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Monthly Archives: October 2014

Pike – Trolling & What to Use

2014-08-30 04.28.02

Once water temperature maxes out in late summer, targeting suspended fish with trolling techniques will up your average size almost immediately. On inland lakes has proven to be a #1 pattern for big pike during the dog days of summer. Pike near the upper reaches of the thermocline are un-pressured, well-fed and usually easy to locate with your sonar. Running baits from eighteen to thirty feet down over forty to one hundred feet of water is pretty common. In-line keel weights from 5/8 oz. to 1oz, Dipsey Divers and even downriggers can be used to deliver a range of plugs, spoons or baited spinner rigs. Small baits like #9 Rapala Shad Raps or Spoonbill Rebels can sometimes be just as effective as larger baits, like Cisco Kidds, Jakes or magnum spoons like Eppinger’s Husky Devil. Many of the crank baits you already use for pike can be flatline trolled deep enough all on their own. Dropping down to sixty five or even fifty pound test super braid will help small to medium sized deep divers dig deep. You won’t be making any bottom contact fishing these open water areas, so the lighter line isn’t going to be a problem. Straight and Jointed eight inch Depth Raiders are one of the best lures for running down fifteen to twenty feet on a long line. Of course, line counter reels make this whole procedure easier.   Try a Daiwa Sealine. The little LCA27’s work great for open water pike. At three miles an hour, about 110 feet of fifty pound Power pro will but a straight Depth Raider down about nineteen feet.rapala-x-rap-jointed-shad-brp-1297332725777

Speed and depth are the two most important factors. Once you get these wrinkles down pat, you can really start seeing patterns and exploiting them. You might need to crawl along at 2 mph with small baits on weighted lines to fish deep in the water column sometimes. Other times, powering through areas at two or even three times that speed with baits pounding high and fast over top of the fish will do it. If you’re seeing big clouds of insects, baitfish or game fish on your sonar over deep water late in the summer, try trolling them. Evenings have proven to be one of the most effective times to try this, and if what you’re marking is close to big, prominent structures, you’ve really got an area to work! As always, punch up icons on your plotter whenever you see good action on the graph, and definitely after you get a strike. Jointed Legend Perch baits are a great bait for powering over deeper fish late in the summer. They will handle speeds in excess of six miles an hour and their violent action and durability are very good.

Trolling really comes into its own once fall sets in and the water begins to cool off and the thermal zones within the lake start to break apart. Just like in early summer, pike can be ‘shallow, near deep’ once again. One misconception is that weeds all die in the fall, and that dead or dying weeds repel fish. Both are completely untrue.  Some of best weeds to fish on a lake are the weeds that never die!   They get a constant flush of high-quality water due to their location. They’re on big spots near sections of open water and there’s always natural and wind-induced current to keep the water becoming stagnant or too warm. If you can find spots like this where you fish, please, fish them hard this fall!  Some of the growth around the edges or the smaller clumps/fingers will die back, but the main bodies last all year.

These are great weeds to troll. Staying just outside with a large, steep-diving crank bait takes time to learn how to do, but is very effective on big fish.

Legend Perch Baits
Junior Hookers
Maina-Drifter Ernies

and other crankbaits all get down fast and you won’t need much line out. This is a real key for trolling tight to fall structure.

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In rough, cooling water in September and October, trolling becomes one of your best and safest options. Plot out spots, and attack areas from different depths, speeds and angles. If edges or open water trolling passes don’t work, then make at least a couple ‘suicide runs’ for instance; take your boat and drive baits right over the thickest weeds, shallowest parts of the rock or right up the gut of the spot. You’ll either get snagged/fouled or nail a fish. By mid to late October, some weeds will have their leaves blown off and all that’s left are long, skinny stalks. These are easy to fish through and don’t think for a second that fish have left a spot simply because the weeds are beat up. Good spots are good spots for more than one reason (remember the ‘sum of their parts’ idea?) and in fall, focusing on a handful of good, big areas or spots that you know intimately is the best approach.

