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Fall PIKE Fishing

31The Ontario archery hunting season will be open mid-September and it’s a tortuous time of year, because the urge to hunt is so strong after a long off-season. Yet, while the bush beckons the hunters, Wawang Lake is still here – promising what is arguably the best fishing of the whole year!

That’s because the cool autumn months before winter are prime days to catch fish, and BIG fish, in generous quantities. Why? Because fish feed more voraciously during the fall than any other time of year. They instinctively know that winter’s coming, marking a cold-water period of low activity. So, predator fish bulk up for winter by packing in as much eating as they can. This time also coincides with the fall spawn of baitfish.

Basically, the baitfish school-up to move into the spawning grounds and the predator fish follow them.

One such predator in the mix of the fall bite is the magnificent Northern Pike.  As anyone who knows Wawang Lake – it’s stuffed with these jaw, snapping monsters! Our pike hunters love the way they look, strike and fight. They have the attitude of a pitbull on steroids! Even a 3-4 pounder can give any angler a thrill. Add twenty pounds and you have a serious freshwater battle on your hands.

One of the best ways to catch a bunch of pike in the fall is by trolling and covering a lot of water. Before hitting the water, have a game plan. Study the Wawang Lake map of the lake and identify the steep breaks where shallow water drops off into deep structure. These are potential hotspots.

If the shallows in these spots are weedy, look for weedlines that are still green. Weeds that have already laid down and are beginning to decay do not hold fish like they did in the summertime. Fish like GREEN weeds, for the leafy cover they provide, and dying weeds don’t offer the same concealment. On a particular weedline, the top fish-holding locations are points and inside turns. These are key ambush areas at any time of year, including fall.

If the lake has no green living weeds, then other types of cover are your next best bet. Rocks are ALWAYS dynamite areas to target big pike, particularly if they’re out on a nice point. Add wind ripping into or over that point, and you’ve got a perfect recipe for big gators laying in wait. The wind creates current that pushes bait into the point, where opportunistic feeders are always hanging around After determining which weedlines, rocks, points, etc. that you intend to target, the next decision to make is lure selection. During the fall, northern pike like to eat big meals. So opt for baits that have a large profile.
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Lure suggestions to start with: ·

  • a big jerkbait like a 9-inch Suick in Firetiger, Perch or Red/White – always clipped to a steel leader. ·
  • 10″ Swimming Joe (Bucher) baits in firetiger, perch, or walleye – a proven overall best
  • Other proven performers are big spoons, paddle-tailed swim baits and bucktails. ·
  • If picking up stray weeds is a problem, troll a jumbo spinnerbait or weedless spoon like a Johnson Silver Minnow.   ·
  • Add a large twist-tail grub body to the shank hook on spinnerbaits and Silver Minnows, to increase the size of the bait’s profile, enhance vibration and for a splash of color.

Once you get on a weedline depth (typically 10-15 feet), watch your sonar and stay on that contour. Pike aren’t afraid to hit a fast-moving bait, so I usually begin with a troll speed of about 2.5 miles per hour. If that doesn’t get results, try slower or faster speeds – even up to around 5 miles per hour even.

Leave your rod holders at home when trolling for pike, because you’ll get a lot more bites if you continually work the lure with quick, hard jerks; steady pull-and-drop movements; and erratic twitching. Pike will routinely follow behind a bait, and the instant it “pauses” it often triggers an aggressive strike!

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Fast trolling regularly results in an immediate hook-up, especially if you’re using no-stretch braided line instead of monofilament. However, we prefer braid for trollling, because the line transmits the wobble of the lure to your hand and lets you know if the bait is running properly or whether you’ve picked up a stray weed.

The fall trolling pattern for northern pike can provide you with some of the most action-packed fishing of the year. Handle the fish with care and release them healthy so they go into the winter months stress-free. And don’t be afraid to keep a couple of 3-4 pounders for the dinner table. Pike is an amazing fish to eat, especially if you de-bone it to remove those nuisance “Y” bones. Or, leave the bones in and opt for pickling instead. The pickling process turns the bones to mush, and there’s a better than pickled northern pike!

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Spoon Fed Pike

It seems that more and more emphasis is being put on the use of body baits. Tackle companies are spending more money developing the perfect swimming action, the perfect wobble, or rattle, or any number of other characteristics. The spoon seems to have fallen by the wayside in favor of Husky Jerks, Bombers, Torpedoes, and other similar lures.

