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Pike – Locations & Tackle

Seasonal patterns, habitat preferences, tackle selection — understanding these basics will help you connect with more pike over the course of a season.

While pike fishing isn’t an exact science, there are some basic tactics and skills that will put more fish in your boat.

The northern pike — or “water wolf” in some circles — is a predatory fish that holds a healthy appetite, both for chowing down and battling tough. Pike can reach formidable weights, but even those relatively small in size are capable of torrid line peels and acrobatic jumps.

Fishing for northern pike is certainly not a science, but there are some basic tactics and skills involved that will ultimately lead to more fish — both on the end of your line and in the boat. Here are some suggestions for those that want in on the action.

Equipment Considerations – THINK BIG

Wawang_Pike_RodsWhen chasing northern pike, the equipment one chooses can often be paramount to the success one achieves. Beefy tackle is definitely recommended, and bait cast combos get the nod all the way.

A standard pike rod would be a 7′ medium-heavy action stick. This should cover most of the bases, although if the baits you throw are hefty (and the fish grow big in your waters), you may want to upgrade that stick to a heavy-action model.

Try to choose a rod with a lot of backbone throughout the bottom half, but with some limberness towards the top. This will ensure better casting capabilities, but with the toughness to back up a hard-fighting fish.

Bait cast reels should be dependable and tough, with a silky-smooth drag. A gear ratio of 6.3:1 or 7.0:1 is most definitely preferred, as this will allow you to burn buck tails or spinner baits back to the boat in an effortless manner.

Line choices are simple — mono-filament or braid. If going the route of mono, choose a strength of at least twenty-pound test. For braid, the standard is a minimum of fifty-pound. Regardless of which you prefer, a leader is a must when attaching main line to lure. Wire leaders between a foot and eighteen-inches in length will cover all bases and can be purchased in either wire versions or heavy fluorocarbon styles (80lbs +). The length of your leader should be longer when trolling as opposed to casting. By religiously using a leader, the chances of teeth and gill rakers slicing through your line are dramatically reduced, leading to more fish and fewer lost lures.

Careful handling and a quick release helps ensure fish live to fight another day.

Spring Locations
Northern pike spawn during the early spring in shallow water, often when ice still coats the lake. The period directly after ice out can often be your best bet for catching large fish, as the majority of post spawners will linger in this skinny water for some time, regaining energy and replenishing lost body fat. Most shallow back bays will yield the greatest concentrations of fish, and many can be sight fished.

As fish make their way out of the shallows, they will begin to stage on the first structure point they can locate. This can take the form of emergent weed beds, points, or the first drop-off situated in the main body of water. Finding these prized gems can often be easy, as working your boat outwards from the bay will have you stumbling upon the prime real estate quite easily.

Summertime Patterns
The summer months will see a definite switch in pike locational patterns, starting with a flurry of activity in healthy weed beds and lines. Finding the green stuff near points and shoals can bring about positive results, as the “hunter-instinct” in this fish will see them patrolling the edges actively.

As the water warms and the season progresses, large fish will begin their descent to the more favorable conditions that can be found in deeper water. Many of these pike will roam in a nomadic manner, intercepting bait schools as they travel freely and unimpeded. Pike anglers may scratch their heads at this time of year, but covering a lot of water in order to connect with fish is often part and parcel of this puzzle.

Small to medium-sized northern pike will still call the weed areas home and can often be counted on for rousing games of tug-of-war when the big girls have seemingly disappeared from the radar.

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Fall Tactics
As the water cools and the leaves change color, pike will again begin to move throughout the water system. In many cases, they will return to the same weed beds they occupied initially after leaving the shallows back in the spring.

Slow tapering flats holding a mixture of vegetation will be your best bet, while the healthiest remaining weeds should get your most attention. Some fish will still roam the depths, so don’t overlook a wide variety of water when searching for the water wolf.

Selecting lures for pike fishing isn’t tough; lure choices are quite universal.

Stocking the Tackle Box
Outfitting your box for pike fishing is not a tough chore. Lure choices are quite universal, and having a small selection of baits at your disposal will not break the bank. Make your choices from the following list, and be prepared to hang on tight to that rod.