Deep structure requires the same level of familiarity to fish. Grinding bottom over flats or deep-topping ledges, shoals or extensions off islands with crank baits is a favorite trolling technique.  Use trolling outfits rigged with twenty to forty pound solid wire to stay deep at low speeds, typically between 2 and 4 mph. Pike will tuck into any kind of ambush points they can on these spots, or will sometimes be out on patrol, actively moving. Ten Inch Hookers, Legend Plows and a selection of hand-made crank baits get deep, give off great vibration and are almost totally snag-proof. Their big lips, high buoyancy and the steep dive angle created by the wire line makes for an efficient package. For staying on bottom from twenty to forty feet deep, this type of set-up is the only way to go. Generally, the rougher the bottom, the slower the troll.

frabill-conservation-netAnd that’s about it. Pike, no matter what size, are an awesome fish to target, fight and in Wawang Lake – released.  Northern Pike over forty inches are every bit as special as a fifty inch muskie.  In my opinion, given their depth and water quality needs, they’re even harder for lakes to produce but we’re proud to say that Wawang Lake holds many of these trophy sized fish. Carrying a good camera, large net with quality mesh (look at the ones sold by Beckman and Frabil) and a simple set of hook-removing tools will make sure that big ones are handled fast and released in good shape. For smaller hooks and split rings, a heavy pair of side cutters works. For heavier tackle, Knipex makes some great tools for cutting hooks and getting fish free quickly. Learn a manageable selection of good spots on a good pike fishery or two, and apply some basic techniques, learning as much as you can every time you’re out.

Follow the fish around through the seasons and you’ll learn to catch ‘em with ease.

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UNDERSTANDING DIFFERENT WALLEYE PATTERNS

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To become an accomplished walleye angler, the first step is to understand the walleye behavior and seasonal movements in order to shorten the learning curve of where the walleye will be. Take into consideration all factors, including type of water, weather conditions, time of year, water temperature, wind speed and direction, and time of day. Then choose the appropriate presentation suited to the habitat of feeding walleye. This is the process of developing a pattern, if the presentation you choose is not working but your marking fish on your graph or LCD try something different versus moving to another spot. Usually subtle changes in the presentation will make a big difference, suggestions such as down-sizing minnows or switching from a minnow to a leech, or a slip bobber to a jig and minnow, which allows the bait to hang in the feeding zone, all can change your success.

The topics listed below will help you understand many of the situations you may encounter when fishing for the elusive walleye.

Pre Spawn & Spawning Walleyes:

Almost all Ontario inland waters are closed for the walleye spawning season with the exception of some rivers systems. During this period fishing for walleyes can be the best or worst with the critical factor being the weather. Stable weather for a few days with any increase in water temperature, even a degree or two, can trigger active walleyes to bite. But if a cold front moves in dropping the water temperature this will have the opposite effect and shut down the bite. If you’re walleye fishing during the spring season your best bet is in the afternoon when the water temperature is at the highest point for the day.

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In the early period of the spawn walleyes will stage off spawning areas in deeper water (15 feet plus), and because of the cold temperatures will not be aggressively feeding. You can still catch them by using slow vertical presentations such as jig and minnow or a vibrating blade lure, the key again is very slow and vertical. Later in the spawning period they will move more actively towards the shallow gravel areas, if the water is muddy or dark they can be in water as shallow as 2-3 feet even during the day. For very shallow water try using a 1/32 oz jig tipped with a small fathead minnow or a number 5 floating Rapala.  For best results these presentations should be twitched or retrieved slowly.  Little Joe spinner rigs very well too with a minnow or leech.

During the pre-spawn and spawn your will catch will be mostly all small males, the big females will not bite once they start to spawn but all of them do not spawn at once. Those that have not started to spawn can still be caught, but as the spawning period progresses fishing for females is a waste of time. However, females that have spawned early will recover and begin to feed. Each body of water system has different spawning cycles, stream based walleye spawn first then shoreline and finally shallow reef walleyes spawn last. Knowing this will allow early season walleye anglers to move to different areas or a new lake where the timing of the spawn has not occurred, completed or is in the process.

Spawning Temperatures:

The spawning migration of walleye begins soon after the ice goes out, at water temperatures of 38-44ºF, ordinarily peaking when water temperatures reach 42-50ºF.

