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Timing the Pike Bite Just Right

 There are three times during the open-water period that can be considered prime for big pike.

1doug0427

Each of these windows of opportunity lasts from 10 to 14 days and is key for large-sized northern because during this time, the bigger fish of this species are more concentrated in the shallower water. Here’s where they can be found easily and caught with lures that allow anglers to cover some ground in their search. Once these big pike head to the cool depths where they spread out and suspend, finding and catching them requires tremendous amounts of luck. It’s better to time your fishing for big pike to these three periods to take advantage of factors that give the edge to the angler instead of the pike.

  1. The first period is right after ice-out, which can be a problem in many areas where the season is closed on inland waters.
  2. The second period is as the shallows warm, when the big pike transition from shallow water to deep water.
  3. The third is right before a water body turns over in the fall, when big northern will move up into shallow water after spending summer in the depths.

Right after ice-out, you find huge northern pike in the spawning areas.  These will be shallow weed-choked bays in the lake, and weedy backwater bays up the river.

Little northern aren’t hard to find and catch, but the big pike are a challenge and they put up one heck of a fight.  When you hook into a really nice pike, you can’t make any mistakes.

Don’t let the cold water temperatures right after ice-out deter you from using an approach that allows you to cover some ground. This is the perfect time to be tying on a spinner bait because it’s a lure that works well in shallow vegetation.

IMG_4978

The pike move up into whatever vegetation is still standing from the previous year — and any newly emerging weed growth that can often be found in very shallow depths.   Use a 3/4-ounce spinner bait with a large Colorado blade.  This lure casts a long way and can be retrieved slowly, if that’s what’s necessary. You can also burn it a little faster just below the surface in the real shallow water.

Some of the pike will have already spawned, more than likely while ice still covered the surface. Others are still spawning or are preparing to.  Occasionally you may catch a big pike and you can tell is post-spawn, most of the really big pike after the ice has just gone out are still fat with eggs and just on the verge of spawning.    All trophy fish are released back to Wawang Lake.

It’s the transition period when the shallow shoreline regions are warming and the big northern are moving into the deeper, cooler water when most anglers get their first shot at big pike. This period usually falls into a two-week time frame a couple of weeks after the traditional opener. Anglers who can be on the water at this time can capitalize on big fish that are still in reaching distance for a spinner bait or crank bait.

34" northern pike

34″ northern pike

It’s no secret that big pike like the colder water.  You will seldom find the bigger pike in the shallower regions in the lake during the summer months, because the water temperatures there are just too warm for their liking. If you miss this transition period, you’ll likely be into fall before you get another chance at a really big pike, because those bigger fish get hard to come by when they disappear into the depths.

This is a good time to get out Spoon plugs.  Any lake that has a well-defined deep weed line is a perfect candidate for Spoon plugs.

The Spoon plug is a lure that was promoted years ago by famous angler Buck Perry, and is a staple of many diehard big-pike anglers. It allows an angler to troll a weed line or break line precisely at speeds of 1 to 4 mph.

You can cover some ground and find out where those pike are, although during the transition, it’s more important to have your lure in the right place than worrying about the speed.   Those Spoon plugs will get the lure to the right depth and stay on the weed line, no matter what speed I find triggers the bite.

So how does an angler know when the transition starts and ends? Water temperature signals the start.  When the surface temperature hits about 67 degrees, you know it’s going to start pushing those fish out.  This could be early June during some years and early July in others. The weather is the biggest determinant in when this transition period occurs.

You can tell it’s over when the fish quit the bite.  You’ll have a week where the weed line and shallow rock piles are producing big pike with some consistency, then one day you go out there and they’re gone.

The pre-turnover period is when those big pike come out of the deep water as the shallow water cools, just prior to the lake rolling over.

Turnover is a tough time to call, which is why the guys who can get out on a body of water often generally hit this time just right. If you miss it, then there is a period for a couple of weeks after turnover when the fishing is tough all over a lake. It’s just luck and timing.