Spoons
Spoons have been a standard on the pike scene for years, and for good reason. Simply put — this bait is guaranteed to put fish in the boat. There’s something intoxicating in the wobbling and flash of a spoon that drives a northern mad, and they will often strike these pieces of metal with reckless abandon.

Choose spoons in the 4 to 5-inch size, and give the nod to white/red, silver, yellow, and gold hues. A slow, lazy retrieve will often work best, with occasional pauses and flutters to catch the curiosity of any following fish.

40 (4)Spinner baits and Buck tails
Over sized bass spinner baits account for a lot of pike. Their body and hook design allows for an almost weedless presentation, which can work wonders when the fish are up tight to cover and in the shallows. White and chartreuse are two colors that top the list, with orange and black also being effective. Go with willow leaf or large Colorado blades for maximum flash and vibration, in either silver or gold colors.

Four to six-inch musky buck tails can really get the attention of pike, and work equally as well for both of these predator species. Their large profile, fast speed, and flashy blades make for an easy, yet effective bait to throw. Choose contrasting body and blade variations, sticking closely with the colors suggested above. Straight retrieves work best with these lures, with high-speed cranking or bulging being two of my favorite ways to fish this bait.

Jerk Baits
Minnow-shaped crank baits represent a pike’s favorite prey and can often trigger strikes when other baits fail. A five or six-inch floating or suspending crank twitched back to the boat is all that’s needed for your retrieve. Fire tiger, silver, blue, perch and baby bass are all proven colors, and utilizing baits with rattle chambers will make them even more attractive. Experiment with diving depths, and keep in mind to always run your bait higher in the water column than the actual level of the fish.

Top Waters
In terms of excitement, nothing can compare with the surface strike of a northern pike. Over sized buzz baits, walk-the-dog style lures (think Super Spook), and large prop-baits will all bring a feeding frenzy to the top.

Predominantly thought of as a shallow water lure, tossing top waters over weed beds, off points, and along rock and weed shoals can bring about positive results. Slow and steady is often the key to action.

Slug-Gos and Senkos are two popular soft plastic sticks, and both work well when targeting northern pike. Primarily used during the spring and early summer months, the tantalizing fall and wiggle of these baits can trigger some pretty hefty strikes. Often thrown to finicky fish, or those that have been spotted lurking in the skinny water, a soft plastic stick can fool even the most wary of fish.

Six-inch baits are a good choice with white, chartreuse, and pink being optimum colors. Rig these baits wacky (through the belly) or Tex-posed (through the nose) with a 4/0 worm hook.

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Spoon Styles for PIKE

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Even within the ranks of diehard pike fans, few fully consider the variables in spoon design, size, and finish that determine whether pike spoons get a strike or get passed on our attempts to mimic reality.  The strike-stirring wobble and flash of spoons has seduced countless otherwise cautious gators over the years, and continues to do so today.

First, note that spoons as a lure category are riding a rising tide of effectiveness for pike in many waters. It’s a case of a lure coming full circle with the rise and fall of angler use, and corresponding level of fish conditioning to it. While spoons were once the most common—if not the only—type of lure pike saw in many systems across the continent, their use in many waters waned as pike became conditioned to this presentation.

Prime Factors
Of all the variables that come into play in selecting the right spoon, choosing one that provides the optimal running depth and speed are most important. It sounds basic, but many otherwise savvy anglers skip this key building block in their rush to address other elements of the presentation, such as differences in finish or color pattern.

Depth control is key and to address this key concern and apply them throughout prime spooning periods. In spring, lures like the light, fluttery Williams and Doctor spoons work best.

Pike move into the shallows of bays where the water is a bit warmer. Light spoons are ideal for the 2- to 5-foot depths where pike often lie. And they fit the speed part of the equation, too—light spoons hold their wobble and produce good flash, even when fished slowly.

Light is a relative term, but thin, light-for-their-length options such as the 3¼-inch, 5/8-ounce Original Doctor or 4-inch, 1/2-ounce Eppinger Flutter Chuck are good examples. In general, Beattie focuses on spoons up to 5 inches long throughout the season, relying mostly on 3- to 4-inchers early in the year.

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We typically don’t get to sight-fish in tea-stained waters, I make long casts into the back ends of bays, often around last season’s reeds or other remnant vegetation. Inlets can be key, as can the presence of baitfish.  Often, a spoon provides all the action needed, though at times a twitch or pause triggers strikes better than a straight retrieve.

