2014 NORTHERN PIKE Fishing Review
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Trolling can be one of the most productive ways to scour a lake for fish. However, for those that believe it’s simply a matter of tossing out a lure and cranking up the motor, it can also be one of the worst.
Like everything in fishing, the art of trolling takes specific knowledge and techniques in order to catch our aquatic friends on a consistent basis. Adhere to the following fundamentals, and watch your trolling prowess grow in leaps and bounds.
Structure Is The Key
Although it is possible to catch fish by “blindly” trolling a lake, paying attention to certain structure areas is fundamental in finding real success. No matter what the specie of fish you are chasing, they all relate to change. Change can mean anything from open water turning into a weedline, humps and underwater saddles, points and islands, and certainly breaklines. Finding these fish magnets on your home lake, and fishing each one differently is the name of the game.
Experimenting when out trolling is the key to success. Zigzag patterns and S-turns vary the movement to your bait, while also attracting added attention from the fish below.
Weedlines are just as the name suggests — a distinct edge or line of vegetation that meets open water. Always troll parallel to the green stuff, following the distinct changes you’ll come across, and try to keep your lure within 10 feet of the edge at all times.
“Underwater islands,” or humps as they are commonly referred to, are great for attracting and holding a variety of game fish. Make trolling passes across and around the actual hump, starting with your first pass in deep water and progressively working shallower, until the final pass is directly over top of the hump itself.
Both of these areas are dynamite trolling spots, but definitely come into their own during rough or windy conditions. Approach points by making a trolling pass directly in front of the tip itself, and also along both edges as it relates to the land structure. If the island you come across has a point, pay all of your attention to that structure area. Islands without points can be simply circled, starting in shallow water and working deeper, depending on the overall size of the island itself.
Breaklines are one of the most prolific structure areas that cough up fish trolling on a consistent basis. What these areas represent are sudden depth changes such as 10 feet to 14 feet, or 18 feet to 24 feet. The key is to present your bait right on the breakline, always trolling parallel to the break and not across it.
Using Your Underwater Eyes
On-board electronics are a must for trolling, allowing an angler to see precisely what is below the boat at all times. Finding those subtle depth changes, locating schools of baitfish and their prey and staying right on the edge of a weedline is impossible without these digital dynamos.
Keep a close eye on your electronics for visible signs of baitfish or structure areas. Electronics are your underwater eyes for what lies beneath the surface.
Although fishfinders run the gamut in terms of price, even the most basic of units will greatly improve your trolling success.
Spend a day zipping up and down the lake while watching your screen, making a mental or physical note (preferably on a topographical map) of all the breaklines, points and humps you come across. Having this information at your disposal will make it as simple to come back later and fish these hotspots.
Another important tool for trolling is a GPS unit. Punching in the coordinates of things such as schools of baitfish, the precise spot an underwater hump is located and where the weedline starts and stops, allows you to come back time and time again to fish that exact same waypoint.
Here are 10 trolling tips to increase your chances when out on the water.
Ten Tips For Trolling Success
1. Experiment with lures. Try everything from shallow to deep divers until you connect with a fish. Carry a large assortment of diving crankbaits. Different colors and lip lengths will add variety and different qualities to your arsenal.
2. Vary your speed. Constant speed can trigger fish, but changing your speed from faster to slower can result in a fishing frenzy.
3. Never troll in a straight line. Zigzag patterns, circles and L-patterns cause your lures to run at different speeds and in different directions — both excellent triggering factors for following fish.
4. Apply a scent product. Coating your bait with a commercial scent will leave a scent trail in the water, enabling fish to find your bait and strike it.
5. Run your lure at different lengths. The more calm the water, the longer your leader to your lure should be. This wisdom should also be applied when fishing shallow water.
6. Bump the bottom. Making contact with the bottom occasionally will stir up fish and entice them to strike. This is especially productive when targeting pike and walleye.
…….Use A Marker Buoy
7. Use a marker buoy. Tossing out a marker when you connect with a fish, or when you find a productive hump, will allow you fish the area more thoroughly and will usually mean some extra fish.
8. Use an electric trolling motor. If the fish are extremely spooky, or the water is crystal clear, switch over to an electric trolling motor for a quiet and unobtrusive approach.
9. Use downriggers. For fishing deep water, or for fish that suspend deep, a downrigger can be the key to catching fish. Look for a small hand model that is easy to use and inexpensive.