Walleye in Weeds:

Normally when you think of fishing for walleye it’s associated with deep water, rock piles and humps that walleyes prefer with hard clean bottom structure. But the few anglers that fish weeds for walleyes know how much time walleyes spend in and around the edges of weed beds.

Walleye will move into the weeds seeking baitfish that use the protection of cover. They also use weeds for shade and cooler temperatures instead of deeper water. The best weeds are submerging broadleaf types such as cabbage next to or in deeper water, than emergent (cattails, bulrushes) or floating (lily pads) that live in very shallow water.

You can catch walleye in weeds almost any time of the year but weed fishing is best during the summer and into fall once the weeds are established. Fishing for walleye along the weed edge is easy, use a slip sinker rig with a weed less hook or a weed less jig tipped with a minnow, leech or a piece of night crawler keeping it as close as possible to the weed edge. But when walleyes are actually in the weeds or suspended above, use a slip bobber rig or weed less jig in 1/8 to 3/8 oz. by twitching it through the weeds.  Other tactics are 1/8 oz. spinner baits cast into weed pockets and allowing it to helicopter down before retrieving, if the weeds don’t grow to the surface try a shallow running crank bait twitching the lure just above the weed tops.

Walleye on Rocks:

Most wildlife artists that paint walleye portraits will have them displayed over rocks and boulders. The main reason being this one the best places to consistently find walleyes, it is also one of the most difficult lake bottoms to fish especially when using live bait rigs or jigs. Here are some suggestions to catch more walleyes when you find that hot rock pile, mid-lake hump, or rocky point.

  • Bottom Bouncing Artificial Lures:

Deep diving floating crank baits, select a crank bait that will run just off the bottom or bump the rocks, if the lure should get hung up let the line go limp, it should float up.

  • Suspend your Live Bait:

Use a slip bobber rig and position the bait just to hang above the rocks

  • Float your Live Bait:

Use a floating jig head, for night crawlers inject a shot of air from a crawler inflator for slip sinker weights try a No Snag tube weight instead of an egg or walking sinker.

  • Trolling with Sliding Sinker Live Bait Rig:

Keep your line as vertical as possible, by adding weight to this set-up you reduce the angle of your line and therefore reduce your chances to get hung up.

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Transition Pike

Wawang Lake northern pike (6)During the transition period focus on the general areas that held fish a month or more earlier.  Only now, look for spots that are adjacent to deep water. One of the golden rules in summer is that good spots are a sum of their combined parts.

If you can find areas with mixed rock, some budding weed growth and some deeper water nearby, you can usually start finding good quality fish. The mistake people make a lot is hanging around those shallow, flat spots too long. Early in the year, pike will be in six to ten feet of water for hundreds of yards in all directions. But by early July and into August, the depth requirement changes. Pike can still be comfortable in six or eight feet of water, as long as it can be off in a thirty feet drop with a few tail kicks. You will find quality pike when casting early to mid-summer near the high spots on the shoals or points in water fifteen to thirty feet deep. The pike are still ‘shallow,’ they’re just much more associated with ‘deep.’ The same types of areas always produce. They’re usually large in overall area, close to deep water, and have a great mixture of cover (broken rock, cabbage or coon tail weeds) and depth levels. This is a well-worn cliché from magazines and television. And it’s one of those rare occasions that happens to be 100% true.

This time of the year, and on these types of spots, pike have the option of tucking along the sharpest part(s) of the spot, suspending/travelling out away from it, or sulking on the bottom nearby. The location of the fish sounds pretty vague, but you must check all three zones.  Casting and trolling are both effective. Medium to large-sized spinners and spinner baits catch a lot of fish. Spinner baits are one of the most popular lures for pike. They’re great over rocks, through weed, dropped vertically or bumped along the bottom in deep water. You can check multiple zones on a spot with one lure, even within the same cast.

