Pike fishing is becoming increasingly popular in Europe and Russia and continues to grow in popularity in North America.
Many newbies and pro's are taking to the lakes and rivers in pursuit of one of the largest freshwater predators.
Hunting one of these toothy monsters is hugely rewarding for three main reasons.
You have the potential for a trophy size catch, you are guaranteed a good fight if nothing else, and if successful, they taste pretty good too.
This article will cover the basics of Pike Fishing, explaining what exactly are Pike, how dangerous are pike, what bait should you use to land that trophy, what is the best time of the day to catch pike and some tips on pike fishing that could prove useful to novice and pro pike hunters.
So, let's get started ...
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What kind of fish is a Northern pike (world record)?
The Northern Pike is the prevalent species for big game fishers, not to be confused with their smaller southern cousins.
This an elongated fish; its dorsal area has a distinctive greeny-blue color, with shades of yellow and white on its belly. This characteristic color pattern helps differentiate it from the other members of the pike family. They also have an irregular scale pattern, in either gold or yellow spots. Fully scaled cheeks and large sensory pores found on their lower jaw.
A northern Pikes mouth is shaped like a duckbill and has razor-sharp canine teeth. The beasts are known to grow to more than 20 kilos in weight.
Even larger sizes are beginning reported around the great lakes - the IGFA currently recognizes a 25 kg (55 lb) pike caught by Lothar Louis on Greffern Lake, Germany, on 16 October 1986, as the all-tackle world-record.
Are Pike dangerous and aggressive (monster teeth)?
The answer to this question would depend on your perspective, and if you are human, aside from a few encounters with swimmers, there is very little evidence of Pike being of danger to our kind. That being said, if you are not careful, they can give your fingers a very nasty cut.
This is not the case for the smaller fish that they hunt, Pike is known to hunt in packs, not unlike Wolves, they are voracious eaters and alpha predators.
In recent years there have been reports of Northern Pike being found in waterways to which they are not native, Maines Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, are worried about their presence becoming a real problem to the indigenous fish stocks. They have even begun to ask anglers not to return any Pike they catch to the water.
They are a predator at the top of their food chain and those who don’t care how big you are, and they will hunt and kill any fish they encounter. They pose a clear danger to the local ecosystem as indicated by the regional fisheries officers actively encouraging anglers to help cull them.
What is the best bait (lures) for pike?
The debate continues over the merits of using dead or live bait to catch Pike ...
Some anglers, when offering pike fishing tips, swear that minnows and other small fish are the best live bait to use. They believe that you should try to replicate the current food source the Pike are used to targeting.
This type of lure should be freely available in any local bait store. Other anglers swear by using live goldfish as bait, staying the Pikes natural tendency to be attracted to bright colored fish that are not native to their habitat.
Most anglers agree that Pike love live bait, it stimulates their natural predatory instincts. They swear that their best catch has been attracted by creating as much vibration to simulate the presence of actual live prey.
Other anglers promise that the best results will be had by using dead bait. They assure you that Pike are natural scavengers, and during the later months of the year, dead bait will prove too hard to resist when any other type of food is now at a premium.
Baitfish numbers have fallen to a level where the waters can no longer sustain the more massive Pike, and as they are forced to work harder and harder for a meal. Another contributing factor is the water temperature, the Pike is lazier than at any other thine of the year and thus are more comfortable to catch. All this makes dead bait too difficult for Piekt to resist.
Any dead baitfish will work, but the best are fish that are naturally oily like Soft Rayed Fish. These fish leech the oil into the water and act as a lure to the Pike. The most natural and most abundant dead bait to use is suckers. Most suckers are sold alive, but some bait shops offer frozen bait that you can store very merely at home.
Experienced anglers recommend that you choose minnow and other fish that are 8-12 inches (20-30 cm) long, anything smaller will only attract fish you are not interested in catching.
When it comes to catching Pike, the bigger and more colorful, the better is usually better as they are renowned for trying to bite more than they can chew, and they love shiny things.
Some other lure baits that deserve consideration are spinnerbaits, spoons, crankbaits, buzz baits, walking baits, etc.
These have become increasingly popular as they produce excellent results through closely imitating life, to help lure and catch these frenzied predators. Even though Pike are easy to attract, they are not always easy to hook, so anything that helps is a good idea.
What time of year (and day) is best for pike fishing?
The simple answer is that there is no wrong time to fish for Pike ...
These fish pretty much eat 24/7, so they will strike your lure or bait at any time of the night or day.
Some anglers believe the best time to catch the big one is at the height of the summer others swear that you should wait until the winter.
But there are optimal times to go fishing, especially when you are targeting a more massive catch.
Statistically, the best time of the year to go fishing for pike is in late Spring, May is the best time to fish in southern Canada, and late April in the Northern States of the US. Primarily because the Pike has been struggling to catch fish all winter and will be easily fooled by your bait due mainly to the fact that they are hungry, they have also just finished spawning, which makes them even more hungry. Add into the equation that they probably haven’t encountered any fishermen for several months, which means nearly any lure will prompt them into action.
