Northern Pike Fishing

Last updated on September 1st, 2020

northern pike fishing facts and tips

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A highly prized gamefish, the Northern Pike is fantastic to catch because of its sheer size, strength, and fighting ability. They are some of the biggest freshwater fish; anglers enjoy the challenge and excitement involved with explosive hits the aerial acrobatics.

The Northern Pike (known simply as a Pike in Britain, Ireland, Canada and in parts of the United States of America). They belong to a species of carnivorous fish of the genus Esox (the pikes) that are typically found in the brackish and fresh waters of the northern hemisphere.

Visually they are most often olive green, shading into yellow to white along the belly. The flank is marked with short, light bar-like spots and there are a few too many dark spots on the fins. Sometimes the fins are a reddish color.

Northern Pike Locations

Pike are found in sluggish streams and shallow, weedy places in lakes, as well as in cold, clear, rocky waters. They are typical ambush predators; they lie in wait for prey, holding perfectly still for long periods and then exhibit remarkable acceleration as they strike.

In short, they will inhabit any body of water that contains fish for them to eat. They like cold water and tend to stay at the top of the surface during cooler months. These two details can be very helpful when you’re fishing for this species. One way to find the best locations for them is to hire a Northern Pike fishing charter or guide.

The Northern Pike’s name is derived mostly from the fact that they live in areas up north where temperatures are generally colder.

Within the United States, there are native Northern Pike populations in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, Montana, Maryland, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Indiana, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, Iowa, Northern New Mexico and Arizona, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Idaho, northern New England, Alaska, the Ohio Valley, the upper Mississippi River and its tributaries, the Great Lakes Basin and surrounding states, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and parts of Oklahoma as well.

Pike can also be found in warmer U.S. regions such as the Southwest where they were generally introduced (stocked) by wildlife management as well as throughout most of Canada, particularly Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Québec. 

Northern Pike Fishing Seasons

If you plan a fishing trip to catch some Northern Pike then you need to plan ahead. As soon as you head out to the lake it should be right after it has thawed enough to where the fish can enter the shallow water.

Usually right after the deep freezes in the winter is a great time to go. This is when the water has been frozen for quite some time and has recently thawed out creating perfect climate conditions for them.

As the season progresses you might want to change your angling tactics and search for them in deeper water.

In the summer, when the water is warm they will normally reside at the bottom of the lake where temperatures are cooler; so that’s where you will want to sink your line. Fishing for Northern Pike in the winter is definitely more ideal.


Northern Pike Fishing Techniques

Catching this voracious predator is about using the right equipment, fishing for them in the right areas, and learning the basics of Northern Pike fishing. They aren’t hard to fish for. If you’re having difficulty then you’re probably out of touch with one of the basics.

Pike will bite on just about anything you dangle around in the water. The trick is to keep your bait moving because they aren’t going to nibble on anything that’s sitting still. If you are using a lure, spinnerbait, or anything else then you will want to constantly move it around in the water. By giving the bait slight but steady jerks you should get a bite in no time.

Northern Pike Cooking and Flavor

Although generally known as a “sporting” quarry, some anglers release pike they have caught because the flesh is considered bony, especially due to the substantial “Y-bones”. However, baking pike, rather than frying them as one might do with other sport fish, dissolves most of the small bones that make eating pike difficult.

Larger fish are more easily filleted, and pike have a long and distinguished history in cuisine and are popular table fare in Europe.