The big pike will be roaming over the tops of the vegetation, you’ll just want to be ticking the tops of the cabbage, coontail or milfoil with that spinner bait, and if the blade is just a nice slow thump, that’s perfect.

pike

Back troll slowly over the vegetation, with only about 25 to 35 feet of line out — the line from the reel at a 45-degree angle toward the lure and the spinner bait right above the vegetation. By wearing a good pair of polarized glasses, an angler can watch the bait as it dances in and around the stalks and branches. As the boat moves from shallower to deeper water, drop the rod tip or lets out a little more line until the lure starts ticking weeds again.

If seeing an opening in the weeds, drop the rod tip and let the lure settle in.  It’s amazing how often you see the big pike react to the spinner bait and come out of a big pile of milfoil or coontail and attack that lure.

These big pike are the top predators in a lake and they fear nothing at this point.   You’ll see them swim right into the prop wash to hit a spinner bait or spoon as it’s trolled out from the boat.

Back trolling allows more depth control.   It’s easier to get the speed down and work a depth more thoroughly when backing the boat.   If the pike are deeper switch to crank baits or Spoon plugs, then front-troll. But when pulling spinner baits over the tops of the weeds, back troll.

Open-water season in northern Ontario lasts about 28 weeks or so and the time frame for quality big-pike fishing is between five and six weeks, so it’s imperative that you be on the water for these peak times.   Those big pike don’t give you many opportunities, so you need to take advantage of every one.

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Top Lures For Early Season Pike

With spring, thoughts of hefty pike in shallow water dance through anglers’ heads. Fresh from the spawn, pike will be found in specific locations and can be caught with a variety of lures.

At that time of year, the fishing can be fast and furious, monster pike are more than willing to entertain you with a game of tug-of-war. Jump-start your fishing season by tangling with the mighty “water wolf,” and be prepared for some of the best fishing you can imagine.

piketipsWhere To Find Them
Pike spawn in shallow, weedy back bays shortly after ice-out. Bays and shorelines found on the north side of the lake will be the first to warm up, and will be the most attractive to the cruising pike. Once the spawn is complete, the majority of the fish will linger in these back bays for some time, gorging on the available baitfish and awaiting a warming trend to occur in the main lake area.

Searching the shallow bays on your favorite lake will be the key to finding post-spawn pike. Make sure the area you are concentrating on has a variety of cover — be it weeds, logs or stumps — and is between the depths of 2 feet and 6 feet. Finding an area like this has pike written all over it, although your next step will be deciding what to throw at them.

Lures To Consider
One of the most productive and easiest baits to fish for spring pike is the spinnerbait. It represents an easy meal, has a bulky profile in the water and gives off flash and vibration that rings the dinner bell loudly for these opportunistic feeders.

A personal preference early in the season is a spinnerbait sporting a large willow-leaf blade, a sturdy wire body that will stand up to the abuse a pike can dish out, and a fur or nylon skirt that undulates nicely in the water. Couple this with a needle-sharp sturdy hook and you have the perfect setup for the mighty pike.

Bright colors seem to be the best route early in the season with chartreuse, red and white getting the nod for most applications. Depending on water conditions, it is best to experiment with natural and unnatural colors until you hit a winning pattern.

Topwater
Nothing can compare to the visual thrill and heart-pounding excitement of taking a pike on a topwater plug. Post spawn fish are more than willing to grab an easy meal off the surface, and the shallow water locations make this tactic extremely productive.

topwater3There are a number of topwater baits on the market that are suited to early season pike and have worked well for me over the years. The buzzbait is a top choice due to the large silhouette it provides and the surface commotion it exhibits. Fish this bait with a steady retrieve and be prepared to hold on tight. A stinger hook may be necessary for those fish that strike short or blow up on the bait.

 

Another key lure is the Zara Spook. The lazy side-to-side motion is intoxicating to both aggressive and neutral fish, and many of the pike you encounter will hunt down this bait as if it truly is alive. Choose the larger version Spook and make sure you fish the lure with a wire leader in order to save it from the jaws of this predator.

Spoons
Spoons have become a staple among early season pike anglers and for good reason — they catch fish. A spoon exhibits the movements of a baitfish precisely, and the positive vibrations and body characteristics make it a good choice.

spoonsProven spoon picks are the Red Devle Dardevle, Five of Diamonds, Red Eye, Blue Fox, Original Doctor, Johnson Silver Minnow, and many of the Williams Wobblers’ line of baits. Experiment with different weights, and thickness of bodies, in order to establish those that have the most desirable motion and action in the water, and which ones the pike show a preference to striking.

