You can’t just jump into any sport without learning skills and techniques. Fishing for northern pike is the same too. In particular, it can be either easier or harder depending on where you are fishing. Heck, your local lake might not even hold northern pike either. Lets get this started!
how to catch northern pike
Photo by delarenzo / CC BY
Learning How to Catch Northern Pike in 4 Steps
Figuring out how to catch northern pike isn’t a science, but it takes a few different considerations and factors to become a angler that is pulling in a record breaking pike. Follow these points to a T and you should be golden.
Location, Location, Location
One of the most obvious issues when learning to catch northern pike will come down to location. Where can you find northern pike in a lake? Where are they in the summer? Questions like these are obvious once you know where they usually are larking.
You will most often find Northern pike that are small to medium in size towards the back ends of bays; these include areas with thick weeds, lily pads, wild rice, and cat tails. These small to medium size northern pike feed on bugs, frogs, small minnows and sometimes even each other.
As you start going away from the weeds, the northern pike will get bigger as they will have more food opportunities and less competition. They even can eat the small to medium pike that wander out from the weed line. Even though these Northern Pike may be decent size, where are the monster pike?
More often than not, you will not find monster northern pike in the weeds as they simply don’t care for those small minnows, frogs or bugs. They need real food such as; suckers, chub, whitefish and sometimes walleyes. The bigger pike will try to just hang out and ambush any pray that goes by. In particular, one of their main ambush points will often be at the points of areas leading into a bay. Sometimes you will even find them at rocky points, islands, or other places that you can catch walleye.
The best place to get those record breaking northern pike though is usually at the mouth of any stream or river, narrow areas between islands, and sometimes where to lakes connect. These monster pike are opportunist eaters and will just wait for other fish to swim past them before they strike.
Location in a lake will often vary. They are one of the few fish that tend to migrate all year long due to ever changing food, water temperatures or shifting to their spawning grounds.
Northern Pike can be easy and are known to hit just about any lure in your arsenal. They are often attracted to bright colors such as red, silver, yellow, and sometimes even bright green. Pike seem to strike jigs, rapalas, thundersticks and more. Heck, even with small jigs you can catch record breaking pike.
Know your surroundings
One of the most underrated features of fishing is not putting adequeate research towards knowing your lake or river! There is so much available online and in your local bait shop. Even the DNR will put our reports of lakes that have been stocked so you should have a pretty good idea of how much and what kind of fish are in your lake.
Use the Right Lures: Colors and Types
Sometimes people will underestimate what lures or what colors they need to have when learning how to catch northern pike. If you are off, they simply won’t bite and you will be left with one boring afternoon. To combat this, make sure you come prepared wit a variety of lures and colors so you can adjust as they day goes on. Plus, if something simply isn’t working after 20 to 30 minutes, just change it up.
Tips and Tricks to Learning How to Catch Northern Pike
With these few short tips and tricks to learning how to catch northern pike, you should be on your way to catching some in short time!
Let the Pike Have fun: Play with your bait
Most often than not, you will find great success allowing the pike play with your bait before you immediately try to hook him. The key thing to have is patience. If you end up having a strike and you think you lose it, don’t panic as he will most likely come back and strike again. These are almost dianasor like fish, they can easily just forget about your lure and try again. Some fishermen even report that they end up catching the same northern pike over and over again!
Use the slap technique
If you end up trying to use a spoon as your lure, use a slapping technique when casting. Sounds a little weird at first, but trust me; it works! What you need to do is cast at your target zone at a high angle so that your lure will fall into your zone. Right when the lure is roughly 2 or 3 feet above the zone, jerk your line so that the spoon will slap towards the water. This sound alone will often make a northern pike strike.
Change your Lure Color Based On the Water
Depending on the water, you will want to have a certain color lure. In a way though, this applies to all fishing. If you find your water to be muddy or dark, use a brighter color such yellow and or a lure that creates noise. Rattle baits will be your prime weapon in your tackle box during these times as pike often will locate food just from sound alone.
Fish can smell scents
Make sure you don’t have any unwanted smells on your hands when handling lures. For example, handle anything with gas on it, touches gas in anyway or sprayed bug spray on, you will want to avoid touching your lures. To combat this, to get rid of the gas smell: Wash your hands with sugar. To combat bug spray: Wash your hands with salt.
If you do this before you touch your lures, you will not get undesirable scents on them in which will lead to more strikes.
How To Catch Northern Pike: Bait Edition
You will find those big, monster northern pike feasting on other fish such as those 1 to 2 pound walleyes. Not little minnows. You will need to change your bait based on this mentality. If you end up going to a bait store looking for a 6+ inch sucker or chug, good luck as you will quickly find out that they most likely won’t have any in stock. If they do.. Great, you just saved yourself some time!
You will need to fish for some on your own.
Walk down to a small streak and simply cast into a hole. Make sure you use a small hook and a worm. You will most often than not be able to snag a few decent size sucker fish to use for fishing later.
With all this in mind, you will quickly learn how to catch northern pike. Its not a simply process, but its one that is repeatable once you manage to get your skills down.