A majestic bald eagle is captured on video as it swoops down to pluck a fish out of the water. What happens next is totally unexpected.
Fish are a common meal for the eagle. Yet this old bird seemingly bit off more than he could chew when he chose the wrong fish for dinner. But the clever bird has a wonderful trick up his sleeve. Watch the video and prepare to be impressed.
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Using jigs can be very productive but too many anglers aren’t fishing them correctly. Just starters, understand that you won’t always feel the thump of a walleye when it strikes a jig.
Guys expect that sure bite or hit. Many times you don’t feel it. So often you drop the jig down and it stops. Maybe you’ll just feel some extra weight.
Concentrate on your rod, and don’t wait too long to set the hook.
The right rod helps here. When jigging, use a 6-foot, 8-inch or 7-foot rod when jigging with a light-action and fast tip. This really helps increase the number of bites he detects, which translates into more fish.
Use a short shank jig for live bait and a long shank jig when combining that live bait with a dressing. The latter can be plastic, Gulp, or maribou. If you face a tougher bite, use less bulk and movement in the water. Don’t vibrate your offering as much. Listen to the fish to extrapolate their mood, then up size or downsize properly.
Under most conditions, avoid stinger hooks. If you’re missing strikes, however, and want to try a stinger, use it properly. Just let it free-fall behind the lure.
You get fewer bites with a stinger, so if you’re missing fish, drop that rod tip first, and let them take it.
As for jigging actions, think beyond just lift-drop. That’s fine if it’s producing, but often just holding it at one depth, say 3 inches off bottom, is enough. Let that minnow work and if you want to get creative, try quiver jigging (gyrating the rod ahead of the reel), snap-jigging, dragging, or just casting and retrieving jigs.
Also, use a heavy enough jig to contact bottom, but not so heavy that fish blow it out. Vertical jigging should offer just the right weight to tick the bottom.
And if you feel a bite, set the hook hard. Really swing that rod tip up. Always tie your jigs directly to the line. Suspend it periodically out of the water and let it unravel to eliminate line twist and tangling.
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Now, who does not love catching a hard fighting northern pike. The northern pike is a voracious predator that is usually perched on top of the local food chain. and described the northern pike as “a tyrant, a fish that is solitary and bold”.
To suggest the northern pike is a tyrant may be a little harsh. However, this fish is truly bold could be an understatement. This predatory fish is often the top predator wherever it swims. This is one of the few species with a circumpolar distribution as it is found throughout the northern hemisphere. This species has a major following wherever it is found. Due to this following many anglers target this species. In Southern Canada, many species like walleye, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, black crappie and muskellunge have a loyal following of anglers. However, early in the season many anglers will target northern pike as this predatory fish has predictable habits. They are relatively easy to locate and catch with a little homework.
Spawning – The Details
Northern pike spawning takes place during the spring when water temperatures are between 40°F to 52°. Often there may be ice on the main lake and northern pike are already seeking out spawning locations in local marshes and tributaries. Northern pike will seek out spawning areas in heavily vegetated areas of river floodplains, marshes and the bays of large lakes. Northern pike are often associated with high densities of emergent vegetation such as sedges, grasses, cattails, etc. Northern pike will spawn in pairs but one female may see several suitors during the spawning season. Spawning takes place in very shallow water, often only a few inches deep. Unlike sunfish species (i.e. largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, pumpkinseed) no nest is constructed. Eggs and sperm are scattered onto surrounding vegetation. Spawning pairs may stay together for a few days spawning repeatedly during that time. Eggs are very adhesive and will actually stick to the surrounding vegetation. Emergent vegetation provides a great surface for egg adhesion. Fish will remain in the spawning areas for a short time after spawning. At that time they will retreat to deeper water nearby to rest and begin feeding after the rigors of spawning.
Locating Spawning Habitat – Map Study
Why would anglers want to locate northern pike spawning areas? In Ontario, most spawning seasons are protected calendar periods for fish to spawn in peace. This holds true for northern pike across much of Ontario. However, locating spawning habitat for northern pike will help anglers locate fish even after season opens. As mentioned above, northern pike will setup in feeding areas near their spawning areas as they recuperate from the rigors of spawning. Armed with a basic knowledge of pike spawning habitats and lake characteristics anglers can narrow their search for northern pike relatively quickly. For anglers pursuing northern pike in Ontario they can use the Ministry of Natural Resources Fish Online web application. This tool can help you find lots of information about waterbodies in Ontario included species lists, fishing regulation information, boat launches, lake bathymetry and more. You can even complete fishing reports to help inform the Ministry of Natural Resources about fishing conditions in the lakes you fish!
