How to Catch Northern Pike

Northern pike are generally very easy to catch. They will hit just about any lure you throw at them. The trick is how to catch big trophy northern pike and the first step is to know where they are going to be located.


Spring: In the spring, the pike will be right along shore or in river current. Pike spawn in rivers, streams and in sandy areas along the shore. At this time of year, the weeds have not grown yet so you will find pike of every size in the back of small protected bays and in very shallow water. You will also find them among last year's wild rice stocks. If there are patches of weeds that survived the winter, you can cast into them but generally that is where the smaller pike will be. The big pike like the shallow warmer water and in the spring you can sometimes see them sunning themselves. On Lady Evelyn northern pike spawn immediately after the ice cover leaves a body of water, usually during May when water temperatures near 40 degrees. As the female spreads her eggs on vegetation in water no more than a foot deep, the male fertilizes them.

During the spawning season, the females really don't feed much. Immediately after spawning the larger female pike leaves the eggs to develop on their own and starts aggresively hunting for prey. After the spawn, pike of all sizes tend to hang out shallow, somewhere in 8 to 12 feet of water through late June. Water temperature is a triggering factor in pike feeding on Lady Evelyn. In June if you find an area with 67 degree water temperature there is a good chance that there will be pike laying in ambush in that area.

Garden Island Lodge American Plan angler displays nice northern pike

Late Spring and Summer: The water is warming up and the weeds are starting to grow. This is a transition time when pike do not hang around spawning areas anymore if food is scarce or the area had been taken over with thick choking weeds. Small pike will move into the thick weeds in the back of bays. Medium size pike go to the back of bays but tend to stay around the outer edge of the weeds. This is a fine area for them as there are lots of bugs and minnows to eat and they also find protection from big pike.

The really big monster pike move out to the points leading into bays. They will also move between islands, shoals or areas with current. The biggest reason for this is to feed on walleye. If you look at the diagram below, you will see how a big pike will have a territory. In a smaller bay, there may only be one big pike. In a bigger bay, you may have two or three. The prime spots are at the points or the open water in the center of the bay.

Big pike will also move into channels where there is current or if it's a place where walleye migrate through. This enables the pike to ambush walleye. Another hot spot is between small islands or channels between lakes.

Diagram of where to expect small, medium and large northern pike.

Late Summer and Fall: Late summer and fall can be a strange time for pike fishing. In some lakes they stay in their usual areas. In some Lakes the pike go deep. If you are not catching pike in the normal shallow areas, try fishing deep with a 3-way swivel rig or troll off shore with Down-Deep Husky Jerks. When casting for pike don't worry about stealth or an extra silent approach. Pike are fearless and are attracted to loud splashes. Throw your lures high into the air and let it crash on the surface. It draws pike from great distance.

Northern Pike Lures: Traditionally the best lures and probably the most popular lures are the Red-&-White Dardevil and the Yellow 5-of-Diamonds Dardevil. You use the red in clear water and the yellow in murky water. Spinnerbaits, crankbaits, bucktails and Williams weedless spoons also work well. When using a Dardevil try casting up high and just before the lure hits the water, jerk it towards you so the lure slaps the surface. This slap sound seems to trigger a better feeding response from bigger pike.

Pike are also well known for hitting surface lures. Jitterbugs and Spooks are excellent for pike. A growing trend in pike fishing, which is getting very popular, is fly-fishing for northerns. With large pike flies, you can drop the fly in an opening in the middle of thick weeds, which would not be practical for normal lures.

Look For Pike in These Locations:

  • Points leading into weedy bays
  • Along wild rice beds where there are lots of walleye
  • Stream or river mouth
  • In the thick cabbage weed or other big leaf weeds
  • Under lily pads
  • Narrows between lakes or open water where walleyes migrate
  • Drop offs close to thick shallow weeds
  • Deep ridges
  • Shoals or rocky points where the bass and walleye hang out is a good spot

If the walleye or bass stop feeding, it may mean a big northern pike has started to feed. This is when you switch to something big and flashy.

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