Esox Research’s Grinder
Fudally’s Hawg Spins
CJ’s
Rad Dogs
Grimm Reapers and
Lindy’s M&G’s

all catch pike. You can burn them fast, plowing through weeds, you can troll them, or you can crawl them along almost like a jig. With spinner baits either let it hit the bottom before the retrieve or at least once before it gets back to the boat. This is one of those things that’s easy to forget but produces fish! Spinner baits are probably the best-hooking lures out there, and very easy on the big fish you’re releasing. As the weeds get heavier and heavier and the water warms up, they tick the deep side of heavy cover and work out into open water. Heavy ones, from three to five ounces, with smaller blades and thinner skirts are great for rolling deeper. Typically, any muskie gear is the way to go, using braided line from sixty five to one hundred pound test and a heavy wire or fluoro leader on a good reel and long, heavy action rod. St.Croix’s 8’6 Premier and 8’6 Slingblade models are some of the finest rods used for casting spinners.

Classic Jerkbaits

Classic Jerkbaits

The smaller jerk baits that worked all spring will still work, use larger baits this time of year for their casting distance, diving ability and overall target appeal. A range of dive/rise, twitch and cranking baits all work.

10” weighted Suicks
Wades Wobblers
Bobbie Baits and
Musky Mayhem’s Big Daddy

are what is classify as garden variety, ‘wooden jerkbaits.’

For the most part, they dive straight down when you reel/sweep them forward and either hang or rise slowly. Big Daddies and Wades run pretty deep and can call big pike up from ten or fifteen feet below them. Even with jerk baits that come weighted from the factory simply add a small bell sinker to the front split ring and add heavy wire hooks like Mustad’s 3x. As long as the bait isn’t sinking, it’s weighted right. All should run very deep and suspend when they stop. Sometimes in heavier weeds and over rocks, more buoyant jerk baits are better for picking through without hanging up. Baits that dive and rise can be awesome any time of the year. That melodic, prodding action is a natural fish magnet.

Glider-style jerk baits have been very popular with fishermen for some time now, and their action and running depth fits with summer pike very well too. Most of these lures sink, and they range in action from left to right (or ‘walking the dog’) to up and down, to all over the place!

Baits like Esox Research’s Hellhound flutter down almost like a spoon when you stop them and will walk the dog as well as pop upwards and downwards.

Ten inch Manta Hang Tens are another good glider. They can be made to run deep and are easy to get in a rhythm with. Pike will miss these things just as they do erratic, walking surface lures, but there is no arguing their appeal to the fish. Pike will hit gliders when other baits aren’t working. As a bit of a side note, the same is true about walk the dog surface lures like
Jackpots
Weagles, or
Magnum Zara Spooks

Hooking percentage definitely falls off, but this type of action simply fascinates pike.

Magnum, unweighted Bulldawgs are another great one for working deeper. They’re hard to fish wrong and are the #1 bait for quality pike in the cold and nasty weather. Sharpen the hooks and give them a try. They’re deadly. Don’t think twice about casting the Magnum version. With the tail extended these lures are well over a foot long. Pike of all sizes will fold them up like a hot dog bun and gulp them down.

The key with all these baits is that they get down and stay down, move enticingly, and closely replicate the size and shape of what pike are usually eating this time of year, namely small walleye, suckers, whitefish, lake herring and pan fish.  The more you use them the confidence you will gain.

Baits like Esox Research Co.’s Double and Triple D are basically like a Husky Jerk on steroids, and pike smash these things too. Cranking them down and jerk-reel-pausing is really as complicated as it needs to be. Musky Innovation’s Shallow Invader works much the same. It’s a bait that catches big pike and it has earned a regular spot in the boat for about the last two seasons. We do more and more fishing with rubber-tailed plugs every season and they flat-out produce. Standard crankbaits like ten inch Maina-Drifter Jakes, nine inch Grandmas, Bucher Depth Raiders and Rapala Super Shad Raps are also good lures for working deeper spots casting and trolling. Nine inch Grandmas have heavy thump, no rattles and they run and suspend very deep. They’re a real sleeper bait for big pike all season. We fish all these types of crank baits and jerk baits on eight to nine foot rods. They cast further and absorb most to the workload from all the ripping and jerking. Making long casts around the edges of good structure with a deep diving crank bait or twitcher is a simple and effective way to catch some nice fish.