A trick to keep in mind for fish that follow yet refuse to hit, is to suddenly stop the spoon in mid-reel and let it flutter slowly downward. This tactic will entice the majority of “hot” pike to strike, and has proven itself repeatedly.

Head to Wawang Lake this spring and have a tussle with the mighty “water wolf.” The fishing will be fast and exciting and the eagerness of the pike to strike will have you returning year after year.

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Early Spring Trophy Pike

Wawang pikeScouting for pike
Cattail bays may hold fish but last year’s weed is a better spawning habitat and more easily functions as a good place for pike to spread their eggs and offers a high degree of protection after the hatch has begun.

The ambient air and water temperature will dictate the degree of hunting that pike may pursue during the spawning phase. Experience has shown that a mid, to late afternoon bite is the norm in these very early seasonal conditions.

Scouting in the evenings or early morning pays dividends in huge pike. Map out several good bay’s and creek arms noting the best wind direction for fishing each individual area. Many times the wind will change direction cooling a bay and sending the pike off to hunt for warmer waters nearby.

By scanning the water you can actually see large black shadowy hunters slowly moving through the water!

Equipment options
For shore casting baits use the long  predator rod such as a St. Croix equipped with a good spinning or baitcast reel in order to make long cast’s with larger baits with relative ease and precision.

A favorite rod and reel is the 11 foot ABU Boron graphite ABS 110-3M 20-60g #3 F-11 (913971) rigged with a Shimano Baitrunner 6500 reel.

The long rod allows you to make effortless cast with float or slip rig and also aids in fighting a big fish from heavy cover or steering the fish away from big trouble like logs or brush.

The Shimano Baitrunner reel is a great tool for bait fishing situations. Well engineered with two separate smoothly operating individually adjustable drag systems. One is the main drag and the other a running drag designed to allow for a fish to take the bait with the least amount of resistance and run.

The running drag is adjustable and easily activated by a flick of a lever after you have made your cast.

After a strike and the fish is on the bait and into a run you simply begin the retrieve and this disengages the running drag while simultaneously engaging the main fighting drag.

Line choice is a personal preference thing, but as long as it is Berkley XT or Big Game, you should be all right. Abrasion resistance is the key factor to consider in your personal choice. A little stretch is a good thing on these bruiser pike, no stretch may lead to hooks pulling free on a thrashing head shake bank or boat side.

Rigging for bait pike

Mood dictates an appropriate presentation, and in this case bait choice too. Live baits do work well, such as 6-12″ white suckers, but dead baits offer more appeal to hungry cold pike.

Fresh water frozen smelt and herring has consistently proven to be the right bait under these conditions.

These oily baits secrete a scent trail that triggers a pike to feed readily when live bait is greatly restricted in appeal to action.

Since the water temperature is not far from freezing, action presentations is a low percentage game at this point in time.

In conditions were the temperature is rapidly and steadily rising crank baits such as:

  • Salmo Whitefish SW 13 SX BS
  • Salmo S-12 Sting
  • Count Down Rapala #11
  • Rapala Husky # 13 Jerk

Fan casting crankbaits over mud flats can be a very effective method of covering ground and locating active pike plus the action can turn explosive if the pike are on the feed.

An abundance of food may increase pike feeding activity but a glut of forage will often make bait sets a low percentage game becoming lost in the crowd of available food.

Slip Rigs
Two basic bait rigs work well under most pre-spawn conditions, the slip float rig, and the bottom slip rig. The slip float rig is much the same as others you may have used in past months while ice fishing. A float set to slide from the leader section to a point where a stop bead and slip knot has be placed allowing ease of casting and depth control. The big difference is size, these floats will need to suspend a bait that may exceed 1 ½ lb’s, such as a large sucker minnows.

The 6-8″ long 5/8″ diameter Styrofoam pencil style slip float is a good choice as it can be weighted to alow for differences in bait and can be pulled under with little effort thus not spooking a wise old pike.

“Thill” floats in the 4-6″ cigar style makes for an excellent choice in springtime conditions. They offer a high amount of buoyancy combines with a minimal overall size but yet enough weight to make casting less cumbersome in wind.

images514NWBCLAdding Flash
A crafty option that is new to the pike game is the addition of flash to a suspension rig above the bait to entice a pike into the bait offering hanging below.

