Times Spent Outdoors: Priceless!

Pike Fishing

They're Fiesty Fighters With Razor-Sharp Teeth

If you like bass fishing, you will love fishing for pike. Pound for pound, they are among the most aggressive fish you will ever tangle with, and they can weigh up to 40 pounds or more. Even in a state as far south as Arizona, northern pike thrive at higher elevations and provide plenty of action for anglers who would otherwise be dangling earthworms for trout.

Behave Like Tigers

Pike not only behave like tigers, they have a mouthful of teeth to match. The jaws, roof of the mouth, and even the tongue and gill rakers are bristling with sharp teeth that are constantly replaced. Most of the pike you will catch will probably be in the two- to seven-pound range, which translates to anywhere from sixteen to thirty inches long. On my honeymoon I caught a 42-inch pike at Lake Mary. It weighed sixteen pounds and took me nearly forty-five minutes to land.

Pike are native to colder areas of the country, but they've been stocked in almost every state. If there is a lake near you that regularly ices up in winter, odds are there are pike in there. Pike love to hang out in weedy areas, but once the water starts to warm up, you can often find them out in deeper water even if there isn't any vegetation around.

Soon After Ice-Out

Soon after ice-out, when water temperatures get to about 40 degrees in the shallows, the pike start to move up for the spawn. Big females can produce up to half a million eggs, and they are just randomly broadcast onto vegetation while the male fertilizes them. They stick to underwater plants and hatch in six to 29 days depending on the water temperature. The fry start out eating plankton and tiny invertebrates, but they grow fast. Pretty soon they are eating a diet that is almost nothing but fish, and by the end of the summer they can be six inches long.

Pike are built for speed and they ambush other fish from cover, snagging them with their sharp teeth. They go for big stuff, and can eat fish that are a third their own size. They particularly like fish that are long and thin, rather than shorter, wider prey. Most of their activity takes place during the day, since they hunt primarily by sight.

Fishing Tougher In Hot Weather

Small pike spend almost the entire year in shallow weedy water, but the bigger ones will move off as things heat up. Fishing can get tougher in hotter weather, because not only do the pike get more lethargic in hot water, but there are also a lot more critters around to eat this time of year.

When pike are in a lake they are usually the top predator. Fishing for them is a lot like bass fishing, and you can use many of the same lures. No matter what lure you choose, it's probably a good idea to "super-size" it. Big bait, big fish doesn't hold true for pike, especially in lakes with lots of northerns. The little ones get really aggressive, and they'll often smack a really big lure. Bigger lures are attractive to pike because they represent a big meal worthy of a chase. Little bitty offerings are often ignored except by the smallest fish.

Great Pike Lures

Luckily for anglers, pike will hit just about anything that looks edible. Big Senkos, Chatterbaits with long trailers, in-line spinners (think musky lures), large spinnerbaits, swimming jigs, and your biggest minnow baits are all great pike lures. Spoons are also often used for pike, and one of the best ways to shore-fish for pike is to float dead bait under a bobber.

You don't have to finesse a pike bait. If you're using Senkos, use the biggest ones and twitch them fairly quickly. Concentrate on the edges of weeds, or work your Senko right over the weeds and let it drop down into any little pockets you see. With a Senko, a steel leader is a good idea, since odds are the pike will inhale the entire lure. Pale colors work well, since one of a pike's favorite meals is a nice walleye.

Spoons Are A Good Lure

Spoons are another good lure for working the weeds. They are almost snagless, especially the Johnson Silver Minnows and the classic white and red Daredevl. You can add a trailer to the spoon and just cast it around the weeds. To really get the pike's attention, a lot of fishermen "slap" their spoons. Cast out past where you want the lure to land, then just before it hits the water jerk it toward you. Done correctly, it makes a really loud report you can hear yourself. That slapping noise must sound like a dinner bell to a pike.

Choose your spoon color based on visibility. In very clear water the traditional silver or red and white are always a good choice, but if the water is murky a gold or some other color may produce better. Changing the trailer is an easy way to try a different color without spending a fortune on spoons. Just bring along a few bags of 5-inch grubs in various colors. Don't be afraid to try bigger grubs, either, especially if the lake you're fishing has a reputation for big pike.