Heavier-for-length spoons, such as 4-inch, 3/4-ounce Williams Wabler and classic Dardevles,  in deep water, particularly during fall, when targeting large pike suspended over rocky, main-lake structure such as points and reefs.  A hefty, hard-thumping spoon is a killer in fall, when pike feed on big, fatty baitfish such as smelt and lake herring.   Water depths range from 15 to 20 feet cast out, count the spoon down about 8 feet, and begin a much faster and more animated retrieve than in spring.  Move the spoon faster, using a steady retrieve with plenty of pops and jerks of the rod tip.

Fine Tuning Techniques
Once you dial in depth and speed, you can fine-tune other variables such as size, shape, and color, which determine what the pike sees and feels once the spoon is in the right area, moving at the right pace. Having a well-stocked spoon larder is a plus, including an assortment with the same color pattern in different shapes and lengths. These tools let you dig deep into the nitty-gritty of profile and vibration, while keeping color constant.

Given the pike’s amazing abilities to detect vibration, you can bet on the wobble and vibrations produced trump profile in the grand scheme. Pike are accustomed to sensing and tracking prey by vibration before they’re able to see it—whether it’s out of visual range or hidden from view by cover. This helps explain why a spoon that sounds and feels like a 1-pound sucker attracts more interest from big, aggressive pike than a dainty offering that feels like a fingerling.

Putting these concepts into practice is a matter of learning how spoons work at different speeds, and matching their actions to the conditions at hand without sacrificing depth or speed. Describing and categorizing wobbles is a personal matter.

  • Dardevle:  1-ounce Dardevle’s rolling, stuttering cadence as a wupwupwup
  • Huskie Devle goes more like woo-woo-wuppa, as in each wobble sequence it stutters left-right, then wuppas sharply back to the left.

As you study the locomotion of each spoon style and size, note the frequency and intensity of wobbles, stutters, and swerves it makes, along with the width of the spoon’s path through the water. Time on the water and a good memory—or better yet, a journal give you an appreciation of each spoon’s actions and help you put together a comprehensive set of spoon strategies.

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Spoon Presentation
During a tough bite or on heavily pressured water, even a well-stocked spoon box stumbles now and then, calling for special tweaks to turn the tide.  A simple trick when dealing with pressured pike is downsizing to a 2.5-inch Luhr Jensen Tony’s Spoon, and adding a ReelBait Fergie Spoon Clacker to the front of it because a pike’s yen for this combo has proven excellent pike fishing while fishing walleye.

Practice a variation of the classic lift-fall cadence. When pike stalk but don’t strike, retrieve with the rod tip high (about the 10 o’clock position), then snap the tip to 12 o’clock and lets the spoon fall backward on slack line while lowering the rod tip. The move puts the spoon in a following fish’s face, often triggering a strike. A heavy-bottomed spoon like the Dardevle shines for this technique, though thin, light spoons are easier to fish in shallow water and often produce a more erratic fall, which in itself can be an added trigger.

Think tubular and remove a spoon’s treble hook, trims the nose off a 2-inch, soft-plastic tube, insert the hook in the tube and reattach it to the spoon.  The tube’s tentacles look like a baitfish’s tail moving through the water, and can increase strikes, and another tweak is adding a holographic eye to the spoon, which often boosts bites as well.

fallpike

At times, use a spoon with a softbait trailer with an exaggerated lift-fall motion to create an outlandish show. Trollers relentlessly strain the deep weededge with heavy spoons, diving crankbaits, and the like, quickly removing reckless pike from the population.

Start by snipping the tail section off a 3-inch Berkley Gulp! Alive! Minnow Grub; usually the tail and tail base are enough.  Thread this on the treble of a thin-metal, flutter-style spoon—a favorite is a gold, 3¼-inch, 5/8-ounce Williams Ice Jig, with the mid-body hook removed. The combination of a fluttery spoon and softbait tail produce a fall that’s tantalizingly slow, but very flashy and mildly erratic (mostly straight down). Middle-distance or short casts are fine then guide the spoon into open pockets within beds of cabbage.

