Fishing For Northern Pike

What to Use and Where to Fish In Lakes

Photo © Ken Schultz

Northern pike are one of the most commonly caught fish in the northern parts of the U.S. and in much of Canada. They are caught in all seasons of the year, but most commonly sought from spring through fall, in both lakes and rivers. Pike are often a popular catch in the winter, and many anglers seek them while ice fishing.

Pike are classified by biologists as coolwater fish, which means that they are most active and comfortable in waters that have cooler temperatures, and are not as abundant in waters that warm significantly during the season.

 They cannot survive very far south where lake water gets very warm in the summer, although they may be found in two-story lakes, which are those that have large deep areas that stay relatively cool, even though the shallower portions warm up. Such places also may harbor walleyes, and some species of trout.

Pike can grow large in some environments. Twenty-pounders are not uncommon in some Canadian lakes, and they can get larger. In most U.S. lakes, 10- to 15-pounders are large specimens.

Where to Find Northern Pike in Lakes

Shallow, weed-filled bays are the typical habitat of northern pike but they do live in deeper water, especially in the fall and winter. Catching them in shallow water is fun since they often jump and splash on the surface. Bigger pike can sometimes be caught in deeper water, so if you want a trophy it is a good idea to look for them in deeper holes and channels in lakes.

If there is a weedline that is in or close to deep water, it will hold pike, often big ones.

Lures to Use

Spoons, spinnerbaits, and in-line spinners are traditional and very effective pike lures. Pike are also caught on surface plugs, shallow-running crankbaits, jigs, streamer flies, and even plastic worms.

Lures with multiple hooks on them are somewhat problematic, since pike are difficult to handle when caught, and a lure with many hooks can be damaging to fish, fishing gear, and angler. Lures with single hooks, and with barbless hooks, are often preferred, especially in places where there are many pike.

Other Tackle for Northern Pike

For small pike, you can easily use light- or medium-action spinning and baitcasting tackle, as well as flycasting gear. Bigger pike are better handled on baitcasting outfits. Reels don't have to be large, as line capacity isn't an issue, since pike don't make long-yardage runs. There are many line types that are suitable, and 10- to 20-pound test is generally adequate.

Some anglers use a 6- to 12-inch castable wire leader to avoid getting their line cut by the teeth of pike, but when using spinnerbaits, in-line spinners and similar baits you are less likely to get your line near the teeth. A wire leader tends to lower the number of strikes you get, and can make casting a bit more difficult.

This article was edited and revised by our Freshwater Fishing expert, Ken Schultz.

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Your Citation
Garrison, Ronnie. "Fishing For Northern Pike." ThoughtCo, Jan. 3, 2016, Garrison, Ronnie. (2016, January 3). Fishing For Northern Pike. Retrieved from Garrison, Ronnie. "Fishing For Northern Pike." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 24, 2017).