10. Never give up. Although trolling can be boring and uneventful at times, for those anglers that adhere to these principles and put in the time, the rewards will outweigh the wait.
As you can see, trolling is a specialized and productive technique for connecting with fish. Follow these do’s and don’ts, and be content in knowing that the mighty “trolling gods” will always shine down on you!
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Trolling spinner baits is a technique every northern pike fisherman should have in their arsenal. The idea is to quickly fish pike spots, such as weed flats and break lines, searching for actively feeding fish or enticing neutral ones to bite. Spinner baits are effective trolling baits for several reasons. They can be trolled quickly and the upward facing single hook keeps baits fairly weedless, allowing trolling through thick vegetation with minimal foul-up. Also, their bucktail bodies equates to a high-hooking percentage. To properly troll spinnerbaits, match the bait’s weight to the trolling speed. When using a short arm, 1.5-ounce to 2-ounce trolling spinnerbait, run it between 75 feet to 120 feet behind the boat. Run them this far back because it’s out of the prop wash area. You will want the bait to pop out of the water every five to 10 seconds. Lure Pops Out Of Water The popping attracts pike and in order for the sound to be effective, the baits must be out of the prop wash’s disturbance. Trolling long lines also allows you to position baits over structure too shallow to drive over because of the lag time between the boat and the bait. When speed trolling, run the baits just below the surface, but not popping out. At this speed popping baits lose their effectiveness. Use 2-ounce to 3-ounce baits, 75 feet behind the boat, trolling them between 4.5 mph and 5.5 mph. If you want to troll faster, use 4-ounce to 6-ounce baits. When speed trolling, regularly position baits close to the prop wash. Baits run beautifully on the side of the prop wash, they dance because of the different currents in the water, darting back and forth, giving you a real irregular troll out of them. A fundamental to trolling is “S”-turns. Baits positioned on the outside of the turn will be pulled faster through the water, while the bait on the inside of the turn will slow down. When a fish hits on a turn, note which side of the turn the bait was on. This is a good indication of how fast you should troll. Slow down if on the inside and speed up if on the outside of the turn.
Turns Are Key Turning is also helpful when working weed edges or breaklines. Meandering along a breakline or weed edge allows you to fish different depths as well as structure and cover on a trolling run, increasing your chances of finding fish. Spinnerbaits can also be effective over rocky structure. After passing a point, it is advisable to cut the motor and drop the bait down a bit, count to five and then engage the throttle again. This causes the bait to sink then swim back up to the surface. A lot of time it’s on the uplift when a fish will hit. A BIG pike that sees a bait suddenly shoot to the surface might think it’s a baitfish trying to escape and these big predators will react, hitting it to prevent it from getting away. To troll spinnerbaits for pike make sure you have the right gear. Rod holders reduce arm strain and must be strong enough to sustain a pike’s strike. With holders you can position rods, and subsequently, the path of the baits. Longer rods between 7 feet and 8 feet, in medium- to heavy-action are good for trolling. Reels with high gear ratios are crucial to quickly play pike, minimizing stress to the fish. Line counter reels are also helpful. Spool reels with 80- to 100-pound-test superbraid, and use a strong wire leader. Keep Drag Loose Keep drags loose, especially when using superbraid lines, otherwise you’ll pull baits away from fish or your gear may fail under the force of a hit. When you get a hit, quickly grab the rod out of the holder. Do not to set the hook too hard. Trolling at these high speeds will often be enough to set the hook. After the hook set, cut the engine to fight the fish.
Trolling spinnerbaits allows you to cover vast stretches of water, increasing your odds of finding a feeding fish throughout the day. Take advantage of trolling to explore new areas you haven’t fished before or to work productive water. Don’t be afraid to troll fast for pike, these freshwater brutes are torpedo’s and notorious for slamming speeding spinnerbaits.
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Jigs catch just about anything that swims, but excel with certain fish – northern pike being one of them. Jigs are an excellent bait to work along the bottom when pike are shallow in spring. Here’s where to find spring pike and how to fool them with jigs at the start of the season.
Northern pike are considered a cool-water fish. Their mating ritual takes place immediately following ice out sometime between April and early May depending on latitude; the optimal temperature range for spawning is between 40- to 52 degrees Fahrenheit. Spring flooding and high-water levels contribute to pike spawning habitat. Typical zones include marshes, swollen creeks, back bays, sheltered shorelines, and flooded land. Pike prefer soft bottoms for spawning, such as sand or silt, mixed with new, emerging vegetation or plant debris, such as bulrushes.
