Catching fish starts with preparation! Yes, a big statement…but in the end successful anglers have discovered a tool more important than custom fishing rods, “secret” lures or state of the art depthfinders. Preparation spent studying quality contour fishing maps is always important. This time spent reading and learning from researched fishing maps is the most significant key to improving skills so fish are caught on most outings- for gamefish in our lake such as walleye and northern pike.
It has been said before but deserves repeating. A quality fishing map has been compared to the pirate’s treasure map, leading us to the spot that yields our special prize…treasure in the form of the fish we want to catch. Good anglers take that next step in skill by challenging themselves with new waters – whether a family vacation to northern Ontario or serious fishing trip to Wawang Lake located in NW Ontario. And going to new water without studying the contour map is like going to fight a grizzly bear armed with a pen knife.In the last 30 years hydrographic maps (with contours) have come into their own as fishing equipment has moved through a sea change of technology – quality depthfinders, GPS, underwater cameras, along with huge changes in rods, reels and terminal tackle. Much of the push has come from the incredible success of walleye tournaments and further enhanced recently by other fishing organizations promoting tournaments. While all of us can get swept up in the latest fad, lure or gadget, fishing maps and map books provide the basic knowledge for everyone – from novice angler to the pro’s.Satellite mapping is now being used but remains limited because of the inability to “see” and map below the surface of stained water. New computer created mapping technology has enhanced accuracy, but most fishing maps remain based on Ontario or Provincial efforts, which originally came about not for fishing but boat navigation.
A quality fishing maps starts with the fundamental framework – an accurate representation of the lake outline and contours. Contours are no more than a series of lines that depict the lake slope from the shoreline to the deepest basin. With contours in place, quality fishing maps providing superb clues to fishing success – displaying submerged islands, reefs, humps, flats, elongated submerged points, flats, and more. These basic components are loosely called “structure” – a term dear to the hearts of any fisherman – beginner to expert.
Each map – no matter whether detailed or hand- drawn will have some form of legend and compass direction – the arrow pointing north. The contour map is far from the whole story. Most lake maps get to the contour stage, including some of the newer computer generated on the market…but won’t take the next steps, which require research, study and understanding of the relationship of fish to their environment throughout the seasons. This fish migration of information that we’ve gathered for over 40 years has been detailed on our lake map specifically for our guests.
All of us quickly discover the fundamental law – no “food” – no fish. With the sole exception of spawning, gamefish will always – and “always” is a strong word – be relating to “groceries” and weedlines tend to be the most important attracting cover. Fish will never be far away from their next meal…except for the most unusual circumstances, not important to our discussion. The forage or prey ranges through the whole cycle – from microscopic zooplankton for fingerlings to juvenile fish and large minnows for gamefish. All are available on the weedline cover and the legend of a good map must display the symbols of the three basic weed types.
Changes in bottom materials can be everything to fishing success. As anglers ourselves and host to many fishermen, we know where one component transitions to another is and where fish will be caught. The change from shoreline sand to gravel or gravel to broken rock, or sand to mid-basin muck, for example, creates edges attractive to all fish. Walleye will often move loosely along transition zones of gravel merging to broken rock or cobble. All pertinent bottom materials and shoreline structure is shown in detail on our lake map.
Let’s pause for just a moment. Everything said before indicates that gamefish are creatures that relate to objects – boulders on the lake bottom, humps, submerged points, weedlines, docks, well you get the idea. Let’s think of “edge” as the key concept….fish relate to anything that provides an “edge” and all of these structure and cover elements provide something different…our “edge.”
With that said, contour lines are the tools that allow us to visualize the slope and shape of the lake bottom. To visualize we have to “see” below the two dimensional world of the lake surface. One must create a mental image of what lies below…the gradual slope that drops sharply to the lake bottom; a hump that rises from a bottom of 20 feet and tops out at 10 feet; the long underwater point that is shown by the contour lines, a lake hole surrounded by shallower depths; an inside turn depicted by the contour lines, and so forth. For example, a submerged point – usually an important lake structure for a variety of gamefish – will appear as a series of contour lines pointing away from the shore like a finger or knife blade.
Remember the basic rule – the closer the contour lines the steeper the drop-off edge…or conversely the wider the interval the more gradual the slope…perhaps to even a region very flat. The numbers on the contours tell us the contour interval – if one line indicates five foot depths and the second line 10 feet, we have a five foot contour interval. This interval again helps develop the visualization of how steep the slope.
When a good fisherman sits down to study a fishing map, they are looking for those “edges” already mentioned. An edge or change in bottom or cover (weeds, drowned wood, docks, etc.) will attract and hold fish for a number of reasons although the most important one usually revolves around attracting forage. While looking at the contours try drawing the hump, inside turn, submerged point, basin hole, etc. depicted by the contour lines. This exercise really helps in learning the visualization process.
