I am excited at having been chosen as the new Central Maine writer and I look forward to chronicling my outdoor adventures with family and friends throughout this region for many, many years to come. It is my hope that through this sharing, I am able to provide knowledge and information that enriches the outdoor experiences of my readership and helps nurture our sporting heritage and traditions. Thanks for following along!
Pike Fishing Primer
Ask most Northern Pike enthusiasts about ice fishing and you will hear a lot of stories about catching them early and late in the hard water season. This is because both during early ice (December) and in the spring (late February), Northern Pike can be found in fairly shallow water, clustered around weed beds and the mouths of tributaries in search of food. By January, however, Pike have moved out of the shallows and into deeper waters in their relentless pursuit of food. This migration makes the job of finding pike a much more difficult endeavor. To turn the odds in your favor, anglers need to first target lakes containing Pike.
Location, Location, Location
In central Maine, finding a lake containing pike is becoming an increasingly easier and easier task. This is both unfortunate to angling traditionalists and exciting to those of us who simply like to catch monstrous sized fish. When in pursuit of Pike, it is important to note that not all central Maine lakes are created equal. Some lakes simply produce larger pike than others. Lakes in central Maine that consistently produce trophy sized Pike include: Great Pond, (DeLorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 20 ,E-4) Messalonskee Lake, (Map 21 ,E-1) Long Pond, (Map 20 ,E-4) North Pond, (Map 20 ,D-4) and Annabessacook Lake (Map 12 ,C-3).
No matter what time of year, Pike are still ambush feeders. Even though pike may have departed from their classic shallow water territories, they will still congregate around some type structure where they can lay and wait for unsuspecting prey. Structure in deep water includes rock piles or steep drop offs. Study lake maps to find shelfs, corners or dips that interrupt these drop offs, as they provide places for Pike to hide as they wait for bait fish to swim along these breaklines.
Spot and Stalk
After selecting a promising location, start drilling holes, a lot of holes. Those who lament at this tedious chore would be well served to invest in an ION electric ice auger. Light enough to be lifted with a single finger; this amazing device really simplifies the chore of pounding holes through the ice.
I like to compare Pike fishing to deer hunting. There are stand hunters and there are spot and stalk deer hunters. By drilling only a few holes, anglers are waiting and wishing that a Pike will swim by their jig or bait. Instead of using this passive technique, I recommend actively stalking the Pike by drilling 15-20 holes in varying depths along a section of promising structure. Jig each hole for a maximum of 20-30 minutes to actively locate fish. Using modern electronics, like a flasher, can help find fish faster but anglers can still have great luck by simply being proactive in their drilling and jigging.
Pike will eat almost anything and as such, have been caught by anglers on almost every type of fishing lure imaginable. With that said, however, there are certain lures that
tend to work better than others when in pursuit of big, wall hanger Pike. Vertical Spoons like the Swedish Pimple and Acme Kastmaster, are favorites and their performance can be improved by adding a piece of cut bait on one of the hooks, a killer combination.
Drop the lure to the bottom, lift, drop and lift 5-6 more times then hold it still. Pike often hit the lure when it stops moving. Often I let the lure sit for a couple seconds, then proceed to give it a slight twitch before jigging again. Often that little twitch is all it takes to elicit a brutal strike.
While jigging catches a lot of Pike, anglers should not limit themselves to only one line in the water. When done in unison, jigging and using tip-ups serve up a lethal combination of techniques that put Pike on the ice. As Pike are generally curious creatures, aggressively jigging lures, creating a disturbance around a tip-up will often increase the number of catches in a day dramatically
Tip-ups are an extremely effective means of presenting big bait to big Pike.
A sturdy tip-up with a large spool capable of holding 300 feet of line and having a tension adjustment, helps to keep large bait from continually triggering the flag. Generally, the bigger the Pike being targeted the bigger the bait that should be used. A live Sucker or Golden Shiner in the 6-8 inch range will be an irresistible meal to an 18-20 pound pike. Just make sure to anchor it solidly in place, using a 1/2 ounce sinker, so that it cannot escape. Big Pike are notoriously lazy and don’t like to expend a lot of energy in pursuit of a meal. This past ice fishing season, I used dead bait and had a higher catch rate than with live bait. Often with Pike fishing, it pays dividends to mix it up now and then.
Speaking of mixing it up, Google and buy the “Quick Strike Rig for Pike” and watch your rate of successful hook-ups soar! I have checked with my contact at the Maine warden service and been assured that these devices are legal for fishing purposes as long as “both of the devices hooks penetrate a single bait, so as to catch a single fish.”
When drilling holes and rigging tip-ups, I like to drill my holes parallel to promising structure and set baits at two feet off the bottom. If after a couple hours, I don’t elicit a strike, I will move the tip-ups to alternate pre-drilled holes in other promising locations.
When a pike grabs the bait line typically flies off the spool at such a rate of speed that a roster tail of water flies off the back of the spool. I usually allow the fish to run until it stops. This is when a pike typically swallow the bait. As soon as the line again begins to spool out, immediately set the hook. In deep water this technique is usually very effective in making sure the Pike is well hooked. In shallow waters or in waters with a lot of underwater structure, it is better to simply set the line as fast as possible. Once caught, Pike will try everything they can to break off and will quickly become entangled in rocks, branches, submerged trees and any other structure so they can to escape.