A basic jig and grub combination works well for shallow-water pike.
Knowing the location and timing of northern pike spawning will help you catch them come season opener. Fish will linger in the shallows in close proximity to these mating locales for a few weeks. They bask in the sun and are drawn to shallow, warming waters. Here, pike replenish their strength after the rigors of spawning while also taking advantage of various food items found in the “skinny” water.
The first few weeks of pike season, I concentrate my casting efforts on shallow-water regions. Protected bays off of rivers and lakes are one of my top spots. The best bays will be near spawning areas. Bays in front of a marsh or a feeder creek are classic early-season producers. Pike will recuperate in the bay after spawning in the flooded shallows. Northern may also hold on sand areas near shore or the bay’s entrance points. If the bay has a deep hole, pike will often station in it during foul, cold weather and at night. Shallow flats, between 6- and 12 feet deep will also hold northern. Again, these areas are best when close to spawning grounds.
Small jigs work well this time of year. Pike don’t discriminate against little baits. I regularly catch northern when targeting other species, such as walleyes, using jigs. Spring is the time of year when 3- to 4-inch grubs, shads, and soft-plastic jerk baits on a 1/4-ounce jigs catch plenty of spring-time pike. Buck tail jigs with the same characteristics are just as deadly.
Be sure smaller-sized jigs have a strong hook. Thin wire hooks could bend under too much pressure when battling large pike. Also, a drop of high-strength glue applied to the jig collar before completely treading on the body holds plastics in place, preventing them from sliding down the hook shank.
When pike are sluggish during early, cool mornings a drag-pause retrieve along soft-bottom areas works well. Sand and mud don’t hold many snags so maintaining bottom contact isn’t an issue. Dragging the bait also kicks up a silt trail, which often attracts pike. Pike eat anything appearing vulnerable. They feed on frogs burrowed in the mud, so dragging baits along soft bottom bays, flats, and shorelines is an excellent spring tactic.
In spring, you can sight-fish pike in calm conditions. Toss jigs past the fish. Then work it into the strike zone. Hoping the jig might trigger a reaction strike, while in other situations pauses and jiggles are better for sluggish fish.
Always look for structure and cover. Sunken logs, small dips in the bottom, weed edges, and boulders all offer ambushing advantages. Cast jigs to these zones even if you don’t see pike near them. Last year during an early season outing in ripple-water conditions a friend of mine tossed his bait to what he thought was a log. Well the log had teeth and an appetite! It ended up being a decent pike worthy of a few photos.
Don’t neglect slightly deeper water near spawning sites. Good zones are entrances to weedy bays and their bordering points. I concentrate on areas up to about 15 feet deep around spawning sites. Cast jigs into the shallows and work them along bottom. Also count-down jigs, and then swim or hop them through the water column for cruising, active fish.
To cast light jigs at the start of the season, use either a medium-heavy spinning or bait cast rod as you’re rarely fishing near heavy weeds or wood cover. Going with a ultra-fast or fast-action rod ensures you can toss these jigs a considerable distance while maintaining accuracy for sight fishing scenarios. Be sure though the blank has plenty of backbone to muscle big pike. On my spring outfits, I use 30 to 40 pound test teamed with 9 to 12 inch, multi-strand wire leaders. Fluorocarbon leaders in the 60-pound range are also effective in clear-water scenarios, but check regularly for nicks that will weaken the leader material.
Pike often follow baits. The best scenario is spotting a fish a distance from the boat. If it looks aggressive, try speeding up the retrieve or adding some snaps. This imitates escape moves and sometimes triggers bites. If the fish appears lazy, slow the retrieve slightly. If working the bait along bottom, leave it still and work in short drags and pauses. If you spot a following pike close to the boat while your jig is traveling upwards, letting out line so the jig falls is your best option.
If you’re not sure where the fish went, fan cast the area using a yo-yo swimming retrieve or work the bait along bottom. Pike that followed, but were uninterested in striking a fast-moving, horizontal presentations can often be fooled into biting a jig.
Spring is an exciting time to angle for pike. So try some different jig options this season to score plenty of fish at the start of the season.
Good luck on your next northern pike fishing trip!