But a restrained comment about angler behavior is needed. Pulling out a map book or fishing map while motoring away from the dock is too late…unless serious time has been spent studying the map to formulate a plan for fishing. They will plan every detail, including favorite “secret” lures but not look at the map to formulate a game plan based on the basics – what species and what season.
Catch fish by solving the location puzzle. The basic parts are quite simple:
A. Study your favorite species seeking several answers. When do they spawn, what is their forage, what is the water temperature preferred, where are their locations on a seasonal basis. Significantly, where does your favorite species live in the lake – weeds, drop-off edges, drowned wood, docks, cribs, deep underwater points….well, you get the picture. Expert anglers are knowledgeable about the fish to be pursued. It can’t be said more forcefully – know the habits of the fish you’re after.
B. Obtain a quality map book or fishing map that shows species and forage available and describes structure and cover (weeds, drowned wood, etc.)
C. Learn the map and mark areas to begin fishing…again based on where fish should be located based on the season – spring, summer, and fall. If provided marked fishing areas, fish them and add to the areas by marking the map with information important to you.
D. Seek information – ask questions for the lodge host. Are the fish in the shallows yet? Is spawning complete? Are the walleye still relating to the shallow weedlines…or have they moved deeper yet? What are the lake levels….because if down 3 feet; we have to be aware of possible “new” hazards because of the change in depth. Go over a map with the lodge personnel, asking good questions on location of your favorite fish.
A researched product – map – is a library of information – far more than a mere depiction of contour lines. It starts with species…is there a good walleye population on this water. Our fisheries is sustained by natural reproduction and YES, we do have a slot policy on the lake What are the trends – is the fishery up, have populations improved…or have changes occurred? What are the growth rates – fast or slow. Each question answered opens the door to success – fish caught.
Successful anglers use a combination of tools for success. Obviously, a quality depthfinder is a must…as is learning to interpret what is being shown. However, knowledge about your favorite gamefish coupled with location details and the fishing map – is the real key to success. No secret lure, new rod or reel, or gadget can match knowing your fish and their aquatic world. The location question is easily solved when equipped with great information based on solid research and analysis.
We at Wawang Lake Resort believe our lake map provides the absolute best combination of years of researched fishing information with accurate details showing fish species migration for the different seasons and contour lines accurately showing depths that many fisherman have found to be quite helpful during their fishing trip.
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Monthly Archives: November 2015
Is there a better place than a lake to relax and clear your mind? I don’t think so. When we fish, the world and our troubles just seem to melt away and give us a chance to reflect on family, friends and answers to our questions.
A few weeks ago, I was enjoying that kind of tranquility while anchored on deep weedline point. It was classic early summer structure and the walleye were stacked up there as I happily caught and released them on virtually every cast. In my mind I kept telling myself “OK, just one more and then I’ll go.”
But you know how that goes… you get that “one more” and feel unwilling and unable to leave. So you repeat the pledge “OK, just one more and then I’ll go.” This got me to thinking: Why can’t I just leave? I’ve literally caught thousands of identical walleye in my life, but am powerless to the desire to catch another one. Why?
So I decided to stay there for a while and try and figure out why fishing is so addictive. The first addictive factor is the feeling of being out in nature. Even if the fish don’t cooperate on a particular day, it’s still great to be out on the water. Of course it’s a lot better if the fish ARE biting. But the smell of the water and sights and sounds of nature are always captivating. It never gets old.
The next thing I thought about is the allure of the underwater world. Hunting is intoxicating because you see your prey and go after it. Well, fishing is hunting too – but for prey that’s hidden beneath you in a mysterious underwater world. There’s something thrilling about the challenge of that. Using your wits to unravel a lake’s structure and find where the fish are; why they’re there; what their mood is; and figuring out the bait and presentation needed to catch them. Once that feeling of accomplishment gets in your veins, there’s no way to shut off the drive to do it again and again and again.
The bite is something you get hooked on too. That simple, subtle feeling of a fish taking the bait is amazing. And bites come in so many styles. My favorite has to be the feeling of a walleye taking a jig on deep structure. But a close second is a topwater smash by the top predator – the northern pike. And let’s not forget the magic of a fish pulling down a bobber. The sight of that, especially with children, is something that keeps us coming back for more. Adding to the allure of “the bite” is the element of the unknown. You never truly know what’s taking your bait. You could be trolling crankbaits for walleyes and catching ‘eye after ‘eye when suddenly it’s a monster northern pike that falls prey to the wobbling bait. Bonus!
Don’t get me started on the feeling of the fight! Having a strong fish at the end of your line is as good as it gets. It’s the reason I couldn’t bring myself to leave that got me thinking about the addictiveness of fishing in the first place. And there’s something that happens with each and every fish that takes a lure. Whether we’re conscious of it or not, each fish allows us to hone our hook-setting and fish-fighting skills. They’re critical skills for converting bites into fish in the boat. Becoming proficient hook-setters and fighters is extremely rewarding.