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MOJO WALLEYE or PIKE

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Total Time:

Prep Time:  3 hours
Cook Time:  20 minutes

Servings:  2-3

Walleye or Pike is just about the best white fish and this marinade is fantastic! Allow about three hours for marinating, and either grill or broil the walleye, and maybe coat it in a light mixture of dried unseasoned breadcrumbs with a little cornmeal and pan-fry.

mojo

2 large walleye or pike fillets

Marinade

Directions:

  1. In a plastic zipper bag, combine 2 large walleye fillets with the marinade ingredients; marinate for 3 hours.
  2. To cook, either grill, broil or pan-fry; total cooking time should be about 15 to 20 minutes.

Colton-Wawang-Lake-catch

ENJOY!

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1 Comment

Posted by on October 13, 2014 in Northern Pike, recipes, walleye

 

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Northern Pike – Tips

Wawang Lake northern pike (4)

Anchoring up wind or up current from areas where pike will hang around or travel through should never be overlooked. Slip bobbers like Thill’s Big Fish Slider are normally rigged with a flexible wire and one or two hooks. Regulations are specific on what’s legal as far as rigging, and once again, you have to be 100% clear. Live minnows (chubs and suckers are two of the best) can be kept swimming with a light wire treble or single hook matched to the size of the bait. Single hooks like Eagle Claw’s Model 84 are a favorite. They pick up less debris when your minnow gets near bottom and they’re very easy to set and remove from the fish.  Keep the minnow struggling in a confined under right under the float.  Make thirty pound test Seven strand wire leaders about eighteen inches long and anchor them with a heavy egg single right above the top swivel. To keep the weight from sliding and spreading the rig all over the place when a pike hits and runs, peg the weight in place with a round toothpick.  Peg it and butt it right up to the swivel. You want enough weight to submerge the float ¾ of the way under the water. As an added wrinkle, if you’re looking to cover water with a float using wind, lighten up the weight. More of the float sticks out of the water and helps it move. To pin it down in heavy wind, current or on a good spot, weigh it right down.

Dale Hayden

Dale Hayden

When a northern pike hits expect it to make some sort of run. Generally, once the float disappears you will see your line begin to move off. With any type of natural bait, you need to be on the ball. Quickly determine the direction the fish is heading, let the line tighten down and sweep the hook back into the fish. Make sure all the slack is out of the line before you drop the hammer. There’s really no advantage to waiting for the pike to ‘swallow’ the minnow. You risk having the fish run through snags along bottom or hooking it deeply.  Use eight foot bait cast rods with a soft tip for lob casting these rigs. Rods for live bait are like trolling rods, in that they just need to be reliable. There’s no real need for exotic actions or extreme sensitivity.  We suggest using composite rods.

Braided line in sixty five pound test works well because it’s visible, very tough and it floats like a cork. Soaking bait with mono will give you problems when the line sinks along the bottom. Braid keeps the whole package neat and organized on the surface and the sensitivity is great for feeling what the fish is doing and setting the hook.  Great feel, control and very durable.

Garcia 6500 reels with a clicker work well as a reel. A heavy, ¾ to 1 ounce jig is a really good set-up under a float too! Nick the minnow through the tail and he’ll fight the weight of the jig all day. We have no idea why, but almost every pike landed on this rig gets the jig right in the corner of the jaw. Maybe the lead ball rolls out of their mouth, almost like a circle hook. Hot orange and pink have proven to be two good colors if you’re looking for a little extra attraction on the minnow.

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FALL TIME MEANS ‘PLUMP’ WALLEYE

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As the leaves slowly begin to change colour and the nights become frosty, walleye anglers in the know begin to get their tackle ready in anticipation of guaranteed action. Fall is the number one period for catching LARGE walleye, especially those that push the scale down to double digits! By following a few simple rules, catching trophy walleye during the harvest moon can be as easy as 1-2-3, and let’s face it, what can be better than that in the game of fishing?

