair share nest duties and need about 28 days of undisturbed incubating. Weasels, otter, eagles and gulls will eat the eggs if possible. Also, if the territory is successfully taken over by an intruder (floater), the affected male or female is booted out. The remaining mate accepts the new one and the existing nest will be abandoned; the eggs left to die.  It’s a tough life. When a nest fails because of mate displacement or predation, there are sometimes enough weeks left in the summer to attempt a 2nd or 3rd nest. This can never succeed however, if a new nest is started too late. (Probably later than June 15th at Wawang.) Any loon chick hatched late has a poor chance of growing big enough to fly south before its’ home lake freezes.

Chicks: Late June – July

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Chicks will hatch a day apart if there are 2 eggs. The chicks take to the water immediately after their feathers dry away egg liquid. They are able to walk around on land or the nest at this time, if needed.

The chicks will sometimes ride on an adult back because chick feathers don’t keep them warm enough. Riding also keeps them away from predators. Muskie, large bass, northern pike, snapping turtles and eagles will snatch a young chick from the water. Male and female loon will catch perch, minnows and crustaceans to feed the chicks. Once again, loon intruders fight for the territory. More fights! If a new male can take over, the young chicks will be killed by him. If it is still early summer, the new adult pair may try to re-nest.

Chicks are helpless for 3 weeks. They are not able to feed themselves or dive to avoid boats. Boats are a lethal problem on crowded lakes. By 6 weeks chicks are more independent and will start to dive for food on their own. By 12 weeks old, the chicks are juveniles, able to feed themselves and start to fly.

Time to cut the ties: August – September
Once loon chicks are 6 weeks old, the adults begin to wander off now and then, one at a time, to socialize and feed. The time-away starts to increase and the parents may totally leave chicks alone after 12 weeks.

Then, the adults usually go to large open-lake areas and hang out with the “floaters”. The adult loons begin to lose some of the beautiful feather pattern and red-eye. They start to turn a dull grey prior to migration. The adults form rafts of anywhere from 25 to hundreds of loons. They feed heavily and prepare for migration.

The chicks, now juveniles, fly around their lakes and adjoining waters to strengthen their wings. They too feed heavily to get ready for migration.

An adult loon molts, begins migration

Migration:  Oct – Nov
By October, adults start to migrate, singly or in very loose flocks. They do not fly together and the territorial pair seen in early summer will probably disperse to different migration destinations, not to see each other again until spring. Adults leave before their offspring, leaving the juveniles to find their own way south later. This “rookie” migration sometimes causes problems for the juveniles. They wait too long, their lake begins to freeze over, and they no longer have enough open water to take off. These poor juveniles usually become eagle food as the eagles wait at the edge of open water for the young loon to exhaust itself.

Researchers have used satellites to track migrating MN WI and MI male adult loons. The tracking allows people to see exactly where the loons were. The results of several years of satellite tracking can be seen at:

http://www.umesc.usgs.gov/terrestrial/migratory_birds/loons/migrations.html

More Loon information can be found at:

http://www.learner.org/jnorth/search/Loon.html

https://www.northland.edu/sigurd-olson-environmental-institute-loon-watch-FAQs.htm

http://loonproject.org/walter-piper/ (The scientist researching in my home area)

 

538985_10151485445607581_1088304094_nEnjoy Wawang Lake’s numerous loons. Their calls give you a wonderful memory to take home and enjoy long after you’ve left the lake.

Thank You!.
Alan Schwoegler

 

 

 

 

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How & Why Mepps Spinners Catch Fish

The Lure of Mepps Spinners Flash & Vibration

id-73-2Most fishing lures are imitators. They look like a minnow, worm, crawfish, frog or other aquatic creature. Soft plastic fishing lures and crankbaits are molded in these shapes. Spoons imitate minnows. Feeding fish are quick to grab these lures.

While the Mister Twister TwisterMite may be the best hellgrammite imitator you’ll find anywhere, it won’t do you a lot of good if the fish aren’t feeding. When the bite gets tough you have entice the fish to strike. This is the time to tie on a Mepps spinner.

Mepps spinners are very different. They are not designed to imitate anything. They entice a fish into striking by appealing to its basic survival instinct. “I don’t know what that is, but it’s invading my territory and I’m going to kill it.” Or, “Look at that. I can have some fun with that.” How does a spinner do this? It really is simple. Spinners use flash and vibration to attract fish. This flash and vibration comes from their revolving blade. No other fishing lure has this unique feature.

For this very reason, Mepps spinners will catch fish when no other lure will. Have you ever played with a cat? Feed a cat all it wants and it stops eating. It may even go to sleep. But, tie a toy to a string, drag it across the floor and the cat comes to life. It pounces on the toy. It’s not hungry, it’s been enticed it into striking. A Mepps spinner has the same effect on a fish. The fish sees the spinner and goes on the attack. The “key” word is “sees.” The fish must “see” the spinner to attack it.

