Riege: Pike in the Weeds
Published 7:50 pm Wednesday, May 15, 2013
By Bob & Ginny Riege
Pike are aggressive, which is unfortunate for them but fortunate for fisherman. They lack judgement. Where a walleye would look at a minnow from six sides before believing it is a minnow, a northern will nail almost any glittering object that moves. Even better, northerns keep bankers’ hours. You can sleep in, get up, and find the northerns pigging out at midday. My kind of fish. And, better yet, northerns go right on snarfing up the poor forage species even after cold fronts that cause so many fish to throw tantrums and go on hunger strikes. Finally, and best of all, northerns keep right on filling their bellies when hot weather arrives and other game fish become picky eaters.
For the most part, pike are associated with weeds. They lie in ambush in weeds, then attack their prey with astonishing speed. You cannot move a lure too fast for a northern to catch it, either trolling or casting. In fact, a lure that zips past a pike at extremely high speed is likely to trigger a strike that a pokey lure might not.
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Summer pike fishing begins when the weeds become fully established. In fact, the first week or so after the weed growth becomes mature can offer fantastic fishing. But the northerns go right on hanging around the weeds for the rest of the summer. Sometimes they’ll be just outside them.
Wherever the weeds stop, that is the magic depth. It will be a certain depth that will remain constant throughout the lake. That is, if the weeds end at 15 feet at one point, they will probably end at 15 feet all over the lake. So if you troll at a constant 15-foot depth, you’ll be presenting your lure right in front of the deepest edge of the weeds. And that’s exactly where summertime northerns like to hang out. You’ll need a good depthfinder to keep your lure right where it should be.
Most of the time, the best action will be found right along the bottom and very close to the weeds. Bottom digging lures are needed and some patience as well. Bottom digging lures offer flash, bulk and wobble to get those pike out of the weeds. Weeds will collect on your lure and leader. If you are not clearing your lure of weeds you are not fishing where the fish are.
The tackle required is a stiff rod, like a Shimano Clarus Series rod that you might use for muskie. The line should be a low stretch monofilament in about 12 to 17 lb. test, Berkley XT is good choice. I will also spool this up on a Shimano Calcutta bait casting reel. The reason that I use a baitcaster is it allows me more line capacity and I can use a long handled rod to tuck under my arm while speed trolling.
Northerns slide deeper as water temperatures warm. On cloudy days, they
may be found feeding on shallow flats. But, generally by mid-summer, they lurk down to 12 feet depths. As soon as water reaches 68- to 70 degrees, they move down to 22- to 28-feet deep in some lakes.
For shallow work, concentrate on points, inside turns and bends. Narrow the
search to the ones with thicker, greener cabbage. Large spoons, like Lindy’s Gator spoon work great when retrieved right above the weeds.
I cast jerkbaits or Giant Tandem Spins or shallow-lipped Big Ms by Lindy Little Joe along weed edges and dropoffs. I prefer shad, sucker and perch colors.
Look for the sharpest drops with the quickest access to deep water as things
heat up and fish move deeper. I’m looking for the secondary break, the deep-water ledges that drop way off after that,
Speed trolling begins when the weeds “set up” in the early summer, and continues to be productive throughout the dog days of August until early fall. In most upper Midwest lakes the very best time is somewhere around the mid part of June. As I mentioned before the time of day is better when most of the other fishing is poor.
Once you’ve found the depth you should be working at, the key is to play around with different speeds until you get the right one for a given day. Some days the fish will want it moving almost at a brisk walking speed, other days they will want it moving as fast as a water skier.
When walleyes slow down move to a different specie and look for the weedbeds to produce some summertime pike in the weeds.