Northern pike, also known simply as pike, are one of the most popular big game fish in North America. Anglers young and old of all experience levels can not only enjoy targeting pike but become quite proficient at it in no time. You do not need a lot of expensive specialty gear. You do not need to travel far as they are found throughout the Northern United States and Canada. Chances are your local lake or pond holds pike. What you do need is a little knowledge. At the top of the list would be knowing the best time to fish for pike.
First of all, a little background – pikes are predators, they are carnivores. It means they eat meat and spend a great deal of time either eating, hunting for their next meal or thinking about their next meal. They spend most of their time hiding in weeds or shallows waiting to ambush their next potential meal. When they see a meal approach the attach is fast, hard and deadly. Pike feed primarily on fish and frogs but have been known to take a wide range of prey including small birds or mammals who approach the water’s edge.
These traits are what makes the northern pike such a popular game fish species. Their tendency to strike hard at any potential meal that approaches means they are also likely to take a wide range of baits and lures. Their ferocity and potential size make them a formidable foe even at smaller sizes. While their widespread availability means they are readily available to many anglers. If you can find pike, chances are it will only take a short time to become proficient at catching them.
Best Time Of Year To Fish For Northern Pike
There is no wrong time to fish for pike. Because their main reasons for striking your bait or lure is either aggression or hunger, and they are angry and hungry almost 24/7. It is possible to target pike any time you can find them. In fact, there are many anglers who specifically target deep lake trophies in mid-summer or heat up their winter action taking big northerns through the ice. But this is not to say there are not better times to fish for pike, especially bigger trophy fish.
So, when do northern pike bite best? The best time to fish for pike is mid to late spring, usually May if fishing southern Canada and maybe a few weeks earlier in the northern United States. Because although pike has been hunting and feeding all winter long, the pickings have been slim, so they are hungry.
On top, they have just finished spawning and are still recuperating from the increased stress the process involves. In other words, they are even more ravenous. Finally, they can be easier to locate. Most of the weed cover has yet to reach peak height, so cover and ambush sites are limited. Depending on where you are fishing there is also a good chance they have not been targeted for several months. Almost any lure will fool them and entice a strike – if it looks like a meal, they will take a bite.
Best Time Of Day To Fish For Pike
Pike can be caught any time of day if you adjust your approach accordingly. Although it may be easier to find and catch pike at certain times of the day, they are almost 24 hours species.
- Pike fishing in the morning – early morning, just before the sun rises, is a nearly perfect time to catch big, hungry pike. This is one of the rare times when pike are more likely to be actively hunting rather than sitting in ambush. When chasing pike will most likely be found cruising shallows, even in the open, in search of their first meal of the day. Tops waters, spinners, and other open water lures will have better success, and you will not worry about being snagged by the weeds pike usually use for cover. Once you have a pike crash a topwater, you will be the one who is hooked – hooked on fishing for these toothy monsters.
- Fishing for pike in the afternoon heat – as the day progresses and the sun beats on the water surface temperatures will rise, which means pike activity will drop off significantly. Pike will have moves from the open water shallows to deeper water to avoid the heat and move into weed beds to take up an ambush position. While this will make pike hard to catch, it does not mean impossible. Trolling spoons and spinners through the weed beds or deep diving stick baits in 25 ft or more of water will often provoke an attack even in the heat of a late summer afternoon.
- By the light of the moon – night time pike fishing is a combination of those conditions encountered during the early morning and afternoon. As the sun sets and the temperature drops, they will start to emerge from cover and go on the prowl. As you saw in the early morning, this dinner hunting will take pike into open water shallows in search of baitfish. The same techniques you used earlier will again be effective. However, as the sun continues to set, and evening approaches the water will darken, and the pike will again slow. The exception would be nights when you experience a full or near full moon as the increased light will extend the regular evening hunt and makes it easier for the pike to see your bait or lure.
Best Weather And Temperatures For Pike Fishing
All fish species are affected by weather, especially when it comes to feeding patterns. How many times have you been fishing a favorite spot, somewhere the day before the bite was at record levels, only to come up empty handed? If you were doing everything the same, throwing the same lure in the same spot at the same time of day and still not producing chances are weather was the deciding factor.
There is some debate regarding precisely what it is about changes in the weather that increase or decrease pike activity. Some experts believe the fish can detect drops in barometric pressure, while others claim this to be false but still agree weather patterns impact the bite. Personally, I doubt there will ever be full agreement.
So, what does this mean for you? Regardless of why it happens, there is no doubt that changes in weather means a change in fishing activity.
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Is There A Time When You Cannot Fish For Pike?
The question of whether you can fish for pike year-round is not one of ability. We already discussed how pike feed 24/7/365 and that there are anglers who target pike all year round, even when ice fishing. So, yes, it is possible to catch pike any time of the year. The real question becomes is it legal to catch pike year-round?
Whether or not you can legally fish for pike year-round depends on where you will be fishing. Some states allow year-round targeting of northern pike. Others may allow year-round angling but establish different size limits during different periods. Finally, there are a growing number of jurisdictions that have established a closed season, usually during late winter through early spring. If restrictions do exist, they are typically designed to protect those pike that would be actively breeding during the spawn – large females heavy with eggs. It is important to check local regulations before targeting northern pike and prior to keeping any that you may catch.
Good luck and good fishing!