Fall time signals a change in the attitude of walleye. With the onset of winter just around the corner, walleye will begin gorging on baitfish and other food sources in order to build up fat reserves. This will be necessary to get them through the harsh and cold winter, and also to prepare them for the upcoming spawn.

The last few months before winter is an opportunity for “feast or famine,” and the predator walleye will be out in full force, eating everything that comes its way. Locating these fish, and knowing what to throw at them, are two key areas that will help you find success.

imagescan4t93hWhere To Look?

Finding the walleyes in the fall can be a simple task, as locations are quite precise and straightforward. The first thing to do is limit all of your fishing to water that is less than twenty-feet deep. Fish move shallower as the water grows colder, and most angling actually takes place in water less than fifteen feet deep. Narrows, shoals, humps and islands all provide key areas for walleye to congregate at. These structure points provide an adequate food source and also an excellent staging area in preparation of the forthcoming spawn.

Inlets, narrows and river mouths are actually excellent locations that rate high on the production scale. Current areas such as these seem to draw walleye in by the thousands, enabling anglers to cash in on the action. Concentrate on weed/rock transitions and well-defined weed lines that are made up of healthy green weeds.

The Graveyard Shift
Night fishing for walleye is a technique that positively shines when summer turns into fall. Due to their light sensitive eyes, the walleye will flood the shallows come evening and into nighttime, searching for an easy meal with their well-honed vision. The best technique to employ at these times is to start shallow, and work progressively out into deeper water.  Start in water between two and three-feet-deep, and work all the way out to fifteen or twenty-feet. Generally, you’ll find the most action in the skinny water, as this is where the largest concentrations of baitfish will be congregating.
walleyedark

Crankbaits are your best choice during these optimum conditions as they can cover water quickly, and “match the hatch” perfectly. Choose cranks that have a long profile, and don’t be afraid to go big when picking your baits. Lures between five and seven-inches are the norm in the fall, and will certainly produce above-average size fish. Look for baits that contain rattles, as they will definitely attract more attention under the cover of darkness. Don’t let colour become an issue when choosing a crankbait, as the profile and sound they produce should be the two main considerations.
Casting and trolling are two productive techniques to utilize when chasing walleye through the night. Casting will allow you to work the area thoroughly, however, trolling will enable you to cover a larger area. One route I take is to cast the shallows first, working every nook and cranny in a slow, methodical fashion, and then trolling the deeper water as I work my way out.

imagesCASVA927The Frog Connection
Every fall, just as the frost begins to settle on the ground, frogs begin their migration from land to water in order to hibernate in the mud. Although this migration period may only last a few days, those lucky enough to experience it will be in for the thrill of a lifetime.

As the frogs make their way to the water under the cover of darkness, hungry walleye wait patiently, ready to snap up any frog that makes that fateful leap into the wet stuff. Walleye will stage in water as shallow as a foot deep, and they can make for easy pickings for anglers smart enough to figure the puzzle out.

This phenomenon will only happen once in a lifetime, but the action can be so incredible it will last forever your mind. Walleye after walleye fell prey to crankbaits with many of the fish grabbing the bait as it hit the water, much the same way that a bass does a topwater plug. The key for this action is to find the right spot. Search for an area on the lake that has a mud bottom and is surrounded by cattails at the shore and wetlands on the bank.

Jigging a Fish Up
Jigs and livebait are a great technique when heading out in the fall, especially during the daytime period. Choose large chubs or large minnows, and keep your offering on or near the bottom at all times. Light from the sun will most certainly dictate the depths you scour, with deeper water being an obvious choice during bright, sunny days. Make sure to add a stinger hook to your offering in order to hook those fish that are light biters, or those that are feeling a little finicky.