Locating Spawning Areas – Time on the Water
Water temperature is very important to determine what stage of the spawn northern pike will be in. A large lake could see northern pike at various spawning stages around the lake depending on the location of the spawning habitats. Many anglers will begin their search in the northern areas of most lakes. In the Northern Hemisphere lakes the northerly shorelines of all lakes will receive more sun exposure than southerly shorelines. From this general piece of information anglers can begin to survey bays, river mouths and flats for northern pike. With water in the 30 degree range (Fahrenheit), northern pike will be staging in deep water adjacent to spawning locations. As the water temperature rises into the 40 degree range, northern pike will begin to seek out spawning locations. Once water temperatures reach 50 degrees, northern pike will vacate spawning areas and setup in nearby deeper water.
Anglers are best to begin their search slowly from deep to shallow. Using their electronics, lures and eyes they can locate fish. Electronics will keep you dialed into the local water temperature. Casting large lures can be used to locate fish away from the boat. Casting in a methodical pattern to cover water can help locate northern pike or eliminate water. The final key search too is an anglers eyes. A good pair of polarized sunglasses will help you locate emerging vegetation and also fish. Northern pike are large predators but very wary in shallow water. Good polarized sunglasses will help anglers see them before the anglers themselves are spotted.
Here are some GREAT lure choices for northern pike:
Whether it’s submerged weeds like cabbage, floating varieties such as lily pads, or emergent plants like reeds, bulrushes, or even flooded terrestrials, pike instinctively gravitate to vegetative cover. When conditions are right, the green zone becomes a gridiron to do battle with toothy weed beasts.
Shrewd pike anglers are adept at using lures and techniques to find and extract fish from these sorts of weed-filled areas. While you can often do well skirting the edges, at times there is no substitute for rolling up your sleeves and digging them out of the heavy stuff. It’s of little surprise then, that weedlessness is a quality shared by many top pike lures (and lure modifications) of our time.
The Johnson Silver Minnow, introduced in the 1920s, remains a consistent producer of weed pike. Northland Tackle’s new Live-Forage Weedless Spoon, with realistic baitfish-image patterns, and the Daredevle Feathered Weedless spoon, are other options of similar design.
Many have written about exchanging treble hooks for single hooks on spoons, which reduces fouling while still permitting efficient hook-sets. Vegetation that gets hung on the hook typically can be ripped free during the retrieve with a few quick snaps of the rod tip, or on a subsequent snap-cast. Add a texposed softbait trailer for more weed proofing.
The weedless qualities of many popular bass lures have led them to serve double-duty for pike. When Blue Fox introduced the Roland Martin series spinnerbait, fitted with a then oversized #7 blade, it was an instant favorite for big pike. Today, an expanded range of pike spinnerbaits is available, including the Lindy M&G and Northland Bionic Bucktail spinnerbaits, among many others.
Jigs built for flipping and swimming are another class of weapons for weed pike. Versions of this once exclusive bass bait are now widely available and in larger sizes crossing over to pike. In this category are the J-mac and Lil’ Hustler jigs. Northland’s Jungle Jig, tipped with a plastic trailer, is another good producer for weed pike. Oversize jigs like the J-mac also work well paired with a reaper, lizard, or swimbait, adding unique action, increasing profile, and slowing sink rate.
Anyone who has fished weedless surface frogs can attest to their effectiveness at attracting and hooking pike. While pike tend to damage the softer varieties after a catch or two, newer designs such as the SPRO Bronzeye Pop Frog and Tru Tungsten Mad Maxx are harder than most and put many pike in the boat before needing to be replaced or repaired.
Upsized hollow-bodied swimbaits are among the most recent weed-resistant tools being applied to extract pike from sloppy places. Many varieties run weedless when rigged texposed on an oversized worm hook. Try a Berkley Hollow Belly Swimbait, Yum Money Minnow, or Z-Man SwimmerZ. The Fat Minnow by Basstrix, rigged on a Mustad Ultra Lock (38105), is a personal favorite.