“What is the best Mepps lure to use for…” To answer this, Mepps offers more than 4-thousand (that’s right 4,000) different lures in a wide variety of sizes and colors.

Lure Size
Lure size is important. The general rule of thumb is use smaller lures to catch smaller fish and larger lures to catch larger fish. But, this a rule of thumb. It is not pure science, nor is it etched in stone.

Use #2 & #3 Mepps spinners for  Walleye   150-62-walleye (1)

Mepps spinners in sizes #3 and #4 are preferred by walleye fishermen. In fact, the #3 dressed Mepps Aglia was rated the best all around lure.. Size #3 Mepps spinners are also ideal for walleye three pounds and over.

 Use #4 & #5 Mepps spinners for the following Northern Pike
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Size #4 and #5 Mepps are ideal for large rainbow trout and steelhead, as well as coho (silver) and chinook (king) salmon. Giant tackle busting northern pike will inhale a dressed #5 Mepps spinner. Or, if you are after trophy northern pike  try a Mepps Musky Killer, Magnum Musky Killer, Giant Killer, Mepps Marabou or Musky Marabou.

Water Temperature
Does water temperature influence lure selection? You bet is does. Fish are cold blooded creatures. This means their body temperature rises in warm water and falls in cold water. Fish are most active when the water they live in is cool. Think about it. Even though you are not a cold blooded creature, you are most active when the atmosphere you live in is comfortable… not too hot and not too cold. Cool is, “just right.”

When you are too hot or too cold, you alter your activities to adapt to your environment. If it’s too cold, you warp yourself in a warm blanket and hunker down with a favorite magazine or book. If you’re watching television, the remote had better be near-by because you are not getting up to change channels. If it’s sweltering, you’ll slip into a pair of comfortable shorts and stretch out in front of the air conditioner. You’re not about to get up to make yourself a sandwich, as just the thought of moving around can make you queasy.

Carol

Fish react the same way, only their reactions are stronger. They cannot warm or cool their blood as we do to control our body temperature. Instead, when the water is cold a fish will move to shallow warm water, especially if the sun is out and it is warming that water. Here it will rest until its body temperature warms up. On the other hand, when the water is warm, a fish will move into a deep pocket in a lake, or into a fast run in a stream. Here it will “rest” until its body temperature cools down.

Just like you, under these less than ideal conditions, a fish isn’t about to leave the comfort of his pocket or run. In other words, it’s not about to go chasing around after a lure. It’s also not about to eat, so it doesn’t matter if that crankbait is the perfect crawfish imitator, it will be ignored.

However, let a small Mepps spinner slowly “swim” by and that same fish will grab it, and why not? Here is a small unrecognized creature, bug or “thing” invading the sanctity of its comfort zone, its “easy chair” so to speak. BANG! After all, you might not get up to make that sandwich, but what if someone were kind enough to drop a piece of your favorite candy in your lap? BANG!

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Now let’s take a look at what you do when the temperature is ideal. You wade your favorite lake, You jog, you go biking. You play 18 holes of golf and you carry your clubs. You may even paint the house or build a deck. In other words, you exercise and, as you do, you work up an appetite. So, you stoke up the grill.

When the water temperature is cool, a fish reacts the same way. This is the time to toss spoons and other imitators. Fish them fast or slow. Vary your retrieve to see what works best. Keep in mind, however, you will only catch fish as long as they are feeding. When they stop biting its time to tie on that spinner.

 

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Tips for Big Spring Pike

If you’re a ‘gator hunter, you’ll want to add these tips and tricks to your arsenal.

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Springtime is pike time and that’s a good place to begin. How early? Well, that sort of depends on your geographic placement, because in areas with continuous seasons, open-water pike fishing commences the day the ice goes out.

This pre-spawn period is coveted. Muscled but undersized males travel with swollen females. Together, they enter sacred breeding grounds to propagate. Really big fish are exposed, cruising ankle- and knee-deep shallows. The submarine backs of 35- to 45-inch gals occasionally break the surface. Visually, mature pike appear as darkened logs that mystically glide through the shallows.

Food runs and spawning runs often share common terrain. Swampy fields of standing vegetation that seem suited for dabbling ducks rank high, as do shallow, weeded bays and tributaries leading to said places. Bulrushes are good, as are cattails and rice paddies. No creek is too small or bottom too silted. In the spring, I’ve seen huge pike travel streams that could be stepped across. Creeks known for their sucker runs are doubly attractive. But remember, once procreation begins, feeding ebbs, so play your hand accordingly.

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Begin spring pike fishing in bays. First, they provide the egg-laying environment that attracts pike from far
and wide. Second, said bays host sufficient rations that invade shallow soft-bottomed bays, but to their dismay, hostile pike are there to greet them. Remember this: Where there are perch and other forage food, so will there be pike – spring, summer, winter and fall.