However, one cannot discount the fact spoons have, and, will continue to, catch big pike.    If the fishing has been slow, not a cloud in the sky, no wind, very hot try this;   put on a blue and silver Little Cleo and with a slow retrieve, pike we can’t resist the flash and thumping wobble of the spoon and you’ll be bringing in fish after fish.

There’s nothing like quietly sneaking into a backwater bay, seeing the shadow flash toward your lure, the smash of the strike, and the dash for freedom a big pike makes when hooked. We should backtrack a little here and look at what brings us to this point.

Just after the ice begins to break up, female pike begin to move into shallow, weedy bays. When the water temperature reaches the 40 to 45 degree range, large females, often accompanied by one or more smaller males, will deposit her eggs in six inches to three feet of water. Pike do not build a nest, the eggs are randomly dropped and will stick to vegetation. The water closer to shore usually warms up first so the eggs are usually dropped close to shore. A few days after spawning, the females leave the area. The males will stay in the area for several weeks but do not protect the eggs or the fry. The eggs and fry are preyed upon by crayfish, insects, birds and other fish.

There are a few things to always look for when looking for early season pike, no matter where the lake or waterway is located. The best spawning areas will have access to deeper water close by because, a few days after spawning, the females will leave the spawning area for deeper water. The deeper water also provides an escape for the pike should some threat arise. This may only be a depth of eight to 12 feet.  Look for backwater bays that is close to a main lake; a bay far from a main lake will rarely have the numbers of fish a closer bay would hold. After they spawn, pike will head to the first deep drop-off they find, and will feed on whatever they can. They will stay here until the water warms even more.

Pike will not stray far from food and generally the area near the shore will be most fertile. Pike fishermen have caught more big pike where a stream enters a larger body of water than anywhere else.

Pike feed by ambushing their prey and therefore need cover to hide behind, so the back bay needs lots of weeds. The eggs will stick to the weeds as well. Smaller baitfish and other food will be found trying to hide from foraging pike by hiding in the same weeds.  Always keep an eye out for fish, or other prey, the pike will be feeding on.

Observe where the sun is shining the strongest. Exposure to sunlight will allow the bay to warm faster, and the warmer bay will have more weed growth, creating good conditions for the pike to begin spawning. At the same time, keep in mind that the sun will be casting your shadow, which can spook that trophy sunning in the shallow water.

From Lucky Strike, a gold Scarlett Eye, a silver Scarlett eye and a Toronto Wobbler

From Lucky Strike, a gold Scarlett Eye, a silver Scarlett eye and a Toronto Wobbler

The most common way to fish with spoons is to cast and retrieve, or troll at a steady pace. A stop-and-go retrieve has proved productive for me, this lets the spoon drop and flutter. Often the fish will strike when the lure drops, so use the drop-and-flutter instead of the Figure Eight when you have a follow.  You will have more strikes doing this, than with the Figure Eight. At a deeper drop-off, you will have more luck jigging a spoon up and down, where, again the strike occurs on the downward flutter. To keep the action of a spoon as natural as possible use a shorter leader, in the area of three to four inches, a steel leader is a must to land a toothy pike.

While spoon baits are very basic in design, here are some favorites.    The Toronto Wobbler, made by Lucky Strike, is a good spoon. The combination of gold and silver provides plenty of flash, not to mention the solid feel when casting this lure. This spoon is a good general-purpose spoon and if you’re in a lake you’ve never fished before, use this one and you’ll be well on your way to catching some fish in no time.

Also made by Lucky Strike is the Scarlet Eye. The thin body of this lure makes it a good choice if there is thick weed cover. You will find it will rip through weeds easily. The red eye gives a different type of look as the lure spins; it imitates a wounded baitfish.

The classics, red-and-white Daredevil, Five of Diamonds, and a black and white Daredevil

The classics, red-and-white Daredevil, Five of Diamonds, and a black and white Daredevil

Two classic spoons, whose reputation speaks for themselves are the Daredevle and the Five of Diamonds. There probably aren’t many fishermen who don’t have at least one Daredevle (or a knock off) in their tackle box. It

seems like the old devil has been around forever.  Needless to say there have been more fish caught on Daredevle’s then any other lure. The red-and-white combination is like a red flag to a bull.  A pike will strike just because the spoon is driving him mad!   There are several colors to choose from; some with a silver back, while others have a gold back.   Notably, the gold gives a little extra flash in murky water.