Let the spoon fall 4 to 8 feet or more (as depth and vegetation allow) on a semi-slack line, maintaining a bit of control but not impeding action. Then lower the rod tip and rip the spoon back up, either in one sweep or a series of snaps, then let it flutter down again. Repeat the process as you work the spoon to the boat.

Combine the core elements of depth and speed with size, action, and flash—then mix in a few tricks as needed and you’ll be well on your way to a hot spoon bite that will provide excellent results.

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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.

pike shore lunch 2

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.

ybone


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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Don’t Overlook the Pike’s Reflexive Response

Wawang Lake 47" northern pike

Wawang Lake 47″ northern pike

Northern Pike are impulsive and will often at times strike through reflexive responses even when they’re not hungry or actively feeding. They are susceptible to being provoked into striking a fast moving lure that crosses their field of vision.

A favorite blue and silver Rapala Husky is a great lure to cast as far as you can with the wind, then proceed to retrieve the bait with a rapid crank, crank, crank, …pause, rip (and repeat) motion back to the boat. Soon by the second cast you’ll begin to see the fruits of your efforts.

Within an hour you’re sure to experience rewards with this frenzied cast and retrieve method of fishing. It is something many know and witness before but for whatever reason some anglers avoid this technique never fully understanding how powerful this approach really is . It’s only natural to fish more carefully when things turn slow and you may have to remind yourself to break out and try something loud, large and fast to get the fish to strike again. Take advantage of a fishes’ evolutionary response to strike reflexively the next time things get slow on the water. It’s sure to reawaken their feeding response and put more fish in the boat.

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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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Monofilament Vs. Fluorocarbon

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The RAP’s Get The MONSTER PIKE!

IMG_0551 (300x400) Trolling Tactics

When it comes to trolling  for Monster Northern Pike, the following lures are a must have for any fishing enthusiast.

While the Northern Pike can easily be caught from shore, or casting from a boat, there is another tactic most often ignored by the fishing enthusiast. Trolling for monster Northern Pike is one of the most proven methods for covering large bodies of water (the preference here at Wawang Lake) and increasing a fisherman’s chances of success.

Northern Pike are Active All Day Long
Because the Northern Pike are active throughout the day, it really is quite easy to tie into one of these lunkers. The trick is to make sure you have the proper drag setting, a wire leader and the right trolling lure. After that, it’s simply a matter of covering the right territory and waiting for that violent attack.

Northern Pike are notorious for quick strikes, long fights and deep dives. They are one of the most sought-after freshwater game fishes worldwide. Considered by many to be the freshwater’s version of a barracuda, these fish are determined fighters and voracious eaters. So, what are the best lures and trolling tactics to catch these fish?

Rapala “Husky Jerk” Suspending Minnows

$(KGrHqNHJFYFD1kCnVlqBQ9,mhoVlQ~~60_35Rapala is world renowned for their full line of balsa minnows and is considered by many fishing enthusiasts as the pre-eminent lure designer. After all, they’ve been making balsa wood minnows since 1936. Their best lure for trolling is the Rapala “Husky Jerk” Suspending lure and it comes in a variety of colors from gold, silver, perch color, bass color and even clear.

These lures can be tolled at controlled depths of 4-8 feet below the surface. In addition, the lure includes a rattle chamber that increases the likelihood of a strike.

Rapala X-Rap XR10 Jerkbait1408862_290

Much like the Rapala “Husky Jerk”, the X-Rap XR10 Jerkbait is a perfect trolling lure for Pike. In this case, it’s all about the X-Rap’s darting and cutting action through the water. When trolling this Rapala, make sure to vary speeds and add some extra motion. The lure is intended to suspend itself and dart once retrieved.

Rapala XRAP Magnums & Jointed Minnows

Both the XRAP Magnum and the Jointed Minnow offer Northern Pike enthusiasts the opportunity to go a little deeper than the two previously mentioned lures. In this case, depending upon the size, the lures can go as low as 30 feet down. However, most effective lures for Pike should stay around the 5-10 feet range, so be sure to purchase the appropriate size.

While many of these lures, including the Magnum and Jointed imagesMinnow Rapalas, are considered saltwater lures, they are still extremely effective when trolling for Northern Pike in freshwater lakes. In addition, because Pike share so much of their territory with Walleye, it’s not uncommon to nail a trophy walleye as well. Either way, make sure to match the rod and line strength with the depth these lures will be fished at.

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