Not all bays are created equal either. Super-shallow ones – those not dipping past, say, 4 to 6 feet – provide supreme breeding habitat, but a short-lived bite, as choking weeds invade and water temperatures escalate into uncomfortable zones. These are excellent for pre-spawn fishing, and during cool and high-water springs when weeds remain manageable through May and into June. Hyper shallows also rejuvenate in the fall, after heavy greenery collapses and temperatures become comfortable once more. Visit them again at first ice with tip-ups and a bucket of suckers.

Overall, multi-dimensional bays are preferred to slough-like coves. so look for ones featuring good depth, 10 feet or more, and abundant features like humps, points, weedlines and inlets. They harbor more pike, and fish linger there longer, not being forced out by early-summer heat and subsequent lack of oxygen and forage. Many are lakes unto themselves, sporting deep flats and offshore bars. In lake-like bays, pike spawn in the shallows, recuperate and then gradually move to the bays’ deeper areas, notably weed lines.

The frequent loss of leadhead jigs to slime and teeth should trigger the conclusion that pike like what they’re seeing. But a change needs to be orchestrated for you to secure the upper hand. Reach for larger haired jigs and tether them with stronger, more abrasion-resistant lines. Big jigs, like the soft plastics mentioned earlier, maintain a large profile and can be presented languidly. Sizable 3/8- and 1/2-ounce bucktail jigs are marvelous. Leer rhythmically pumps a Northland Bionic Bucktail Jig tipped with a 3- or 4-inch sucker minnow. The meaty dressing adds visual stimulation, bulk and flavor. Griz does the same but with a Griz Jig – his own creation, featuring feathered marabou instead of bucktail and thereby achieving a similar dancing effect.

Operating larger jigs demands an upgrade from conventional walleye gear. Where you might have spooled 6- or 8-pound-test monofilament for ‘eyes, use 10- to 14-pound-test strengths. Overall, in a jigging scenario, mono outperforms the current wave of superlines, which impress in other arenas. You’ll want to tie in a leader, though. Spring pike aren’t known to be “leader shy,” likely due to their aggressiveness and usual springtime water coloration, so factor in a 12- to 18-inch seven-strand steel leader. Make your own and crimp the jig on, or go with a factory rendition. Leer likes a Berkley 14-inch leader with a steel ball-bearing and cross-lock snap, thus preventing line twist and allowing him to switch jig sizes and colors.

Spinning gear is preferred for jigging, although some anglers do prefer baitcasting equipment on drifts. I like a long 6 1/2- to 7-foot medium-heavy rod with a forearm-length cork handle. Long handles ease wrist-fatigue and provide a fulcrum during battle. You needn’t be as persnickety with reel selection, as long as you pick one that will spool heavier lines, run drag when it’s supposed to and not backpedal on hookset – instant anti-reverse.

Speaking of wobble, crankbaits and stick baits (long, shallow-running cranks) are the next line of offense. Beginning with the latter, focus once more on big and slow. Baitfish-mocking stick baits, like spinnerbaits and bucktails, can be cast or trolled. A healthy-sized Rapala Husky Jerk, Bomber Long A, Smithwick Rattlin’ Rogue or shallow-running Storm ThunderStick can be lethal. Realistic minnow finishes – gold and silver – are reliable, as are patterns involving white and red. Fire-tiger, a bright perch imitator, also smokes pike, and most manufacturers offer it. I utilize straight retrieves with infrequent twitches, modifying as conditions warrant.

Unquestionably, springtime pike react more strongly to lipless rattling crankbaits than any other variety.

  • Bill Lewis Rat-L-Traps
  • Rapala Rattlin’ Raps
  • Frenzy Rattl’rs score big time.

They’re wide-profiled and highly visible, plus the incessant clacking and wickedly tight wobble cause pike to come unglued. Because they sink, you’re able to control running depth. Unlike stick baits, which I retrieve methodically with occasional twitches, lipless cranks should be burnt through the water. Cast, point your rod tip at the splash and bear down.

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Timing the Pike Bite Just Right

 There are three times during the open-water period that can be considered prime for big pike.

 big pike

Each of these windows of opportunity lasts from 10 to 14 days and is key for large-sized northern because during this time, the bigger fish of this species are more concentrated in the shallower water. Here’s where they can be found easily and caught with lures that allow anglers to cover some ground in their search. Once these big pike head to the cool depths where they spread out and suspend, finding and catching them requires tremendous amounts of luck. It’s better to time your fishing for big pike to these three periods to take advantage of factors that give the edge to the angler instead of the pike.