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Pike – Rods, Lures & Baits

Baitcaster_ComboCasting for northern pike should be done with a bait casting rod in the seven to eight foot range and fifty or sixty five pound test braided lines, like Power Pro or Tuf Line.  Carry spinning tackle in the same actions too. Seven strand wire and fluorocarbon leaders are obviously mandatory no matter what technique you’re using. In the spring you’ll be dealing with a lot of fish most days, and there’s almost always big ones to be had. A good leader that will hold up to a lot of abuse is very important. Use knotted Sea guar fluorocarbon in forty to sixty pound test. This stuff is durable, you can tie with it, and the average leader will outlast a wire one. Year in and year out, floating and suspending minnow baits are the go-to lure. Between about five and eight inches seems to be the best size range. In bad winds, larger, heavier, suspending baits like H12 Husky Jerk or Suspending Storm Thunder stick are easier to cast and control. When you’re working lures of this size in bad wind, braided line helps you control and feel the bait when it’s far from the boat and a big bow develops in your line. Plus, even little bumps or pops of your rod tip get transmitted right to the nose of the bait.

Floating minnow baits kind of fell out of vogue after everyone started making suspenders, but, baits that run high in the water and rise when you stop moving them can be magic at times. They’re tougher to cast in bad winds, but well worth the effort! Three of the best are:

  • Cordell’s Ripplin Redfin
  • Bomber Long A’s …… and the good old
  • #18 Original Floating Rapala.

Six to nine inch Suicks are great too, and like the #18 Rapala, they cast very well. You can use floaters and suspenders slowly, with lots of pauses, or fish them faster with more snapping and reeling.

rapala-husky-jerk
Jigging and trolling are two options that consistently produce early in the year also. If you’re not doing well casting, try weaving along spots with a baited spinner rig behind a bottom bouncer, like a Northland Rock Runner.

During many of our springs we see our guests get the biggest pike trolling, and usually within five or six feet of the surface. We’ve seen poor days turned around simply by putting down the casting rods and putting the boat in gear. Using a depth finder + GPS combo will revolutionize the way you fish. Your speed control will improve and so will you knowledge of spots and how thoroughly you work them. Add in a digital map chip and it’s almost unfair!  A popular brand to use is the Lowrance electronics with Navionics map chips.

If you really want to slow down and pick apart good spots, jigging through waypoints, icons and trails is also effective. In or near moving water especially, pike will hang out with the walleye and suckers around deep holes, little slack spots or behind humps and other structures. Locking these spots down on your plotter and working them with a plastic or hair jig is time-consuming, but it works.  Spots near current really stack up fish of all kinds. Once you mark up a few, you can return again and again and find fish.  As the spring runs of walleye and pike tapered off, jigging the humps and seams just outside the rivers can be really productive on bigger fish. Having a good sonar really helps eliminate any downtime spent looking for my spots.

Along with jigging, fishing live or dead baitfish can be the only thing that produces sometimes.  Many have had the best luck doing this in the worst weather, when pike aren’t moving around much and inactive in general.   Fishing ‘meat’ also requires extra attention to your rigging and technique to make sure fish aren’t deeply hooked and injured.

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Fall Walleye Fishing

Wawang walleye catchWalleye fishing in the cooler weather of autumn is probably second best only to early spring, although there are anglers who would argue this point. Early season walleye fishing is great to say the least, but try a night in the fall when you shiver with cold and excitement as the line goes tight and the fish takes off for deeper water. Fall fishing is hard to beat for great action. As the water cools and the wave action turns the water over, the oxygen levels go up and the walleye will be stimulated and become more active.

Walleye seem to like the break between shallow and deep water at this time of year. Try trolling along these areas and don’t be afraid to try different depths.  Look for contours near the shore in daylight hours and note their locations. At dusk you can troll along these contours and work them from shallow to deep. But the actual edge of the contours can often be the most productive. Try a zigzag pattern of trolling or casting to cover more water.

Wally Minnow, Smithwick Rogue, Rapalas, countdowns, long wally jigs, Wally Divers, shad raps and spinners with coloured blades are among the top choice lures to have in your arsenal.. Remember that late fall will mean a slower troll or presentation if casting. Keep the bait near bottom and retrieve very slowly, letting the bait strike the bottom as you reel it in.  Try using shad raps, trolled close to bottom, #7 or #9 with a drop weight on a three-way swivel to keep the bait at or close to bottom, or with a bottom-walking sinker. Bottom walkers are best in murky water or in low light conditions. As they are dragged across the bottom they will create a trail of riled water and the bait you have attached will resemble a feeding baitfish. This action is what will attract the walleye.