When flying north to trophy pike waters, knowledgeable anglers pack a selection of soft-plastic stickbaits and wide-gap hooks. Effective weedless alternatives when slow is key, Bait Rigs’ Reaper Tail or a 9-inch Yum Dinger can be cast easily on unweighted hooks and worked in and along weedy haunts. Where there’s room to swim in vegetation pockets or through stalks, try texposing an oversized curlytail grub, like a Kalin’s 5-inch Lunker Grub on an unweighted wide-gap hook. The seductive slow swim can be irresistible to pike holding in the greenery.
To improve the longevity of soft plastics, consider using screw locks, which can be clipped to the eye of the hook or threaded onto the hook shaft. These modifications can be applied to in-line spinners as well. For especially dense or stubborn vegetation, clip on a hook with a wireguard like the Mustad W3551, making your favorite spoon or spinner weedless.
It’s not a question of whether you’ll find pike in the weeds, but rather when. Productive people have an uncanny ability to turn challenges into opportunity. Snakes in the grass need not carry a negative connotation, providing you’re equipped with the right tools for overcoming salady situations.
The Snagless Sally made by Hildebrandt is a classic for combing weeds for bass and pike. “The Snagless Sally is one of the most weedless spinner-based lures I’ve ever used,” says In-Fisherman Managing Editor Rob Neumann. “It works well through submerged weeds, but also through floating plants and emergents like lilies, reeds, and rice.” Sally features a single hook with a wire hook-guard and vinyl skirt. “You also can add a plastic or pork trailer, but that’s often not necessary,” he says. Originally available in 1/4- and 3/8-ounce sizes, the Snagless Sally lineup has been expanded to include 1/2-, 3/4-, and 1-ounce sizes, giving pike (and muskie) anglers more options.
Soft-plastic flukes and stickbaits like Lunker City Slug-Gos and Yum Dingers can be hot tickets to pike in weedy water. Rigged on wide-gap hook, these slow sinkers can be walked, snapped, and paused in midwater to trigger vicious strikes. In-Fisherman John Kolbeck passed along his solutions for rigging these plastics. He was fishing for pike in shallow weedy areas and around fallen timber with Slug-Gos, walking the dog about a foot under water and crawling baits over patches of dead reeds. He connected the hook to a loop in the wire leader to maximize bait action.The problem was that the lure would slide down the hook shank into the hook-bend, preventing solid hook-sets. The first attempt was to peg the lure to the eye of the hook, but this kept the lure from swinging freely on the leader loop. Kolbeck offers three solutions:1. Thread the nose of the lure onto the hook. Double over a short piece of rubber band and thread onto the hook before inserting the hook into the body of the lure. Slide the rubber band piece up past the bait-keeper bend of the hook an tight against the nose of the lure.2. Rig the lure onto the hook, being sure not to cover the hookeye. Insert a toothpick into the bait at a 90-degree angle just in front of the bait-keeper bend in the hook and trim the toothpick ends. 3. Starting with about a 2-inch section of pipe cleaner, strip about 1/4 inch of the fuzzy material from one end. Attach the bare-wire end to the hookeye, being sure not to foul the loose leader connection. Wrap the fuzzy end of the pipe cleaner around the shank of the hook just above the bait-keeper bend. This option allows you to add a bit of color as well.
Exchanging the treble hook for a single hook on a spoon can make it more weedless. And whatever weeds the hook picks up often can be ripped free with a few sharp snaps of the rod. Lonnie King switches out for single siwash-style hooks where single barbless hooks are mandatory, as is the case in some trophy pike waters in Canada. The Eagle Claw 84 is another good hook option.King suggests installing the hook so its point is on the concave (top) side of the spoon when retrieved. You can also rig a soft plastic trailer texposed to make it even more weedless, and for adding customized actions and profiles. To keep the trailer from slipping down the hook shank, use a clip-on screw-lock like the Tru-Turn HitchHiker (ttiblakemore.com), Bass Pro Shops XPS Keeper Spring (basspro.com), or Clinch Spring from First Mate Lures (firstmatelures.com).You can also add an extra split ring, extending the connection and allowing the hook to move more freely. Use the Fastach Clip from Stringease Tackle (stringease.com), which extends the distance between hook and lure and makes hook changes quick and easy.