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Free Trolling Deep:
Free Trolling Shallow:
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All dedicated walleye anglers seek to catch a 10+ lb. walleye, considered by many, a once-in-a-lifetime prize catch. To accomplish this task one must recognize the variety of waters that yield big walleye, using the proper fishing presentations and fishing the best times of the year which increase your chances of landing that trophy walleye.
Walleyes in the North tend to have a much longer life span even though their growth rates are not as high as in the South, but the North still produces many more walleye of 10 lb. plus.
Large walleyes are exceedingly cautious and wary, if they hear or feel anything unusual they stop feeding and head for deeper water. This why only 2 of 1000 walleyes reach this magic 10 pound size. Our guides know this and use big fish strategies that result in catching many huge walleyes annually.
Big Water Big Walleye:
When considering trophy walleye waters big is best, a large body of water (5000 acres+) is more likely to support big walleye populations than smaller lakes (500-1000 acres). Competition for food, living space and angling pressure reduces the possibility on smaller waters for walleyes to achieve trophy status.
Large lakes provide an abundance of usable forage (minnows and lake herring), open space and due to large size angling pressure is reduced.
Best Times to Catch Trophy Walleye:
There are four major periods during the year when the odds increase to catch a trophy walleye, however we will only describe three of them since Wawang Lake has no winter fishing pressure:
Pre Spawn: During the pre-spawn period, large numbers of big females stage into a relatively small area. Although they are not feeding aggressively, you may be able to catch a fish or two due to the sheer numbers present. The pre spawn bite is good until spawning begins.
Post Spawn: A few weeks after spawning the big females recover from and start to bite again but finding them is difficult as they are scattered. You may catch an occasional large walleye, but seldom more than one. Your chances of finding a concentration of big walleyes are much better after they have settled into their typical deeper water summer locations. The best fishing begins about five to six weeks after spawning and generally lasts two to three weeks.
Late-fall: Fishing is unpredictable, the toughest part is to locate the walleye, but if you do find them a high percentage will be big. The majority of large walleyes caught in late fall are females. Their feeding for the development of eggs for the spring spawn, females must consume more food than males, up to six times more according to feeding studies.
Wawang Lake has no winter pressure (fishing) and therefore our fisheries remains healthy with strong genetics and lineage.
In waters that stratify, after the fall turnover is completed the depths are warmer than the shallows. Big walleyes may swim into shallow water for short feeding sprees in the evening, but during the day they may be found as deep as 50 feet. Although difficult to find, they form tight schools, so you may be able to catch several from the same area.
Trophy Walleye Presentations:
Locating big walleyes is half the equation and other half is the proper fishing presentation. Here are a few tips to help you land big walleyes.
The first and most common mistake made by anglers is noise, whether it be dropping the anchor on top of the fish, running the outboard over the spot you wish to fish or dropping anything in the boat while fishing.
Most often large female walleyes will relate to a piece of structure similar to the smaller males, but will hang 10 to 15 feet deeper this is attributed to a walleye’s increasing sensitivity to light as it grows older. In addition, bigger walleyes prefer cooler water, and they can usually find it by moving deeper.
Increase your chances for big walleyes by fishing in the shallows during low-light periods, especially in spring and fall. If the water is very clear, or if there is a great deal of boat traffic, big walleyes will feed almost exclusively at night. During the daytime they prefer relatively deep water, deeper than the areas where you typically find smaller walleyes.
In deep northern lakes, the shallow water temperature stays cool enough for big walleyes through the summer. If the walleyes can find boulders or other shallow-water cover to provide shade from the sun they may spend the summer at depths of 10 feet or less. In these lakes, most anglers fish too deep.
Increase the size your live bait or lures, they maybe too small to interest a trophy walleye. Many times large walleyes are caught on musky/pike baits in the 6″ – 8″ range. Larger baits will draw far fewer strikes than small ones, and
most anglers are not willing to fish all day for one or two opportunities. But if you are intent on catching a trophy that is the price you must pay.
Big walleyes are extremely cautious, especially in clear water. You don’t need to over-rig your set-up. They’re more likely to take a bait using a size 6 hook using 6-8lb test line than 12-17lb test with a 1/0 or bigger hook. A small hook will allow the walleye to swallow the bait without feeling anything unusual and will not pull-out or break. Most large walleyes are caught away from snags and take your time to bring the fish in allowing the rod, reel and drag to do its job.
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