Keep a few weedless spoons in your box just in case you’re in a very weedy bay. Rapala has recently brought out a line of weedless spoons; these have a thick, solid body with a deep curve. The action is good and these spoons are colored to look like baitfish.  Use them with a twister-type tail to give an added action; pike seem to like this little extra action.

 The weedless lures I use, a blue and silver Rapala, Johnson Silver Minnow, Johnson Daredevil


The weedless lures  use, a blue and silver Rapala, Johnson Silver Minnow, Johnson Daredevil

Be sure to keep a couple Johnson Silver Minnows in your weedless arsenal too. These, while much thinner than the Rapala, are a very good producer. The simple design of this spoon hides its fish-catching ability. Various patterns are available, including a Daredevil like pattern.

Generally, the sunnier and warmer the spring weather, the better the pike fishing will be. As the day goes on and the water get warmer, the more the fish will hit and they will be more willing to chase a lure. Keep the Figure Eight method in mind.  Try going into the spawning bay first and  cover lots of water, just in case the big females are up in the shallows, then move to the first drop-off, checking any humps or clumps of weeds.  Keep your eyes open, and try different retrieve speeds and techniques, and the pike will nearly always come through.

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Northern Pike Handling, Filleting & Take the ‘Y’ Bones Out

When it comes to caring for Pike that you plan to use at home, the first and probably most important step in assuring a quality meal is to keep the fish fresh prior to cleaning.   Compared to other popular game fish, the flesh of Northern Pike is among the most likely to deteriorate if care is not taken to keep the fish fresh right up to the cleaning table.   When you plan to save some for the table, one great approach is to wait until later in your fishing trip before you start saving fish to take home.

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After filleting it’s best to freeze your filets properly for transportation back home from the lodge.  All your hard work out on the lake could be confiscated by a game warden for the following reasons:

  • frozen in one big blob is considered ‘unidentifiable’
  • failure to keep one square inch patch of skin on the filet
  • packaged improperly (the correct procedure is one fish per package, layed out flat – side by side)

Keeping fish frozen during your stay allows for easy transportation all the way home.  Frozen fish takes the place of ice, however, midway you may want to check the cooler to inspect your filets and add fish accordingly as this could  make a difference at the dinner table.

Another key factor in preparing gourmet meals using Northern Pike is to avoid saving Pike in the freezer for periods of time.  Pike flesh contains a particular Amino Acid that breaks down fairly quickly while fish are stored in the freezer too long. So even if you’ve taken great care to keep the fish fresh up to this point, you could be disappointed when you pull out a package of fish that you’ve been saving for that special occasion.  Because Pike are not well suited for long-term storage, at the simple rule of thumb is Pike are to be eaten within a couple of weeks. 

Removing the “Y” bones from Pike fillets is part of the mystery that has kept lots of otherwise willing anglers away from using these fish in recipes and removing these small bones is really easy! Even the smallest Pike can be easily de-boned by anyone who can fillet a Walleye or most any other fish. In fact, even the term “Y” bone is a misnomer because this so called “Y” bone really isn’t much different than the strip of bones that you’d remove from a Walleye or any other fish caught in our waters. It just happens to be sandwiched into the grain of the fillet where it is protected from “frying out”. 

This is one of those times when it would be easier to do the job than it is to describe how to do it, but look at the picture of the finished fillets and you’ll get a good idea of how to follow these instructions.

npBegin by filleting the fish and removing the rib bones as you would a Walleye or most other freshwater fish. Once you have taken the fillet, study it for a minute. Take a look at the centerline that divides the fillet horizontally and notice the row of light bones visible halfway between this centerline and the top (fishes back) of the fillet. You will be making one cut on each side of this row of bones. You’ll also see that the flesh has a “grain” much like the grain of a nice oak board. The “Y” bones run with this grain and you can use this grain as a directional guide when making your cuts.

COMPLETE DIAGRAM BELOW:

Cut 1:
Start by making a cut just above this row of bones that you can see (and feel). This first cut will be shallow (about ¼ inch) and it is perpendicular to the fillet. This simple, straight cut is used mostly as an access cut to get your knife into position for the next step. Using the tip of your fillet knife, you’ll be able to feel the edge of your knife contact the bones at the inside corner of this “L”  where the bones turn toward the top of the fillet. When you feel the knife contacting those bones, take care not to cut through them.