I would be remiss if I didn’t say that another reason we fish is to satisfy our primal urge to put protein on the table. My family and I absolutely love to eat fish. There’s nothing as delicious and healthy on the planet in my opinion. OK, a moose backstrap comes close. But eating fish never gets old.
Which brings me to my final revelation about the magnetism of fishing… family. There are plenty of activities you can do with your parents, siblings, spouse and children. But nothing brings a family together like fishing does. So do yourself a favor: round up the fam and go get a fix of the finest, healthiest addiction a person can get… go fishing!
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Moose feed on a large variety of foods. They browse on the twigs and leaves of many kinds of plants.. Grasses and marsh plants are also sought.
Aquatic vegetation growing in lakes and streams is particularly relished in summer. During this season of the year, animals are seen at the edges of water or feeding in it. Adult moose will stand virtually submerged in deep water, lowering their heads underwater, grazing for long periods of time on underwater growth. Where a moose cannot reach these succulent plants, it can actually dive in deep water (up to 20 feet), remaining below for up to one minute.
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Several years ago when Terry and I (Tami), owners of Wawang Lake Resort, were out fishing we trolled our boat into one of the lakes’ many bays, a splash resounded in the bay that caught our attention. Curious Terry headed over towards the ripples left from the splash to have a look.
Soon a head popped up out of the water between the boat and shoreline – it was an adult mink and suddenly a couple more smaller heads bobbed up right after – her babies. We soon realized mom was teaching her young to swim and forage for food. So cute!
Looking over towards the shore we noticed a couple more drenched baby mink patiently waiting for mom to return. That was four kits in all. Meanwhile, one of the kits had drifted away from mom coming closer to our boat and now struggled to crawl up the shaft. of the motor. Terry reached over and grabbed the little mink by the scruff of the neck and pulled it into the boat. Now sitting on the boat seat the little one, looking like a drowned rat, sneezed, coughed and hiccuped and looked very dazed.
Suddenly mom was alarmed when she noticed one of her young was missing. Sensing danger she swiftly grabbed the one near her by the neck, dove under the water and soon came up at the shoreline 20′ away where her other babies were obediently waiting. Quickly, she turned and stood on her haunches as she scanned the waters surface for the lost kit – but he was nowhere to be seen
She dove back into the water and swam back to the training area. She swam in panic, swam in circles, dove under anxiously looking for the kit. Her head bobbed out of the water over and over, several times. Seeing that she had become quite concerned for her missing baby Terry picked up the nervous kit sitting with us and put him back in the water, and shoved him off towards his mom. Mom now seeing her baby swam over, grabbed him by the neck angrily and gave him a few good shakes in reprimand before driving under the water with him away from danger and back to the rest of her family and safety. With one last head count she then leaped into the dense woods, her babies following close behind and not one of them looked back even once.
Once we were done fishing Terry threw the remaining minnows onto shore where the mink family had been. I knew he was thinking that they might come back.
As it turned out it was a wonderful day. The weather was great, the fishing even better and we now looked forward to a freshly caught fish supper. Best yet though was our wildlife encounter and a glimpse into the lives of one of our neighbors – the mink family. As I put my jacket on and got myself comfortable in the seat for the ride back to the lodge I wondered if the mink family would come back to that spot and be eating as good as we would that night. At least I hoped so.
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The earth consists of two pressurized environments (Air & Water). Sensible weather, the day-to-day weather that we experience everyday is one of many factors that affects fishing as well as our daily lives. Weather changes are caused by atmospheric changes in pressure (barometric pressure) driven by the fast moving river of air called the jet stream located at about 30,000 feet in the atmosphere!
A basic rule is that rising air (falling pressure) produces clouds and even the possibility of rain and snow. Sinking air (rising pressure) means clouds and precipitation development is suppressed, and usually brings clear skies and fair weather. Weather conditions do impact the catch rate indirectly of the species you are pursuing, and will depend on various interdependent factors such as: availability of fish, water depth, temperature, clarity, wind, and barometric pressure (The measurement of weight of the atmosphere above us)
Water Systems are pressurized environments. Water is much heavier than air. A cubic foot of air weighs 1/12 pound (lb). A cubic foot of fresh water weighs 62.4 lbs and a cubic foot of sea water weighs 64 lbs. Water pressure, like air pressure, is a function of weight; the deeper one goes the greater the surrounding water pressure. Therefore, the direct effects of changing barometric pressure (air) is greater on fresh shallow water species than deeper lakes or oceans where the depth of the water inhabited by deep water species makes the air pressure variations insignificant.
