”A Time of Stress” (Larger Fish), ”A Time of Plenty” (Smaller Fish). So goes the title about the Summer peak period in Al Lindner’s book ”PIKE”. And so it be. Summer, a time when unstable weather, and unexpected events occur. No year is the same, and each has their own charm. Heat, heavy rain, thunderstorm, or cold-fronts. You name it, it’s all in the game!
End of May, when Pike season opens, is often a highly productive time. Waters remained silent for months, and water temperatures have climbed into the low 60’s. The apex predators of the water haven’t seen a lure in weeks, and will agressively hit your baits. Post-spawn Pike can be found all over the place, but gather in certain area’s where vegetation starts to grow and forms shelter and comfort. Big and small Pike can be found close to one and other and often stay shallow. Finding these key places can be quite tricky, but if have a solid approach, you can get a real quick view of what’s going on down below. Trolling is an exeptional way of doing so, and enables you cover a large amount of water in a relative short amount of time, in order to get a good idea of where the Pike are taking their hide! Once you’ve found these key area’s, convert from trolling to casting. This is the ultimate way of covering any type of water systematically and not miss an inch, and will put you onto fish the quickest way!
When scouting for weedbeds that hold fish, I’d like to use medium sized baits. The reason for this is that with a lure this size, you can create an erratic movement in the water that won’t go un-noticed. Pike these days are also focussed on smaller baits because of the time of year they find themselves in. So pay attention to your selection of lures and select those who run not deeper than 5 feet. Why? In Late Spring weeds are often not fully grown and reach halfway to the water column in the shallows, and with shallow diving lures you can keep a short line out, and run them over the top of the weeds without getting stuck into. As soon as the water temperature hits the high 60’s, and the sun starts to warm the shallow flats, things start to change rapidly and the density of the weedbeds starts to increase, catching fishing in these locations almost impossible. That’s when I make the transition to fishing spinnerbaits. This way you can still fish through the tight cover, and not get stuck on any leaves all the time. Another way to fish these type of location is using a shallow moving swim or a pullbait which you can fish and control in a steady way, and keep your hooks free of any green stuff. Below you’ll notice I use alot of natural patterns with green, black and yellow / orange colours. The reason for this is simple. Inside the weeds everything is green, at least if the Pike can see this. In order to succeed in this underwater jungle your bait needs to stand out against everything else. That’s why I like to use anything with contrast that can easily be seen, such as these lures shown down below!
StrikePro Pig Shad & Pig Shad Jr. Fished fast and high over weed tops!
Thriller, Revolution Shad & Baby ShallowRaider. 3 lures that won’t go unnoticed!
ERC Pearson Grinder. Perfect to fish deep into the tight cover!
Small Pike can be found all year long in the shallows, but the bigger ones absolutely hate warm water and move out of the weeds to stay suspended right on the edge of a dropoff, or move out to deeper parts where possible. End of June when the water temperature rises above 70 fahrenheit or more, the big feed is over. In these period there is not only plenty of baitfish around for the Pike to feed on, but also warm water and sometimes really unstable weather. Like mentioned before, a cold-front after a high pressure front is not un-common and will put any fish off the feed. Winds moving from East to North are a real bad thing, and will make Pike sink deep into the weeds or on the bottom. Not being so active-anymore mode is on. When certain events like this occur, I often leave the fishing for a couple of days and come back later when the bite is on again, cause in the end it’s all about being there at the right moment in time when the conditions are stable in order to have the most succes and chances for a big fish! So keep a close eye to the barometer for stable airpressure and plan your days around them! Big Pike move off to deeper water where it’s cooler and keep a low profile, but in some occasions they stay shallow all Summer long, and you’ll still be able to stalk them shallow.
The spinghole Pike. A True summer giant!!! 131cm (51,57”)
Wait a minute, you just said only small Pike stay shallow right? Correct! But there’s also such thing as a ”springhole”. A springhole is nothing more than a cold water pocket in the ground. These type of pockets can be found anywhere, even in the shallows, but are extremely hard to track down if you’ve never experienced one of them before. Big Pike find comfort in these places even if the water around them is too hot. But how to track a springhole, that’s the question… Well, the best way to find one is jump in, and swim around the area your’e wanting to fish. Once you’ve felt cold water coming from the bottom you have found yourself a springhole. This technique however is a time consuming approach and I wouldn’t recommend it. Another technique on finding one is taking a close look at the screen of your fish-finder. Even the slightest drop in temperature in the smallest digits can mark a place like this. A third way is looking at the surface of the water in search for air bubbles or movements on top, but this only works on calm flat days and isn’t so succesfull as the previous options mentioned before!
What a springhole looks like! Taken from Dick Stenberg’s book ”Northern Pike & Muskie”.
Usually around mid to end of July, I quit fishing Pike for a while. Northerns are fragile to warm water and become vunerable once this occurs. If you really want to go out, go in the early morning, or later afternoon when the water cools down and use heavy equipment to minimize stress and reduce the time you spent fighting (large) fish. Once caught, keep the fish in the net inside the water, and do your un-hooking there, before taking pictures and measurements. When releasing a Pike, and especially a big one, give them time to stabilize, or keep them safely in the net for a couple of minutes to get back on track. The Summer heat might not be the best time of year for Pike fishing, but luckilly there are a bunch of other techniques that can be just as fun. Zander (Walleye), Perch or Asp fishing to name a few! In Late Summer, Early Fall, when things start to change to another level, there is plenty of time again to catch the fish we all like to catch most, our beloved Esox!