top of page

Tons of Teeth

Northern Pike

Esox lucius

Average Size: 20-30 in

Average Weight: 4-7 lbs


The Northern Pike is a top predator in the water within its range, which spans from the waters of Maine to the deep cold lakes of northern Europe. Pike are ambush predators that can lay and wait for hours on end. Their coloration allows them to camouflage themselves against the weeds. Pike have an earned reputation of being aggressive, attacking almost anything in their line of sight. The bigger ones are more wary and take a bit more work to bring them in. Once on the line they will fight hard and take the drag out a few times before coming into the boat.


Northern pike will spawn in sandy areas once the water temperature reaches about 48 degrees Fahrenheit. They prefer highly oxygenated water that is at or below 65 degrees Fahrenheit, with easy access to ambush prey such as: smaller fish, frogs, small birds even mice. Some of the best places to look year round for big pike are inlets where a cold stream or river is coming into the lake, these are great places because they are constantly bringing oxygenated cold water and prey can get swept down them giving the Pike easy food. Another good place for pike while the water is colder is shallow flat bays that they will patrol for food. Pike will also spend time trolling just below drop offs and cliff faces as these areas offer excellent ambush opportunities. Northern pike are most active in the twilight hours of the day, early morning and late evening.


Casting is my preferred method for big Pike. Since most of the year they hang out in the shallows, or just off the drop offs. Finding a quiet bay or an inlet where a stream comes into the lake as mentioned above are the best spots. One of the best techniques I have learned is not to troll when going for the big ones, they spook easily. Sometimes rowing quietly or trolling quickly then shutting the motor off and gliding to the spot works the best.

Trolling is another tried and true method for big pike. Trolling works best in the hot summer months when the pike are down in deeper water.

Casting for Pike

Knowing where to cast is the first step in hooking into Pike. Pike are ambush predators, they will lay in wait on the bottom, or hidden in the weeds and will bull rush the bait when its brought over them. Getting a monster pike to strike can be tricky as they are more tentative and more prone to follow a lure. Some pike will follow the lure and a straight and steady retrieve will result in no strikes.

Where To Cast

As mentioned above, Pike like to be in cold water where they have ample opportunity to ambush prey while expending the least amount of energy. Landing your bait in the right place can be the difference between a fish on the line and nothing. The first thing you want to look for is a stream or inlet to cast into and allow the lure to flow with the current towards you. If there are no streams coming in, look for weed cover and structure under the water. Aim to land right near the structure or in the weeds. Pike prefer tall reeds and weeds with long oval shaped leaves. The last landmark to look out for are drop offs, cast over the drop and bring the lure back over.

Change Speed

The best place for a speed change is when the lure goes over a depth change. Changing up retrieval speed is incredibly important. Take for example when I was younger, we were sitting in a shallow weedy bay close to sunset. I was casting a CiscoKid in shallow and bringing it in at a steady pace. As I lifted it out of the water there was a massive splash and a huge tail swimming away, if I had slowed or changed up the retrieve speed I could've enticed the massive Pike to strike. Instead of having a "one that got away" story I could have a story about bringing in a 40+ inch Pike on a top water lure.

Casting Gear

When casting for Pike, especially big Pike, the gear you use needs to be strong. Big Pike can get to be anywhere between 20-30 lbs, and they are up there on top fighters for fresh water fish. My go to combo when casting for pike is a heavy action rod 6.5 ft with an Abu Garcia Ambassador strung with 30 lb braid finished with a 180 lb wire leader. This set up is strong enough to hold up against any fish that I run into. For baits I tend to go big and flashy. Spoons are my number one choice for big Pike, Dr. Spoon and Daredevil make great spoons and are well known. Other choice lures include a 10 inch Classic Rapala crankbait, and no. 5 or no. 6 Mepps Agila spinners. For top water nothing beats the CiscoKid.

Trolling For Pike


Trolling for pike is a good way to cover a lot of water fast and works really well when the Pike transition from the shallows to deeper colder water in the hot summer months. Pike like water temperature to be around 65 degrees Fahrenheit and below. There are two methods to use when trolling for pike. The first is to find schools of bait fish in open water, usually the bait fish will be schooling around 15-30 feet of water depending on the lake depth and you can run your line to be about 20-40 feet, again depending on lake depth. When trolling open water with bait fish schools trolling speed will be up around 3-4 mph. Since Pike are usually solitary this method can be slow going. The second method is to be a little shallower, right on the deep side of a drop off, and trolling will be in an S pattern over the drop off. The trolling speed for this will be between 1-3 mph. Pike will usually hit on the line on the inside of the S when turning.

Trolling Gear

When trolling for Pike, like when casting, the gear needs to be able to stand up to the biggest possible fish you'll be bringing in. A medium to heavy rod and reel combo is the best choice. Load the reel with 20-30 lb mono filament. Mono works best when trolling because of its ability to stretch and give more than braided line does if the fish goes into the weeds or into structure on the bottom. I prefer to use a reel with a depth counter so I know how much line has been let out and allows me to be at a consistent depth. Similar to when casting and you're not trolling a wire Lindy rig a wire leader should always be used. Some of the preferred baits and lures are Lindy Rigs with a large blade and a large leech, crank baits and spoons. When trolling spoons a good way to get them down to the depth is to use a 3/8-1/2 ounce weight on the line in front of the lure. Trolling sucker minnows when the fish are suspended and tentative is also a great option.

-Happy Casting

5 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page