Cut 2:
Turn the edge of your knife toward the top of the fillet at about a 45-degree angle and follow this edge. You’ll be able to see the bones as you gently slip your knife-edge along this edge. Stop the cut before you reach the top edge of the fillet.

Cut 3:
This is the finishing touch. Start this cut below the row of bones on the side nearest the centerline and simply follow the same angle that you used to make cut 2. As the edge of your knife moves toward the top of the fillet, you’ll begin to feel this strip of bones peeling away from the rest of the fillet. Trim along these edges as needed to remove the strip and voila, you’re finished.

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So There you have it, all you need is a little faith in yourself, a fairly good fillet knife and a little practice. You will soon learn that there is really no trick at all and before long your family and friends will be standing in line at dinner time waiting to sample your newest Pike recipe.

ENJOY YOUR NEXT FEED OF PIKE!

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Posted by on August 9, 2017 in Fishing, Northern Pike, pike

 

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Tips: How To Work Three Top Pike Baits

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Topwater Lures

Many species are a blast to catch using topwater lures, but northern pike frequently charge baits with an unbridled aggression that is simply fascinating. The ever willing participants, pike are often eager to take a bait off the water’s surface because the presentation appears to them to be an easy meal.Here are three preferred topwater baits and tips on using them for pike.

Cigar, Or Walk-The-Dog, Lures

An all-time favorite topwater for pike is a walk-the-dog bait, such as Heddon’s Zara Spook or Rapala’s Skitter Walk.

Rapala-Skitter-Walk

Best fished with a stout baitcasting rod, you must impart a side-to-side swimming motion to the bait. Do this by twitching the rod tip down, then immediately raising it again. This causes the bait to jerk to the side. Raising the rod gives the lure slack line to pull as it glides. After a split-second pause, start another twitch to cause the bait to turn and glide in the other direction.   Continuous twitching results in side-to-side surface motion that causes a lot of commotion. The sight is often too much for pike to pass up.

TopRaider

A Topraider is a trophy-hunting topwater prop lure.

To share some tips on using these baits, one effective   tactic is mixing up the tempo of the twitches throughout the retrieve.   Slowing it down or speeding it up often triggers hits. If a fish swipes at a bait, but misses it you can often get a pike to hit again. One method is prolonging the pause between twitches. After some practice you can get the bait to dance in the strike zone for a while. This conveys an injured and disoriented fish. Pike will often return to hit again with this tactic.

Another option is continuing the retrieve and then casting back over the area again.   I’ve lost count of the number of pike I’ve got on a follow-up cast after they missed the bait the first time.

Prop Baits

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This pike hit a prop bait worked over a river weedbed

These baits are easy to work. Simply cast out and reel it   in on a steady retrieve. The lure’s metallic tail spins as you pull it through the water. This prop appendage creates a plopping sound and leaves a wake on the surface. The steady rhythm and straight path make it easy for pike to hone in on. A word of advice when working these lures: don’t retrieve them too quickly. The best tempo is often a pace just fast enough for the blades to be continuously turning.

An alternative to a steady retrieve with these lures is   using a twitch-pause pattern. This is particularly effective for lures with blades in the front as well as on the rear. The metallic sputtering caused by the twitch is extremely effective at attracting pike.

Buzzbaits

BUZZBAITS
Unlike the above lures, which often feature treble-hook clad models, buzzbaits are a single-hook lure. The up facing hook point makes a fairly weedless presentation. Buzzbaits have either metal or plastic blades   attached at one end of a wire form, which has a dressed hook at the lower end. These lures excel at fishing the shallow, weedy haunts pike frequently inhabit. I’ll cast them on the edge of lily pad bays, among sparsely growing rice or reed areas, and sunken wood zones. In fact, anywhere you think might hold pike are good places to cast buzzbaits. Bring it in on a fairly steady retrieve, but keep in mind twitches in the rod tip or changing the bait’s direction can trigger strikes.

When targeting pike with topwaters, remember that calm to slight ripple conditions are best. Don’t be afraid to try topwaters in small waves though because big fish often hunt in the turmoil caused by waves, and will still take surface lures. Pike are always surveying their habitat for easy meals; often, a topwater is one of the best lures to portray vulnerability. Not to mention that watching a northern hit a surface lure always gets the adrenaline flowing!

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Broiled Walleye with Herbed Lemon Butter

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Nothing is better than catching fish all day on the lake and then thinking of how to prepare your fresh caught fish for the evening meal, once back at camp.