A Dynamite Lure

One lure that is dynamite for pike is a big football head jig with a skirt and twin-tail. This couldn't be easier to fish, either. All you have to do is throw it out and swim it back. You don't usually have to knock the bottom or bump stumps or anything. Just swim it past anything a pike could hide behind and stay ready. Spoons and jigs are excellent for fishing drop-offs, because you can easily adjust the depth of the lure. Start out with a steady retrieve, and if it doesn't get bit, start pumping the rod gently to get a little bit of flutter in your lure.

Pike have a tendency to play with their food, and it can be incredibly frustrating. In fact, it's almost as bad as musky fishing. A pike may smack your lure many times before he actually grabs it, so don't give up and reel in. If you get a missed hit, just keep on fishing. He'll probably be back. Thing is, there are probably other pike down there too, and they are all in competition.

My Honeymoon Pike

The 42" pike I caught at Lake Mary on our honeymoon. Bob Hirsch put it in the paper he used to write for Yellow Front.

The monster pike I caught on my honeymoon took a big frozen anchovy that was floating beneath a bobber. Rig a couple of big treble hooks in an anchovy, a big sardine, a trout, or even a nice big section of eel. Keep your bait iced down so it stays fresh, and rig it so it presents naturally. You want it to float as though it were swimming. With a big enough baitfish, you don't even need any weights. Just sling it out there with a slip bobber that will keep it a couple of feet below the surface.

Pike will hit Chatterbaits and spinnerbaits too.

Fish your floating bait around long stretches of cover like the edges of weedbeds or a drop-off next to a flat. If you're moving around in a boat, don't use a bobber. Rig up your bait like a drop-shot rig. Use a three-way swivel so you can have a bit of a leader to tie the hook to, and match the weight to your speed and the depth you're fishing. Most guys start out with a smallish split-shot and add weight until they are hitting bottom or catching fish. You can fish a soft plastic this way, too, or even a swimbait.

Count To Ten

When you get bit on one of these drift rigs, count to ten before you set the hook. If you wait too long the fish will feel the hook or the sinker and let go, but you do need to give him time to take the bait.

Swimming a jig is a great way to catch pike, and you can fish shallow or deep with the same lure.

If you're fishing for pike, you're fishing for what is probably the biggest, baddest fish in the lake. Think largemouths on steroids. Anyplace that other fish hang out is where the pike will be, and they attack without hesitation. Leave your finesse gear at home. You're gonna want good stout tackle, big hooks, steel leaders, and strong line. Give a pike an inch, and he'll take your finger.

How To Fillet, Pickle Pike

Some people don't like to eat pike because they are so bony. They have a Y-bone that makes filleting them difficult. You can get around this by pickling the smaller ones. Pike have mild, flaky white meat that is very tasty, but make sure you cook them without the skin They have an incredible amount of slime that just flat tastes nasty. For detailed instructions on filleting pike, as well as locating those dreaded Y-bones, just search for "how to fillet pike" – you'll find tons of great videos.

Pickled Pike: There are many different recipes for pickled pike, but this one is my uncle Ralph's favorite:

Fillet the fish and cut it into small pieces.

Freeze the hunks for about a week to get rid of any bacteria or parasites.

Soak the fish in salt water in the fridge for a couple of days. (Use a little over half a cup of salt for each quart of water).

Drain off the salt water and rinse the fish in cold water.

Now cover the fish with white vinegar and put it in the fridge for five days.

Pour off the vinegar and soak the fish in cold water for half an hour before packing it into clean jars, alternating layers of fish with layers of sliced onions.

Then mix up a sugar and vinegar mixture, enough to fill up your jars of fish. Use one cup of sugar for each two cups of vinegar.

Add pickling spices to the vinegar and sugar and pour it over the fish and onions in the jars.

Let the jars refrigerate for at least a week before eating.

Pickled pike keeps for about six weeks or so. The pickling process makes the bones so soft that you don't even notice them. Really!

Note: According to the Game and Fish, pike are found in Lake Mary, Ashurst Lake, and Long Lake.


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