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- 4 cups salted pretzels
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 3 tbsp HP sauce
- 3 tbsp beer
- 2 lb skinless pike fillets
- Vegetable oil
- Place pretzels in a plastic bag and break into fine crumbs.
- In a medium-size bowl, beat together eggs, sauce and beer with a fork.
- Cut fillets into 1-inch-wide strips and pat dry. Dip strips into egg mixture, then place in bag with pretzel crumbs and shake until fully coated. Place coated strips on a cookie sheet and refrigerate for 20 minutes, allowing to dry.
- In a 12-inch skillet, heat 1/4-inch oil over medium-high heat. Add fish strips and cook until golden brown (at least 3 minutes), turning once.
Fall is a transition period, and as autumn leaves change colors, many anglers switch almost exclusively to trolling for northern pike from late August to ice-up.
Yet the fall still holds plenty of casting opportunities, and it’s the season for trophy fish. Casting in fall conditions is tough going; the trick is using effective baits for the cold-water conditions. Here’s an overview of some fall casting baits with some tips on how to use them.
You should consider jerkbaits as mandatory lures for any autumn outing. The surge-and-pause action on lures, such as Bobbie Baits or Suicks, appeals to the sometimes-sluggish disposition of fall pike.
The key to working jerkbaits is long, slow pulls, big pauses, and long ‘hang time.’ The more hang time the better. This hang time gives pike an opportunity to move in and inspect baits. The next pull of the lure often triggers hits
There is no wrong place to cast jerkbaits in the fall. Prime areas include deep, healthy weedbeds, sharp breaks, and points near deep water. Having weighted models is important to be able to count them down to effectively work deep structures.
A good assortment of fall baits for pike would include:
- Bobbie Bait jerkbait
- Hughes River Hughey
- Muskie Mania Jake
- Joe Bucher Jointed Depthraider
- Musky Innovations Bull Dawg
Glidebaits are another good fall choice. They don’t require long pulls of line like jerkbaits. Rather they’re worked with a short twitch, followed by a pause on slack line. This causes the bait to dart and swim to one side. On the next twitch it will cut to the other side.
Glidebaits give off a slow, dying baitfish action. Their slow presentation can trigger strikes. that because baits dart out to the side, it gives them a large profile, which is a big-time fish attractor. Popular gliders include:
- Hughes River baits, or Phantoms.
Glidebaits are particularly deadly over top of deep weed beds and they also do well anywhere you’d throw a jerkbait.
Some pike fishermen like to use baits that maintain a relatively straight trajectory when retrieved. The straight path makes it easy for pike to hone in and hunt the bait. Beyond jerkbaits, minnowbaits, such as Musky Mania Tackle’s Jakes or Grandmas, are two top choices for fall casting. Work them on a straight retrieve with the odd twitch.
Another choice is crankbaits such as: Musky Mania Tackle’s Ernies or Joe Bucher’s Depth Raiders, to get down deep near the edges of structure. These baits trigger hits when banged along rock piles or fished on a stop-and-go retrieve. Use baits in both straight and jointed models.
Finally, large, weighted, plastic baits or swimbaits, such as Muskie Innovation’s Bull Dawgs, Castaic’s Swimmin’ Sardine, or Storm’s Wildeye Swim Shad, are fall favorites for many anglers. Extremely versatile, these baits can be brought in on slow, steady retrieves, or allowed to sink to a certain depth and then brought in on a rise-and-fall pattern. Additionally, they can be fished like giant jigs, making them an excellent bait to probe deep holes or drop offs.
Regardless of the type of bait, the importance of working them slowly. is because fish don’t feed as frequently in the fall as they do in summer, so you need to give them a presentation they won’t miss.
Although there are a variety of baits to cast in autumn, one factor always remains constant — the importance of powerful hook sets. Cold-water strikes range from the subdued, with the sudden feeling of extra weight on the line, to shoulder-socket jarring. Act quickly and drive those hooks home. Fall is trophy time and you might just hook the biggest fish of your life!
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