One ideal flash rig is the Mack’s smile blade Flash Lite system. The Mack’s smile blade is innovative in that the construction of the blade is such as to be adjustable while extremely light in weight so it will turn emitting a flash in a 360 degree radius with as little as a ½ mile an hour push upon its reflective surfaces.

This can easily be achieved by the slightest wind or currents producing a bobbing motion to stimulate the Smile blade and trigger a pike.

The Flash Lite blades are rigged on a steal leader with a high quality snap on one end and an equally high quality swivel on the other. This can be easily added to a quick strike leader below a float to produce additional attraction and bite off protection when the need arises.

Individual blades can be pre-rigged on leaders if a more subtle flash is desired. Originally designed for trolling scenarios they are extremely effective with live and dead bait presentation.

Leaders
Leader choice for both the suspension rig and the bottom set rig should be constructed from quality leader materials; such as Bait Rig’s Quick Strike rig or a Titanium leader.

Longer the better is the thing to remember as bite offs and high abrasive conditions will raise havoc on the first 3 foot of leader or line above the bait itself.

Hooks
Quality hooks are a must, hooks such as Partridge Vb quick strike hooks, 6 o/t circle hooks and a stinger, or Excallaber treble hooks.

Preferred is the Partridge Vb.’s or the circle hook and a stinger as they will not harm a fish as much and a released fish shows less stress, wear, and tear.

Dead baits should be thawed prior to use or they tend to float up. On a bottom set rig frozen may be advantageous, but not so on a suspension rig.

Proper hook placement on these jumbo baits is crucial to insure a good hook up.

The head should be hanging downward on a suspension set. Place the first hook in the bait just above the tail and the bottom hook at the base of the head. A helpful hint is to carry a bag of small dental bands to aid in holding the bait to the wire leader while casting.

One band worked over the first hook and placed about midway between the first and second hook will greatly help prevent bait loss on long hard casts.

Bottom slip set rigs are much the same as the float rig with the addition of an egg weight just above the leader to hold the bait in position.

Welter Group

Spring proves to be very rewarding for the Welter group – first timers fishing Wawang Lake

Bait set placement
Putting this all together we know to look to creeks feeding into bays to locate pike. Look also for likely runs that hunting pike may follow with careful consideration given to inside corners and points.

Large mud bays are a crapshoot so just get the bait out there and see if they cruise on by. You can up your odds by studying our lake map carefully noting where creek channels brush up against shoreline areas, flooded timber, or brush.

Often these old creeks are like highways to pike moving in and out of bays, most certainly a high percentage area worth staking out and making a few sets.

Necked down areas funneling into creek runs is a choice location and should be sought out if available. Suspension rigs in these areas may be best run high off the bottom.

If the estimated depth of the creek is 8′ set the bait at 4′. Many of these huge old pike ride mid water column as they cruise the bays and channels.

A good plan is to mix it up, one high, one low, and be sure to experiment. This flexibility will pattern their preference much faster and up your odds considerably in landing that trophy pike of your dreams.

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Slot Size
The slot size for northern pike in Wawang Lake is:

  • All pike 27 ½” must be released back into the lake
  • Sportmen’s License: 4 northern (under our slot size) in possession at all times
  • Conservation License: 2 northern (under our slot size) in possession at all times

Guests are welcome to eat as many pike under our slot size while at the lodge and providing they are within their possession limit. Guests are also welcome to take their limits home as well.

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How to Release Monster Pike

Pike fishing is one of the fastest growing areas in sport fishing today. Ask any long-time pike angler if fishing pressure is increasing, or look at the growth of Pike or Musky lure manufacturers, and you’ll be convinced that pike fishing is on the rise.

With more anglers pursuing these predators every year, the need for proper releasing techniques is crucial to ensure the survival of post-release fish, and to sustain the sport fishery.

