Northern Pike, also known as "Northerns" or "Pike", are generally caught in the range of 18-40 inches; with the largest Trophy Northern Pike coming in at around 50 inches in length. The largest recorded Pike caught in Canada was 56" long and weighed in at over 50lbs. The good news is that even smaller Northerns will give anglers a great fight and the species is pursued due to this aggressive nature. Another reason Northern Pike are a good fish to target is because they can be caught at all times of the day and throughout the year. Their meat is light and mild tasting but can be excessively bony so larger fish are generally kept for consumption since they are easier to filet and de-bone. Be sure to watch the video below if you have never filleted a Northern or would like to improve your technique.
Where to Target Northern Pike
Northern Pike are a freshwater fish that can be found in rivers, streams, and lakes throughout Canada. These fish typically prefer shallow areas with slower current and gravitate toward weed beds or rocky areas. Weed beds are a fantastic place to target pike as they like to lurk in the weeds waiting for their next meal to swim by.
Understanding Northern Pike Behavior
Northern Pike are generally solitary, predatory fish. They hunt by staying nearly motionless in the water and then striking very fast at their prey as it passes over them. Northern Pike have a fairly weak sense of smell but they can smell a dead baitfish well enough to make those effective baits when fishing for them. Relying more on their eyesight, Northern Pike look for the swimming movements of their prey as well as the reflection of light off the scales to trigger their strike response.
How to Catch Northern Pike
Reflective lures and/or lures which mimic the swimming pattern of smaller baitfish, dragged just over weed beds and rocky areas or by rock shoals is most effective. When ice fishing, a hood tipped with live or dead bait works well. Due to the aggressive nature of Northern Pike, it's recommended (if fishing on a catch and release lake) to use de-barbed treble hooks as excessive handling of the fish can cause damage to their scales and cause infection leading to the fish dying after being released. Also, Northern Pike need additional time in the water to be revived before being released - this can be done by gently swaying the fish back and forth in the water ensuring it is upright until the fish is strong enough to struggle or swims away on its own. Be sure to check to local/provincial websites for the specific conservation guidelines and regulations.
Northern Pike will have sharp teeth and those get larger and sharper as the fish does. So it is also suggested to use a steel or titanium leader when fishing for Northerns, especially if you are exclusively targeting them. Leaders can simply be added to the end of a fishing line to offer some protection against the fish cutting the line during the fight.
Popular Northern Pike Fishing Lures
The method you choose when targeting Northerns will vary based on location, how they are hitting, etc but be sure to vary your own approach (or vary between your friends) until you find what is working best. Common techniques when targeting trophy pike include:
Popular because of the species aggressive nature and how the trolling allows you to cover more area than other techniques (works particularly well during mid-day when pike aren't as active). Go with longer shaped lures when trolling.
An approach that can be extremely exciting when a pike strikes, be sure to keep the lure in the water as long as you can because pike will track a lure and hit even when it's right next to your boat.
Dead Sticking Jerkbaits
Jerkbaits work well during springtime fishing and by pausing 30-60 seconds after you jerk the line a few times and reel in the slack line, you give yourself the opportunity for a hit during the dead time - if nothing hits, then jerk a few more times, retrieve, and wait again. Repeat until you have a fish, or the lure is back at the boat.
Have two rods set, one with a lure that covers a lot of water (spinner, spoon, etc) and one that has a plastic jerkbait. Start with the one that covers water and if a pike follows it to the boat, switch to the jerkbait. Cast past the pike and retrieve it - hopefully you will cross right past them on the retrieve.