Spinner blades attached to a 1/8 or ¼ oz. jig head with scent impregnated power baits such as power leeches or power worms are another sure fire way to attract the walleye to your line. The same rig can be used successfully with live minnows. Keep the retrieves relatively slow, as the walleye will be feeding steadily, but not very aggressively.

If you are using a live minnow on its own with a weight, keep the hook within eight inches of the weight. This will give the walleye a better chance to take the minnow. Some anglers prefer to use two lines where allowed, one with a large minnow to attract the fish, and the second with a smaller minnow to actually hook the fish. The vibrations of the larger minnow will bring the walleye in from a greater distance as the walleye are initially attracted by sound and then by sight. If you are fishing at night, you will want to fish shallower, as the walleye will feed closer to the surface.

Walleye will usually start to feed just at dusk in clear water and this will last until full dark, at this point the action will stop. The eyes on a walleye take up to an hour or more to become accustomed to the dark. This usually happens at the last light of day or full dark, as we know it. At this point they will be able to see again and will start night feeding. Many anglers stop fishing after the initial evening feeding action slows or stops and by doing so miss out on a lot of good fishing.

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Pike – Transitions

Spring is a time when great chunks of the fish population are all doing the same thing: moving into shallow water to reproduce or feed.  Warming, stable water and a soft bottom are two of the keys. Shallow, isolated bays are popular early in the year because this water gains and holds temperature.  You will catch pike early in the year in the shallow backwaters and also along patches of protected, sandy or muddy shorelines. In all cases, the water isn’t being mixed and the bottom is right for fish to drop eggs. Thin slices of warm water are easily blown apart by weather changes. As long as fish can get over the right type of bottom and the temperature stays at a level they like, they can and will spawn in some areas you might drive right by.

Wawang Lake northern pike (10)

The better you know the lake, the more options you’re giving yourself. And even though the general trend for pike in spring is ‘shallow to spawn,’ remember that fish move in and out in waves. You can always find pike in different areas. Some might be waiting to spawn, some might be right in the middle of spawning, some might have spawned and left, and some fish won’t spawn at all. No matter what you fish for, always remember that not all fish do the same things at the same times. There are distinct populations within the same piece of water that live different lives. Fish are like tribes in a jungle. Some raise animals to eat. Others constantly move while following food and hunting. Some might only eat plants found in a certain area.

Wawang Lake northern pike (9)

Spring is a transition month, just as fall is. It’s a period of change that’s leading towards a period of stability. All you have to do to understand the spring weather.   Trips can range from comfortable to downright uncomfortable and you’ve really got to be prepared for it all. You’re not quite out of winter and you’re not into summer yet, either.  For pike, carry a wider range of gear in spring than at any other time of the year. And even though you’re focused mainly on areas that are closer to shore and less than twenty feet deep, be sure to try a range of different techniques in these areas.

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Pickled Northern Pike

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Pickling is a quick, easy way to prepare northern pike for year-long enjoyment, particularly when accompanied by crackers, mustard and a strong  Ale.

Other fish can be used here, but pike works the best. Be sure to freeze the fillets to be used for a minimum of 5 days prior to pickling – this helps to kill cysts that may be present in the meat.


P
ickled Pike Ingredients

5 pounds of pike, chunked
2.5 cups of canning salt
1 gallon of bottled water
1 quart distilled vinegar
5.5 cups of sugar
4 teaspoons pickling spice
1 cup dry white wine
1 onion cut into pieces

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In a plastic container dissolve the 2.5 cups of salt in the gallon of bottled water and add chunked fish. Refrigerate for 48 to 72 hours. Remove fish and rinse in cold water. Cover fish with white vinegar for 24 hours and refrigerate.

Remove fish from vinegar and pack in jars with pieces of onion. Cover with the following solution.

–1 quart distilled vinegar
–5 1/2 cups sugar
–4 teaspoons of pickling spice
–1 cup dry white wine

Bring all ingredients to a boil except the dry wine. When solution has cooled add the dry white wine and cover fish. Seal with lids that have been scalded. Refrigerate at least one week before eating.

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