The Right Tools And Gear

You need the right tools to play, and to release a big pike without exhausting or over-stressing the fish. The right tools begin with your fishing equipment. Your set-up should include heavy-action rods, and reels with high ratios and large spools to quickly retrieve line. Spool reels with quality line with a minimum rating of 65-pound-test. The terminal end should have steel leader with strong snaps and ball bearing swivels.

tools

Here are some common tools for releasing pke: (left ro right) hook cutters, measuring tape, long-nose pliers, and jaw-spreaders.

You will need the right tools to land and release these big predators. Opinions vary on the best device to land a muskie, but nets and cradles (large enough to comfortably hold, or pen, a pike) are two popular options. You will also need tools to help cut and remove hooks from the fish’s mouth, including long-nosed pliers, hook cutters, jaw spreaders, and hook-removers.

Remember, cutting hooks can be faster than removing them with pliers, but it is critical to remove all the hook pieces. Pieces left in the fish can lead to infection and, potentially, death.

 

Have The Knowledge

You’ve just spent a couple hundred dollars on a quality net, a rod and reel combo, a dozen lures, and the latest release tools. Better yet, you’re on a beautiful lake and have a good population of monster pike. Adrenaline rushes through your body, but are you prepared to safely land this fish? This is an important question anglers new to muskie fishing need to ask themselves before fishing. Netting a fat walleye, requires skill and confidence, but handling big, aggressive fish is more demanding. The good news is there are many ways to learn how to land and release pike properly.

One of the best ways to learn is by doing.   Joining a club will connect you to a wealth of pike information. Hiring a credible guide is another way to gain first-hand experience. Reading publications specific to pike fishing and attending seminars at fishing shows are two other ways to boost your release know-how.

Confidence And Patience

“Zen and the art of pike fishing?” you ask. No, but confidence and patience are two traits that will go a long way to ensure you properly release fish. When working in close quarters with pike, you must be confident in your actions; this is where the right tools and knowledge will really pay off. For example, if you’re leaning over to grab a trophy sized pike and you hesitate just as the fish thrashes in the net, the situation could quickly get dangerous to both you and the fish.

Most multi-season, pike anglers know stories of hooks in hands and fish freak-outs. Being confident when handling pike will likely save you a hospital visit, but it can’t guarantee it.

Being patient comes into play on many levels in fishing, but let’s focus on how it relates to releasing these toothy brutes. After hooking a pike you intend to release (which should be almost always), you’re responsible to do it properly. Pike that battle hard during the fight may require time to recuperate before swimming away. It may take only 10 minutes or 20 minutes, but some pike may need more than an hour of boat-side support.   One thing to remember is to avoid shallow water during hot months as this water doesn’t hold much oxygen.  Bringing the fish out to a little deeper water will be advantageous to the fish.  As a responsible angler, you must be patient enough to hold and support that fish as it regains its strength before being able to strongly swim out of your hands. If you’re not prepared to spend the time to properly release a fish, you shouldn’t be fishing in the first place. It’s that simple.

Be Organized

Being organized is more than just having the right tools and gear accessible in a tidy and hazard-free boat. It’s also fishing with a partner and knowing your responsibilities once a fish is hooked. While one battles the fish, the other should ready the release tools, camera, measuring tape, and landing device.

Having a plan for playing and releasing fish, and keeping all tools needed within reach, reduces handling time and overall stress to the fish. Furthermore, a planned and properly executed process for landing, handling and releasing fish will ensure the fish is kept in the water as much as possible.

Release Methods

Key to any successful release is keeping the fish (especially its head) in the water at all times, and only removing it for a quick photo if necessary. Some anglers let the fish recuperate in a net or cradle after the hooks are removed before handling the pike again to take a picture. When photographing a fish, a good rule of thumb is to hold your breath as you lift the fish out of the water. When you need to breathe, so does the fish, and it should quickly be returned to the water to minimize harm.

Try these tips the next time you’re on the water to protect this outstanding resource.

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Top Lures For Early Season Pike

With spring, thoughts of hefty pike in shallow water dance through anglers’ heads. Fresh from the spawn, pike will be found in specific locations and can be caught with a variety of lures.

Welter Group

At that time of year, the fishing can be fast and furious, monster pike are more than willing to entertain you with a game of tug-of-war. Jump-start your fishing season by tangling with the mighty “water wolf,” and be prepared for some of the best fishing you can imagine.

piketipsWhere To Find Them
Pike spawn in shallow, weedy back bays shortly after ice-out. Bays and shorelines found on the north side of the lake will be the first to warm up, and will be the most attractive to the cruising pike. Once the spawn is complete, the majority of the fish will linger in these back bays for some time, gorging on the available baitfish and awaiting a warming trend to occur in the main lake area.