If you are fishing for pike in Europe you are probably fully aware of their abundance in Slovenia, Croatia, Ireland, Scotland, Russia and Scandanavia in particular, and the same theory applies late spring or early summer, May through to early June is the prime time to lure yourself some of these beauties. And of course - cold winter days are also a good option ...
As mentioned earlier, Pike can be caught at any time of the day; morning is probably going to bring you a higher level of success.
Pike are more likely to be actively hunting at this time of the day rather than just lying in wait for their prey to come to them. They can even be found away from their usual shallow hunting grounds in open water, as they busy themselves hunting for their first meal of the day.
Many experienced anglers prefer this time of the day too as they are less likely to have to deal with their hooks getting snagged in roots, that happens when you are forced to hunt Pike in the shallow waters later in the day.
As the afternoon arrives and the sun begins to heat the water surface, pike will become less and less active. They will move from the shallows to deeper waters in search of colder climbs; they will move into the reed beds to set up ambush sites. This makes it increasingly difficult to catch one but nor impossible. With the right equipment, it is still possible to get a level of success.
If you choose to go fishing in the evening, you will face a combination of both conditions. As the temperature drops, Pike will begin to leave their more cooling shelters and begin to sneak once again. Taking them back into the shallows in search of an evening meal.
The only exception could be in a full moon which will make your lure and bait much more comfortable for the Pike to see.
Where does a big pike hang out?
As a rule, smaller pike tend to stay in thick weeds, medium size are found near the edge of the plants, and the larger ones can be located near the entry points to the weed beds. The end of access to the bays is where you will find the huge boys. They sit around all day waiting for schools of Smallmouth the wander by and then launch their attack.
An experienced pike angler will tell you that Big Pike is to be found mainly in the narrows between shoals and islands and along ridges, they use this cover to lie in wait for Walleyes to swim overhead. They also favor the mouths of feeder streams where chub and suckers are easily caught, and they are even known to swim these smaller waterways in the hunt for their prey.
What are the best rod, reel, and other gear for pike fishing?
This is a very subjective topic and would probably need another full article even to start to do the topic justice, instead, I will offer a list of things all anglers should have with them before they set out in hunt of Pike.
You cannot be too careful handling Pike, especially if you are new to the process. Remember that they are predators and are equipped as such, they will give you a nasty deep cut on your hand unless you take the correct precautions. Try to get a set that is at least 12” long; these are perfect for opening the Pikes jaws safely to remove any hooks that are embedded in the fish's cheeks.
A set of wire traces
Pikes teeth are healthy and sharp enough to bite straight through and braided or monofilament hook lengths, To prevent the fish from becoming tethered to triple Hook set is essential to run a wire trace of at least 10” duration. This is true for both bait and lures fishing methods.
A good set of wire cutters
Before you even consider tackling a Pike, you need to be sure you can safely cut your wire trace should the need arise. They are also accommodating to free hooks that become tangled in landing nets.
A Large landing net
A wide fishing net that would be suitable for a healthy fish will not suffice when you are trying to land a Pike. Invest in a substantial triangular specialist loss; this will allow you to cradle and hold the pike safely as you are lifting it from the water. It is recommended that you but one that has at least a 6-foot handle and 36” holding arms that are suitable for landing a large specimen allowing enough room to spare.
A first aid kit
Not even the most experienced angler will leave the shore without something to help clean and bandage the inevitable cuts that can arise when landing and unhooking pike. Mainly because these cuts are known not to heal quickly, a fully stocked first aid kits will prevent you from bleeding all over your clothes and rod.
As you have probably already worked out, catching a Pike is no mean feat. Both mono and braid can do a job for you once you are sure they are designed for the purpose. If you are going to use a monoline, it must be prepared to stand up to 15lbs breaking strain, and any braided line you choose needs to withstand up to 30 pounds breaking the tension.
Get the correct advice on sturdy rods and reels
The type of reel and rod will depend significantly on your preference and the style of fishing you choose to use. Fashion aside, they will have to be a powerful combination. Pike are notoriously hard fighters and can weigh up to 30lbs. Do your research and talk to experienced anglers to get a better idea of what to use.
When you do eventually land your first Pike, it can be an exhilarating experience, and people tend to rush for their cameras and forget about the ferocious teeth that the fish process. Remember to keep your fingers clear of its mouth, never try to remove a hook without using pliers, preferably a needle nose pair.
Because they are a large and aggressive fish, they will flop around, be careful of their monstrous tail as it whipped around if left unsupervised. A fish cradle will help you to remove the hook safely.
If you follow the fishing tips for pike we have provided, you quest to land that first Pike is guaranteed to be an adventure. Enjoy.