You’re in for a yummy treat with this fish
dish for sure!

Ingredients:

4 pcs. 6/8 oz. portions fresh walleye (or pike) fillets (about 2#)
1/4 cup melted butter
2 T. lemon juice
2 T. chopped parsley
1/4 t. dill, rosemary or marjoram, crumbled
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. coarsely ground pepper

Directions  first be sure to remove bones.

Line broiled pan with foil and place the fillets on the rack. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Combine remaining ingredients and use to baste the fish. Place the broiler pan 4 inches from heat and broil, allowing 10 minutes cooking time per inch of thickness. Do not turn the fish. Baste several times during cooking. Makes 4 servings.

“No angler merely watches nature in a passive way.
He enters into its very existence.”

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Best Baits: Top Lures For Pike Fishing

 

IMG_20150603_115338912_HDRWhen the stars align and the feeding window is open, a big pike will hit anything that moves. Your bait selection doesn’t matter and all you have to do is be in the right place at the right time. If you’re lucky, you’ll experience this feeding-frenzy action once or twice a season. The rest of your time hunting trophy pike will be spent cranking, casting, and waiting. The right presentation will make the difference between a bite and a follow-up. So, don’t waste all of your effort pitching second-rate lures. Here’s our round up of the best pike fishing baits on the market right

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PIKE Fishing Tips

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You’ll love Northern Pike fishing! Pike are one of the easiest fish to catch on Wawang Lake. We call them ‘JAWS’ – the Water Wolf. The monster size pike are opportunists and they will eat just about anything you throw at them providing it falls right in front of those nose.

These feisty fish are best for fishermen who like fast action of any type spinner bait, top water, crank baits, etc. If it’s fun, fast action & lots of fish you’re looking for, then these are the fish you’ll want to target.

Where to Find Pike
Pike will be just about anywhere in the lake, so look for points, weeds and narrows. Look for structure that is adjacent to deep water since BIG northern pike feel secure with the safety of deep water nearby.  You will find these hogs hiding in the weeds, swimming in the narrows waiting for the opportunity of migrating fish and ready to ambush their favorite food perch and walleye. They also like to feed in the shallow weedy bays, on lake herring, minnows, leeches, crawfish or anything that moves. If you’re after the big guys, try fishing from point to point across the bays in deeper water. The bigger & older they are, the lazier they get. So they’ll be lying in the deeper pools & just off of the deeper side of weed beds & structure waiting for food to come to them. Also walleye are one of their favorite meals. So where ever you find schools of walleye there will be a few trophy pike close by.

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Techniques
When Pike are feeding aggressively, just about any technique will work well. When using spoons such as Dare Devils, Five of Diamonds, Johnson Weedless Spoons, etc. we like to cast right into the weeds, rip it back just to the edge of the weeds, then let it flutter down. This imitates a wounded bait fish & will drive them crazy. These fish can feel the difference in the vibration of a healthy bait fish & one that is injured. Remember, walleyes will hang out in the weeds as well. When using crank baits & spinner baits let them get down in the weeds. Bumping weeds & structure will trigger them as well. Top water baits such as Zora Spooks, Buzz baits, Stick baits & Jerk baits are a lot of fun. These are just a few techniques. There a many different techniques that will work great for Pike. In the heat of summer, you may want to slow your presentation down as they are not as aggressive as when the water temps are cooler. All in all, these fish will provide you with great memories & lots of action.

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Tackle & Rods
Avid pike fishermen like to feel the fight of a nice Pike on a medium light to medium action 6′ rod with 10 to 12lb line. For novice fishermen, you may want to go with a 6′ to 7′ medium to heavy action rod with 12 to 15lb test line. Use a 20 to 30lb quality steel leader at least 12″ long.  Very important: check & adjust your drag often. A trophy Pike will break your line in an instant while you are trying figure out what just happened. Any lure that you like to use for Bass will work very well for Pike: Spinner baits, Rapalas, Crank baits, Rattle traps, Spoons, Top water baits, etc. Usually bright colors work the best. We have found in darker water that the perch colored baits work very well. Red & white Daredevils, chartreuse, yellow 5 of diamonds, Johnson silver minnow spoons, etc. These are aggressive feeders so don’t be afraid to use just about anything you have in your tackle box. Remember, here in the river their favorite food is walleye so throw something dark green with a yellow or white belly at them. This is sure to get them feeding if all else fails.

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