Searching the shallow bays on your favorite lake will be the key to finding post-spawn pike. Make sure the area you are concentrating on has a variety of cover — be it weeds, logs or stumps — and is between the depths of 2 feet and 6 feet. Finding an area like this has pike written all over it, although your next step will be deciding what to throw at them.

Lures To Consider
One of the most productive and easiest baits to fish for spring pike is the spinnerbait. It represents an easy meal, has a bulky profile in the water and gives off flash and vibration that rings the dinner bell loudly for these opportunistic feeders.

A personal preference early in the season is a spinnerbait sporting a large willow-leaf blade, a sturdy wire body that will stand up to the abuse a pike can dish out, and a fur or nylon skirt that undulates nicely in the water. Couple this with a needle-sharp sturdy hook and you have the perfect setup for the mighty pike.

Bright colors seem to be the best route early in the season with chartreuse, red and white getting the nod for most applications. Depending on water conditions, it is best to experiment with natural and unnatural colors until you hit a winning pattern.

Topwater
Nothing can compare to the visual thrill and heart-pounding excitement of taking a pike on a topwater plug. Post spawn fish are more than willing to grab an easy meal off the surface, and the shallow water locations make this tactic extremely productive.

topwater3There are a number of topwater baits on the market that are suited to early season pike and have worked well for me over the years. The buzzbait is a top choice due to the large silhouette it provides and the surface commotion it exhibits. Fish this bait with a steady retrieve and be prepared to hold on tight. A stinger hook may be necessary for those fish that strike short or blow up on the bait.

 

Another key lure is the Zara Spook. The lazy side-to-side motion is intoxicating to both aggressive and neutral fish, and many of the pike you encounter will hunt down this bait as if it truly is alive. Choose the larger version Spook and make sure you fish the lure with a wire leader in order to save it from the jaws of this predator.

Spoons
Spoons have become a staple among early season pike anglers and for good reason — they catch fish. A spoon exhibits the movements of a baitfish precisely, and the positive vibrations and body characteristics make it a good choice.

spoonsProven spoon picks are the Red Devle Dardevle, Five of Diamonds, Red Eye, Blue Fox, Original Doctor, Johnson Silver Minnow, and many of the Williams Wobblers’ line of baits. Experiment with different weights, and thickness of bodies, in order to establish those that have the most desirable motion and action in the water, and which ones the pike show a preference to striking.

A trick to keep in mind for fish that follow yet refuse to hit, is to suddenly stop the spoon in mid-reel and let it flutter slowly downward. This tactic will entice the majority of “hot” pike to strike, and has proven itself repeatedly.

Head to Wawang Lake this spring and have a tussle with the mighty “water wolf.” The fishing will be fast and exciting and the eagerness of the pike to strike will have you returning year after year.

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Timing the Pike Bite Just Right

 There are three times during the open-water period that can be considered prime for big pike.

1doug0427

Each of these windows of opportunity lasts from 10 to 14 days and is key for large-sized northern because during this time, the bigger fish of this species are more concentrated in the shallower water. Here’s where they can be found easily and caught with lures that allow anglers to cover some ground in their search. Once these big pike head to the cool depths where they spread out and suspend, finding and catching them requires tremendous amounts of luck. It’s better to time your fishing for big pike to these three periods to take advantage of factors that give the edge to the angler instead of the pike.

  1. The first period is right after ice-out, which can be a problem in many areas where the season is closed on inland waters.
  2. The second period is as the shallows warm, when the big pike transition from shallow water to deep water.
  3. The third is right before a water body turns over in the fall, when big northern will move up into shallow water after spending summer in the depths.

Right after ice-out, you find huge northern pike in the spawning areas.  These will be shallow weed-choked bays in the lake, and weedy backwater bays up the river.

Little northern aren’t hard to find and catch, but the big pike are a challenge and they put up one heck of a fight.  When you hook into a really nice pike, you can’t make any mistakes.

