We all know about, and probably have done some northern pike fishing in our shallow water lakes. In these dark, cloudy-watered lakes we usually fish along and over the big weed beds. It’s pretty easy stuff: cast or troll a spoon or crank bait or toss a jig into the weeds or on the edge and you will usually have some pike action.
Take that same presentation to deep clear lakes like Deer, Wabana or Pokegama, however, and chances are you won’t do much, or what you catch will be small. When I first starting fishing these types of lakes, I was pretty much the same. In fact, when I did hear of a few guys who were catching “gator” sized pike, I attributed it to the luck of the draw. Somebody got lucky and the word got out.
I was wrong. The difference between a successful clear lake pike fisherman and an unlucky one usually lays not in the skill of the fisherman, but in his/her lack of knowledge of a specific technique.
That’s why when I am looking for bigger pike in these kinds of water now, I rely on a much different strategy. I pretty much stay away from the pikey-looking shoreline weeds and look for deep points or sunken islands that jut out to the main lake basin. Believe it or not, many times these points will be 30-40 feet deep and drop off to 50-80 feet. Most of the time, I like some weeds on the top of the points or islands, but you will usually lose the weeds at around 15 to 20 feet down.
The really big pike, the ones we rarely find, will be on these points looking to ambush their prey. The tough part is getting your bait down to that depth. One of my favorite presentations is a simple jig and minnow. But, I go a little heavier than I do for walleyes. To fish these deepwater monster northerns, I use a 1/4-3/8 oz. long shank Gumball jig from Northland Tackle with a bigger golden shiner or sucker minnow.
Do I have to go to a stiff lunker rod and heavy bait-casting reel to get these pike? You can if you want to, but you don’t have to. In fact, I like to use my lighter tackle, the stuff I use for walleye fishing. It’s less expensive and the fight on light action is incredible.
There is one change, however; I tie a barrel swivel on my 6-8 lb. mono and make a 2-foot leader out of 20 lb. mono or braided line. I tie the jig on the end of this.
You’ll still get a few bite offs, but not nearly as many as you would expect. By going to a much heavier line, you will lose too much of your action on the jig. One more thing to remember is when you jig, try and snap it and get as much action as possible. The final step is to get ready to set the hook. If you do this, you will have action comparable to Canadian pike fishing at a fraction of the cost.
Have fun with these monster “gators” of the deep and remember, practice catch and release. The big pike fishery is one that can produce exciting action, but it is also one which is finite and very fragile… put the “big boys” back, you will have plenty of chunky ones for the grill. Good luck fishing and boat safely.
Walleye & Northern Pike - May 11, 2019
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2019 Fishing RegulationsMN DNR Fishing Regulation Handbook for 2019
Charlie Worrath talks early season walleye for the television program Jason Mitchell Outdoors on Lake Winnibigoshish in northern Minnesota. (watch the video)
Jason Boser appearing on an episode for the television program Jason Mitchell Outdoors on Lake Winnibigoshish in northern Minnesota. (watch the video)
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