  1. The first period is right after ice-out, which can be a problem in many areas where the season is closed on inland waters.
  2. The second period is as the shallows warm, when the big pike transition from shallow water to deep water.
  3. The third is right before a water body turns over in the fall, when big northern will move up into shallow water after spending summer in the depths.

Right after ice-out, you find huge northern pike in the spawning areas.  These will be shallow weed-choked bays in the lake, and weedy backwater bays up the river.

Little northern aren’t hard to find and catch, but the big pike are a challenge and they put up one heck of a fight.  When you hook into a really nice pike, you can’t make any mistakes.

Don’t let the cold water temperatures right after ice-out deter you from using an approach that allows you to cover some ground. This is the perfect time to be tying on a spinner bait because it’s a lure that works well in shallow vegetation.

The pike move up into whatever vegetation is still standing from the previous year — and any newly emerging weed growth that can often be found in very shallow depths.   Use a 3/4-ounce spinner bait with a large Colorado blade.  This lure casts a long way and can be retrieved slowly, if that’s what’s necessary. You can also burn it a little faster just below the surface in the real shallow water.

Wawang_pike_lures

 

Some of the pike will have already spawned, more than likely while ice still covered the surface. Others are still spawning or are preparing to.  Occasionally you may catch a big pike and you can tell is post-spawn, most of the really big pike after the ice has just gone out are still fat with eggs and just on the verge of spawning.    All trophy fish are released back to Wawang Lake.

It’s the transition period when the shallow shoreline regions are warming and the big northern are moving into the deeper, cooler water when most anglers get their first shot at big pike. This period usually falls into a two-week time frame a couple of weeks after the traditional opener. Anglers who can be on the water at this time can capitalize on big fish that are still in reaching distance for a spinner bait or crank bait.

It’s no secret that big pike like the colder water.  You will seldom find the bigger pike in the shallower regions in the lake during the summer months, because the water temperatures there are just too warm for their liking. If you miss this transition period, you’ll likely be into fall before you get another chance at a really big pike, because those bigger fish get hard to come by when they disappear into the depths.

This is a good time to get out Spoon plugs.  Any lake that has a well-defined deep weed line is a perfect candidate for Spoon plugs.

Wawang pike 46.5

The Spoon plug is a lure that was promoted years ago by famous angler Buck Perry, and is a staple of many diehard big-pike anglers. It allows an angler to troll a weed line or break line precisely at speeds of 1 to 4 mph.

You can cover some ground and find out where those pike are, although during the transition, it’s more important to have your lure in the right place than worrying about the speed.   Those Spoon plugs will get the lure to the right depth and stay on the weed line, no matter what speed I find triggers the bite.

So how does an angler know when the transition starts and ends? Water temperature signals the start.  When the surface temperature hits about 67 degrees, you know it’s going to start pushing those fish out.  This could be early June during some years and early July in others. The weather is the biggest determinant in when this transition period occurs.

You can tell it’s over when the fish quit the bite.  You’ll have a week where the weed line and shallow rock piles are producing big pike with some consistency, then one day you go out there and they’re gone.

Screen shot 2012-01-14 at 23_06_51

The pre-turnover period is when those big pike come out of the deep water as the shallow water cools, just prior to the lake rolling over.

Turnover is a tough time to call, which is why the guys who can get out on a body of water often generally hit this time just right. If you miss it, then there is a period for a couple of weeks after turnover when the fishing is tough all over a lake. It’s just luck and timing.

The big pike will be roaming over the tops of the vegetation, you’ll just want to be ticking the tops of the cabbage, coontail or milfoil with that spinner bait, and if the blade is just a nice slow thump, that’s perfect.

Back troll slowly over the vegetation, with only about 25 to 35 feet of line out — the line from the reel at a 45-degree angle toward the lure and the spinner bait right above the vegetation. By wearing a good pair of polarized glasses, an angler can watch the bait as it dances in and around the stalks and branches. As the boat moves from shallower to deeper water, drop the rod tip or lets out a little more line until the lure starts ticking weeds again.

If seeing an opening in the weeds, drop the rod tip and let the lure settle in.  It’s amazing how often you see the big pike react to the spinner bait and come out of a big pile of milfoil or coontail and attack that lure.

1doug0427

These big pike are the top predators in a lake and they fear nothing at this point.   You’ll see them swim right into the prop wash to hit a spinner bait or spoon as it’s trolled out from the boat.

Back trolling allows more depth control.   It’s easier to get the speed down and work a depth more thoroughly when backing the boat.   If the pike are deeper switch to crank baits or Spoon plugs, then front-troll. But when pulling spinner baits over the tops of the weeds, back troll.

Open-water season in northern Ontario lasts about 28 weeks or so and the time frame for quality big-pike fishing is between five and six weeks, so it’s imperative that you be on the water for these peak times.   Those big pike don’t give you many opportunities, so you need to take advantage of every one ‘em.

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