Northern Pike

Click for more northern pike information from the MN DNR.

Click for more northern pike information from the MN DNR.

Northern pike are plentiful in the area and can be found in most of the lakes.  They are voracious predators with large teeth known to hit almost anything thrown in their general direction.  A battle with a pike can liven up any day!  Cleaning them can be a bit tricky, but done right they are a tasty fish in the fry pan.  The average pike is 2 to 3 pounds with the potential to hook a 20+ monster.

Ecology

Benji Dick monster pike

Landing a monster pike like this one on Knife Lake is a thrill!

The spring is spawning time for northern pike, typically late April to early May, as soon as the ice is out.  At this time they are seeking out water temps between 39 -52 in small streams or flooded marshes to lay their eggs in 1 to 3 feet of water.  While northerns can be found in most every lake in the area, they are happiest in clean lakes with marshes or wetlands around the edge for nurseries.  After spawning, northerns are hungry and can be found hunting around shallow warm bays, stream inflows, and around the edges of weed beds.  Concentrate on weed beds with downfall covers especially if they are close to drop-offs.

During the summer, large pike move deeper seeking out water temps lower than 65 typically around rocky points and close to weedy beds where their prey hide.  These “cool-water” fish thrive and grow largest in lakes with deep cool holes with lots of oxygen-rich water.  Smaller pike can still be found in shallow weedy water throughout the summer.  To hook on to a larger northern this time of year, search out deeper weed beds away from shorelines close to sharp drop-offs.  The warmer the water, the more sluggish northerns become.  The abundance of food sources during the middle of summer can also result in slower pike fishing action.

In the fall, northern are feeding heavily in preparation for winter.  They can be found on windswept points and shallower points where the minnows are schooling.  Water temps in the 40s and a gravelly shore that attracts spawning bait fish also attract this predator.  Whatever the season, northern are not much for sharing territory.  If you hook into a large fish in a certain area, chances are that was it.  Cast your line over to a different area or try paddling to the next likely spot.

Food Source

Northern pike are hunters that rely on fast ambushes so make your lures move!  They also have a large appetite to fuel these bursts of speed so they are looking for large prey which translates into large, flashy lures.  Prey ranges from yellow perch, tullibee, suckers, and minnows, to leeches, frogs and crayfish.  Cast toward shore around weed beds or cover such as fallen trees to lure out pike.  You can also troll a line behind you as you paddle through smaller lakes to hook into the occasional pike while traveling!

Tackle Recommendations

  • Steel leaders are a must as these aggressive fish snap line easily.
  • Heavy spoons such as Dare Devils, Johnson and Dr. Spoons.
  • Jigs tipped with live bait such as minnows (frozen, salted or live) or soft artificial baits.
  • Crank baits that are large.
  • Spinners that are flashy and larger.
  • Buzz baits
  • A good strong net and gloves are both important for catching and safely releasing these toothy predators!

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Ice out northern on Tuscarora Lake.

Ice out northern on Tuscarora Lake.

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