Half the battle in fishing for northern pike is locating the fish, so learning the basics of their favored habitat will help you find and catch more northerns this season.
Unlike the walleye and crappie, which are schooling fish, the northern pike is a solitary fish, which can make it difficult to locate just one fish, not to mention multiple fish on a given day.
To find northerns consistently requires an ability to read a lake or river with an understanding of the preferred habitats of the fish.
At the most basic level, northern pike are effective predators. They use stealth, speed and power to take their prey. Unlike some game fish species, northern pike do not cruise around, searching for food. Most often, northerns lurk motionless in in the cover of weeds or other structure, waiting for prey to come to them.
In most cases, northern pike prefer a dense weedline from which they can ambush their prey. A northern sits patiently in the weeds, waiting for prey to come within striking distance. When it does, it strikes with a phenomenal burst of speed to take its meal.
Understanding the traits of a northern allows us to better identify the type of cover it prefers and the areas it might be found in. But finding northern pike also depends heavily on understanding its prey.
As was mentioned earlier, northerns prefer heavy weedlines, but not just any weedline. They choose areas that are consistently traveled by prey, such as perch, suckers, sunfish, bass and other smaller fish. If you find an area with a heavy perch population, you can bet northern pike are nearby.
But what attracts the prey? The fish northern pike feed on can be found near the mouths of tributaries, along drop offs, points, submerged trees, beaver dams and any other underwater structure. These are the areas where you should begin your search.
For the most part, northern pike prefer fairly shallow water. It is not uncommon to find them in less than 10 feet of water. If you find an area that looks promising for northerns, begin fishing in shallow water and work your way to deeper water.
One significant factor that will lead northerns to deeper water is water temperature. If the temps get to warm, they will move to deeper water to find more tolerable temperatures. Larger northerns seem more sensitive to warmer temperature than smaller northerns.
Norther pike may also be found in deeper water in especially clear lakes, where the weedline is deeper. In some cases, they may set up in deeper water to take advantage of prey, which is located there.
Where to work
The best strategy in northern pike fishing is to begin by working the weedline. Working parallel to weedline will help you cover large areas quickly and locate more fish, but do not discount throwing baits toward the weedline and working away from it.
As you work, look for signs of bait fish or significant cover that might hold northerns. Work each area thoroughly.
One of the keys to successful northern pike fishing is to get your bait right up to the structure in which they are holding. The closer you get to the fish, the more likely they are to strike. Do not be afraid to retrieve or troll your bait quickly through the water. Many times this can actually entice the fish into darting out from their cover to strike your bait.
© Jekurantodistaja | Dreamstime.com – Release of a pike back to water