Fall Northern Pike Fishing
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For some, the approaching fall season means cooler weather, tougher bass bites, and generally more frustrating fishing. But the arrival of fall in the upper midwest signals the start of Big-10 football and more importantly, Northern Pike season!
What is a Northern Pike?
Depending on where you live, it's possible you may have never even seen or even heard of the fish. Pike are a torpedo-bodied fish which can grow up to 50" longer or more. The average catch falls between 24" to 36" with a keeper being at least 28" in Michigan and many other states. Pike are stealthy fish, marked with camouflage-like colors and are equipped with a long, tooth-filled snout — perfect for catching Bluegill, Pumpkinseeds and other small fish. Known for their aggressiveness, they can move quick and when hooked often fight by rolling over the line rather than running and jumping like a bass. Pike are excellent food fish. However, they've gained a general reputation otherwise due to their bony flesh which takes some experience to properly filet.
Where to fish for Pike
Like any other predator, Pike live where the food is. And, like most other game fish, Pike like the shelter of deeper water during the day. Generally speaking, Pike can be found in areas where a current of moving water meets deeper, more stagnant water. This can include rivers, lake channels, even tributary streams leading to deeper water. During the day, the bite is typically soft but gets better from September through late November. At dusk however, you can find Pike almost anytime of year as they often move into shallow water in search of bluegill, frogs and other food through the early evening. Early dawn, immediately before sunrise, is also excellent for locating toothy, 3-footers gazing up at you along the shoreline. Come late fall when the bass bite is all but over in the upper Midwest, you can still count on Pike feeding aggressively.
Top Lures For Pike Fishing
The Northern Pike is an aggressive biter and has a "hit-and-run" style and can easily tear plastics and other soft baits to shreds. You'll also want to be sure you bring a pair of needle nose pliers or other apparatus capable of removing hooks.
When fishing for Northern Pike, wire leaders are the general rule. Otherwise, chances are you'll probably end up with a cut line.
We've found the best lures for Pike are hard plastic crankbaits like the Rapala XRap, or a metal lure like the classic Eppinger Dardevle Spoon. Any of these can be fished during the dawn or dusk hours with success. Avoid balsa wood lures! While I love fishing these lures for bass, balsa wood lures like Rapala DT will show damage and wear as the soft wood will take deep tooth impressions with each successful landing. Stick to metal or hard plastic.
During the day, we prefer a dropshop-style rig baited with a 6" Berkley Gulp floating nightcrawler along the deeper river channels running through most man-made lakes. Using a dropshot weight will hold the position of the rig, while allowing the nightcrawler to float and move with the current about 12" above – most Pike (and Bass or Walleye if they are around) can't resist.