Pick A Peck of Pike
Imagine a torpedo transformed into a fish, and you have envisioned a Pike fish. Let it grow from 2 – 4 feet in length and weigh anywhere from 5 to 50 pounds. Then give it rows of teeth that have earned it the nickname “gator fish.”
Welcome to the wonderful world of Northern Pike.
Slow and sluggish during most of the year, these fighting fish come alive as autumn hits and the weather gets cold. While other species are settling in for hibernation, these feisty fish are cruising for schools of baitfish.
As fall temperatures drop and winter approaches, most of the aquatic vegetation dies and deteriorates. This draws schools of baitfish looking for a meal and some warmer company.
Pike gather in groups to attack, meaning they are not only easier to find this time of year, but there are feeding groups making them easier to catch as well.
Savvy anglers look for the green patches of living vegetation amidst the dying brown, knowing there will be large pike waiting to hit their bait.
Wander to the Weeds
Those who favor fall pike fishing know to look for green patches among the dying vegetation. The cooler waters that this elusive fish prefer, kill the plants, meaning less oxygen and less bait.
However, not all vegetation dies the same, and larger weed beds can be enticing areas for giant pike looking to pack on pounds for winter. Use electronic finders to locate tall, vertical weeds.
While the surface may seem brown, the longer weeds are alive and teeming with bait, and that means the pike are nearby. Start by fishing the edges and them move towards the thickest part of the weeds.
For bigger pike, look towards larger, deep lakes, especially those with fat bait fish. The fatter bait fish will produce fatter pike. So smart fishers learn where the best bait is.
Crank It Up
Pike are big, aggressive, and fierce. That means catching them takes big, aggressive lures. Since these fish congregate around weeds, few lures are better for cutting through vegetation and hooking a pike than crankbaits.
- Rapala Super Shad Rap: Hand tuned wood and tank tested movement, this 5 1/2 inch crank is a go to for experienced fishers. It is particularly ideal for northern pike due to its size and durability.
Made with heavy duty hardware to survive a solid strike, and equipped with two black nickel treble hooks, the Rapala can stand up to even the strongest pike.
It is designed to mimic bait fish and can be cast and trolled. It even comes in multiple color variations for different times of day.
- Ratlin’ Rapala: Pike are suckers for vibrating lures and this one is a master at doing just that. Not only does this lipless crankbait move well, but it also has an internal rattle to bring all the fish from the weeds.
- Rat-L-Trap: Another master of the rattle, this three-inch lure is small but mighty. They create massive vibrations and have been known to attract pike that will swallow them whole.
So, make sure there’s a solid leader on the line to avoid losing the lure all together.
Best Pike Spinners
Spinners are another solid lure. With great in water action and the ability to roll over and look injured, these lures are sure to entice pike into solid, aggressive strikes. Check out some great winter fishing tips and winter bass fishing secrets.
- Big Tooth Tackle Straight Wire: Large, with a blade for vibration and a colorful skirt for attracting attention, it is hard to find a better spinner when it comes to catching pike.
These have a solid, double hook design that will ensure a good lock once you get a hit. And getting them to hit is what the Straight Wire does best, spinning vibrations and colors that entice an instinctual hit.
- Rapala X-Rap: Like its crankbait cousin, the X-Rap features solid construction that can withstand strong one strikes. The diving lip allows it to run up to six feet deep and create a slashing motion that this gorgeous Gator fish finds irresistible.
Due to a streamline shape and its internal long casting system, these four-inch lures can cover a lot of ground. And more ground means more chances for this amazing fish to pounce.
Big Pike Need Big Rigs
This Gator fish is strong and fast and that means having rigs that can handle them. Look for larger rods, at least 7-feet in length and rated for medium or heavy action.
Rods should also have fast action, allowing anglers to hook the pike rapidly and ensure a good fight. Finish by finding the sweet spot with a casting weight between 15 and 50 grams.
Pike have rows of sharp teeth, so a strong lead and braided line of 50-to-60-pound test is a must. Look for line like Power Pro and other brands that have been tested over time.
Sufix Advanced Fishing Line is another great choice, especially when paired with a solid reel like the Abu Garcia Revo SX.
Equipped with stainless bearings and spool braking system, the Revo SX leaves anglers wondering why the price is not much higher and thrilled that it is not. With 24 pounds of drag, it is ideal for handling large pike.
With a mild flavor and firm, white flesh, these are a staple food for much of the colder parts of North America. While delicious, there are some notoriously difficult issues when preparing pike.
First and foremost, be aware this beautiful fish has a lot of bones. Filleting, creaming, or cubing the fish is necessary to avoid picking pointy bones from them while eating. The bones are also large, especially the y-bones.
However, the flesh is firm enough to be frozen for later use, making it a great year-round food fish.
From grilled to batter-dipped, baked or frying in a cast-iron skillet over a campfire, pike recipes are almost as abundant as the fish themselves.
Because the flesh is firm enough to hold up, batter dipped is a favorite method among many aficionados, as are fish fingers.
When looking for recipes, remember that white fish are softer in flavor and easily over spiced.