Don’t let the cold water temperatures right after ice-out deter you from using an approach that allows you to cover some ground. This is the perfect time to be tying on a spinner bait because it’s a lure that works well in shallow vegetation.

IMG_4978

The pike move up into whatever vegetation is still standing from the previous year — and any newly emerging weed growth that can often be found in very shallow depths.   Use a 3/4-ounce spinner bait with a large Colorado blade.  This lure casts a long way and can be retrieved slowly, if that’s what’s necessary. You can also burn it a little faster just below the surface in the real shallow water.

Some of the pike will have already spawned, more than likely while ice still covered the surface. Others are still spawning or are preparing to.  Occasionally you may catch a big pike and you can tell is post-spawn, most of the really big pike after the ice has just gone out are still fat with eggs and just on the verge of spawning.    All trophy fish are released back to Wawang Lake.

It’s the transition period when the shallow shoreline regions are warming and the big northern are moving into the deeper, cooler water when most anglers get their first shot at big pike. This period usually falls into a two-week time frame a couple of weeks after the traditional opener. Anglers who can be on the water at this time can capitalize on big fish that are still in reaching distance for a spinner bait or crank bait.

34" northern pike

34″ northern pike

It’s no secret that big pike like the colder water.  You will seldom find the bigger pike in the shallower regions in the lake during the summer months, because the water temperatures there are just too warm for their liking. If you miss this transition period, you’ll likely be into fall before you get another chance at a really big pike, because those bigger fish get hard to come by when they disappear into the depths.

This is a good time to get out Spoon plugs.  Any lake that has a well-defined deep weed line is a perfect candidate for Spoon plugs.

The Spoon plug is a lure that was promoted years ago by famous angler Buck Perry, and is a staple of many diehard big-pike anglers. It allows an angler to troll a weed line or break line precisely at speeds of 1 to 4 mph.

You can cover some ground and find out where those pike are, although during the transition, it’s more important to have your lure in the right place than worrying about the speed.   Those Spoon plugs will get the lure to the right depth and stay on the weed line, no matter what speed I find triggers the bite.

So how does an angler know when the transition starts and ends? Water temperature signals the start.  When the surface temperature hits about 67 degrees, you know it’s going to start pushing those fish out.  This could be early June during some years and early July in others. The weather is the biggest determinant in when this transition period occurs.

You can tell it’s over when the fish quit the bite.  You’ll have a week where the weed line and shallow rock piles are producing big pike with some consistency, then one day you go out there and they’re gone.

The pre-turnover period is when those big pike come out of the deep water as the shallow water cools, just prior to the lake rolling over.

Turnover is a tough time to call, which is why the guys who can get out on a body of water often generally hit this time just right. If you miss it, then there is a period for a couple of weeks after turnover when the fishing is tough all over a lake. It’s just luck and timing.

The big pike will be roaming over the tops of the vegetation, you’ll just want to be ticking the tops of the cabbage, coontail or milfoil with that spinner bait, and if the blade is just a nice slow thump, that’s perfect.

pike

Back troll slowly over the vegetation, with only about 25 to 35 feet of line out — the line from the reel at a 45-degree angle toward the lure and the spinner bait right above the vegetation. By wearing a good pair of polarized glasses, an angler can watch the bait as it dances in and around the stalks and branches. As the boat moves from shallower to deeper water, drop the rod tip or lets out a little more line until the lure starts ticking weeds again.

If seeing an opening in the weeds, drop the rod tip and let the lure settle in.  It’s amazing how often you see the big pike react to the spinner bait and come out of a big pile of milfoil or coontail and attack that lure.

These big pike are the top predators in a lake and they fear nothing at this point.   You’ll see them swim right into the prop wash to hit a spinner bait or spoon as it’s trolled out from the boat.

Back trolling allows more depth control.   It’s easier to get the speed down and work a depth more thoroughly when backing the boat.   If the pike are deeper switch to crank baits or Spoon plugs, then front-troll. But when pulling spinner baits over the tops of the weeds, back troll.

Open-water season in northern Ontario lasts about 28 weeks or so and the time frame for quality big-pike fishing is between five and six weeks, so it’s imperative that you be on the water for these peak times.   Those big pike don’t give you many opportunities, so you need to take advantage of every one.

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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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