Gators, snakes, lizards and jackfish are just a few of the words often used to describe the toothy northern pike. These predator fish are big, strong and have one heck of a bad attitude. Post- spawn pike become sluggish to begin with but soon become fierce eating machines. Pike grow to all sizes across Ontario. Northern Ontario especially offers trophy pike waters with a true trophy being well over the standard 40 inch mark. In this article I am going to break the northern pike’s best post spawn tactics into two categories. These tips will help you hook into more pike in both the early and late post-spawn periods.
Northern pike do not begin to venture from their spawning areas until further into the spring and will remain shallow for the majority of the day in the warming water. These fish are generally labelled as lazy, unresponsive and often gives anglers a slow start to their pike season. A 7 foot medium-heavy action bait casting rod with a fast tip matches up great for pike anywhere in Ontario. Tie on a 40# fluorocarbon leader or use pre tied titanium leaders. When you arrive at the spot you want to fish first use your electric motor to slowly move into the area. Using your polarized glasses pick apart the shallows and sight fish for easy targets. By doing this you can give yourself a visual idea of how fish are responding and the actual size of your targets. The first presentation I offer to early post-spawn pike is always a jerk bait. These are very easy baits to work and the strikes becoming highly addictive. Rapala’s size #14 Husky Jerk in the Firetiger pattern has developed into my confidence jerk bait. I begin with a jerk, jerk, and then pause for 5-10 seconds. I will fan cast the entire area using this speed of retrieve before trying any other jerk and pause pattern. Speeding up in between pauses is always my next speed change before slowing down in between pauses. After working the shallows specifically target deeper weed lines that have access to deeper water. Use large soft plastic baits worked very slowly and methodically in these areas. My favourite big plastics for pike are Sluggo’s, various curly tail grubs and Berkley Gulp Jerk Shad ranging in the 5 -9” size. I opt for the brighter colours such as chartreuse or white to begin with. The big profile combined with the same slow jerk, jerk pause retrieve triggers these fish into committing to the illusion of a close easy meal.
Pike in the 2-4 pound hammer handle size are now absolutely suicidal and even the bigger ones seem to be sneaking in more often than not. This is when I pull out the top water baits. Top water pike fishing is very similar to bass and includes many of the same baits such as walking the dog with Zara Spooks or Skitter Walks. Another great option is to cause a commotion with one of the various top water poppers. After hearing or seeing a surface strike most anglers panic during the crucial next few seconds. These quick seconds occur immediately after the initial surface break of the fish. After a top water strike pause until you feel the line tighten up and then set the hook firmly. Another benefit to the pause after strike method is juvenile pike will often swipe and miss your top water plug on their first attempted. By not using the pause method, these missed strikes will not result in setting the hook into nothing and consequently taking your lure out of the strike zone. These fish are aggressive, hungry and will always be willing to strike again if the bait remains in the strike zone. After I am done working the area with a top water plug, I begin casting a #5 Mepp’s inline spinner. If you have a selection of bait casting reels to choose from always select your reel with the highest gear ratio. Having a higher gear ratio gives you the advantage of burning the bait back to the boat as fast as possible. Make long casts over weed beds and retrieve the bait right along the surface of the water.
Your standard Ontario shore lunch usually consists of deep fried walleyes with an assortment of side dishes. Pike are disregarded as an option for shore lunch not just because they have slimy, relatively stinky and very boney flesh but because walleyes are available. Pike offer a mouth watering flavour that rivals any other fried fish even the walleye. A boneless pike fillet consists of removing the Y bone completely. After completely deboning the fish, remove the skin from the fillet and then rinse under cold water to wash the fillets thoroughly of any blood. Finally dry the meat with paper towel before cooking or freezing. Pike is best served fresh and I strongly recommend not freezing the fillets before cooking. Other options for pike are smoking, pickling and the famous Northern Ontario pike patty. Next time you fry up some walleye substitute one fresh pike fillet for a walleye and see if you can taste the difference.
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