Air pressure and other variables:
The air that surrounds the earth is constantly placing pressure on the earth’s surface. As the jet stream drives the large areas of high and low pressure on the surface of the earth, these large pressure systems then in turn, drive the large-scale wind flows at the surface levels. As air inherently wants to move from higher to lower pressure (the reason why air wants to escape a bike tire and not vice versa) it will converge in a counter clockwise manner around low pressure, and diverge in a clockwise manner around high pressure. This is because the Earth is rotating and the Coriolis force (the deflection to the right of one’s motion on large special scales) results in the observed surface winds. These resulting surface wind flows create weather fronts, which are distinct boundaries from say cold-dry Canadian air, and warm-moist Gulf of Mexico air. There are three basic types of fronts: Cold, Warm, and Stationary.
Typically, low pressure is the “parent” system for these frontal systems, with cold fronts often extending from the center of low pressure and orientated to the south and west of the low center. Warm fronts often extend from the low center and are positioned to the east and north of the low center. When a warm front passes, pressure still tends to fall as the warm front is often out ahead of the low, meanwhile, when a cold front passes, pressure tends to rise because the low center has already passed, and high pressure is building. Understanding a front’s make up and the weather they bring is key to predicting weather events.
Cold Fronts: (High Pressure)
As a cold front passes the air pressure tends to rise (air sinks) as colder and drier air typically resides behind a cold front, which is more dense than warm-moist air, this can be recognized by clearing skies after inclement weather. Also, you may notice strong northerly winds after a cold front passes. This is because of the clockwise wind flow around higher pressure, coupled with a large change in pressure between the relatively close area of lower pressure, and the impending area of higher pressure. These abrupt weather changes disturb the environment, and most game fish will seek deeper water and or cover becoming inactive. The cold front effect on fishing lasts 1-2 days before another front moves in or the weather stabilizes.
If your fishing in a cold front here’s a few suggestions: If possible fish small darker water located on the small section known as Small Wawang, and if fishing the clear, deep part of Wawang Lake then it’s advisable to go deeper than 25′. Live bait is the preferred choice with a slow presentation; vertical jigging or slip bobbers are the best. Fish near the bottom or in weeds, around cribs and rock piles. As cold fronts bring lower air temperatures reducing the water temperature fish during midday when the water is the warmest.
Warm Fronts: (Low Pressure)
When a warm front approaches the air pressure is low, warm, moist air is rising and moving counterclockwise toward the center, creating less pressure. Because of this, a barometer usually shows falling pressure as a storm system approaches. Fish sense the drop in air pressure and become active, some fishery biologists attribute the increase of feeding behavior from atmospheric reduction in pressure that affects their air bladder another opinion is fish use vision as a primary feeding sense, as a storm hits with heavy winds this churns the water making it cloudy and more difficult to feed.
Here are some fishing tips during a low-pressure front: Cloud cover and rain is associated with low-pressure fronts, these reduce sunlight causing fish to move higher in the water column. Use surface and shallow running lures over weed beds, weed edges, and over open water if schools of baitfish are found. Faster retrieves are recommended, as fish are active. If storms become intense with thunder and lighting fish will become less active or “spooked” by these conditions and move to deeper water. From a safety point you should never fish during a lighting storm. Lighting may strike many miles from the center of the storm. Take shelter upon an approaching storm fishing rods make ideal lighting conductors.
A stationary front is a weather boundary between two different air masses (fronts) in which neither is strong enough to replace the other. They tend to remain essentially in the same area for extended periods of time. A wide variety of weather can be found in a stationary front ranging from sunny and fair to cloudy and even prolonged rain. Stationary fronts can focus lift in the atmosphere and can actually help develop areas of low pressure along them. This process results in the stationary front morphing into a warm front on the east side of the newly developed low and a cold front on the west side. This means that even stationary fronts can change with time and should be monitored for future implications on your luck out on the water.
Fishing during a stationary front rates good to excellent. Barometric pressure remains stable for an extended period of time. Fish develop a comfort level and a feeding pattern. Find the pattern of the specie your pursuing and your catching fish. Most fishing presentations work during this period. Best Fishing Times (Solunar – Moon Phase Tables) are based on using stable weather conditions.
As the wind related proverb says “When the wind is east the fish bite the least, when the wind is west the fish bite the best.” Wind is an influential factor in fishing behavior as it stirs the food chain, provides oxygen and cover from the sun with wave action. Constant wind blowing from the same direction over days will migrate game fish on the windy shoreline to feed on baitfish. Water temperatures will increase also as the surface water is pushed by the wind. This is especially helpful in Spring and Fall seasons as the angler seeks the warmest water. Westerly and Southern winds are proven to produce the best fishing results as the proverb states. Clouds and cloudy conditions have similar effects as wind by reducing sunlight on and near the surface. Light sensitive fish will become more active, a combination of light wind (chop) and cloud cover condition is excellent for surface lures.
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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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