|Photo – 44” Northern Pike caught by Chris Stevens on 1/1/19 on 6-lb test while crappie jigging on Unity Pond, Photo taken by Michael Dubois.
Northern Pike The Scourge of Maine
According to the 2008 NORTHERN PIKE ASSESSMENT Prepared by Francis Brautigam Regional Fisheries Biologist Region A of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, Division of Fisheries & Hatcheries, “Northern Pike were initially introduced into Maine during the 1970’s, as a result of an illegal introduction to the Belgrade Chain of Lakes. Pike became well established and subsequently colonized other lakes within the Belgrade Lakes drainage. Early spawning, early utilization of fish forage and subsequent rapid growth, opportunistic foraging habits, and large size potential are qualities that enabled pike to successfully establish as a dominant predator in the Belgrades, where habitat is not limiting. The recreational fisheries that initially developed were characterized by large size quality. Pike averaged over 30 inches long and exceeded 7 pounds. This exciting new fishery was producing fish of larger average size than that offered by more traditional existing fisheries and the popularity of this sportfish grew. The perceived success of the Belgrade Lakes pike fisheries likely contributed to numerous subsequent illegal pike introductions to new waters within central and southern Maine.”
Pike Continue to Expand Distribution
In the 2008 assessment, IFW listed 28 lakes and ponds that held viable populations of Northern Pike. Currently, IFW has since revised this distribution to now include 3 additional lakes and ponds, with many more first-hand reports being submitted by ice fishermen, yet to be confirmed by IFW. These new bodies of water, include, the Saint George drainage, Round Pond, White Oak Pond, Sennebec Lake and Unity Pond (see photo). In order to confirm a species presence, IFW biologists/wardens must actually collect the fish.
The Belgrade Lakes Region is one of Maine’s top fishing destinations for anglers looking to catch big pike. Of the Belgrade Lakes, Great Pond, (Map 20, E-4) Messalonskee Lake, (Map 21, E-1) Long Pond, (Map 20, E-4) North Pond, (Map 20, D-4) all contain trophy pike upwards of 20 plus pounds. Northern Pike enthusiasts enjoy fishing for this toothy and aggressive species in late February and March, when trophy size adult pike concentrate in shallow water areas with the approach of the spawning season.
North Bay on Great Pond
Late season typically finds me fishing the shallow waters of North Bay on Great Pond. The area of the large bay in and around Snake Point are typically my favorite spots. Access to this location can best be made by parking at the “Sweet Dreams” convenience store located at 164 Village Road in Smithfield (362-2010), just make sure you buy something at the store before heading out, to help support the continued use of this gracious access point. North Bay is accessible by a 1.25 mile snowmobile trail leading directly from the store to the lake.
Jigging for Pike
Pike will eat almost anything and as such, have been caught by anglers on almost every type of fishing lure imaginable, including the apparently new hot bait, red hot dogs (Google it!). 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.
The Story of the Unity Pond Pike as Told by Michael Dubois
While jigging for Crappie with a 24 in rod and 6 lb test line, Chris Stevens from Waterville hooked a massive Northern Pike (see photo).
The day before we caught the Pike, Chris Stevens and I were on Unity Pond fishing and spoke with the local IFW biologist Scott Davis. We specifically asked him if there were Pike in the pond to which he replied, not to his knowledge. He also has a shack on the pond and fishes there quite often, so we figured he was accurate. We would have large schools of Crappie on our flasher and suddenly they would disappear only to reappear a few minutes later, so we had surmised that a large fish like a Pike was moving the school around. This happens to us on Messalonskee and quite often we get bit off by Pike.
Suddenly, all of the Crappie disappeared, a large image appeared on the flasher and then Chris’s pole folded in half. When he set the hook, we knew that Scott Davis was wrong!
Chris had just had carpal tunnel surgery and after 10 minutes or so, he asked me to take the rod as his hand was getting sore. I fought the fish for about 10 minutes and gave the rod back to Chris, as his hand felt better and it was in fact his fish. Again, Chis fought the fish for some amount of time and then relinquished the rod back to me for the same sore hand.
The first time I brought the fish to the hole, we both agreed that there was no way for us to land it and that no one was going to believe us. We could see the lure hooked on the furthest tip of the upper jaw thus preventing the line from getting near any of the teeth. I gave Chris a pair of rubber insulated gloves and told him that he would need to reach into the hole and grab the pike. He did just that, lifting the pike out of the water about 2 feet, then with one shake the Pike was back down the hole and ran out most of the line on the reel yet again. We then decided to use the ice scoop to try and scoop the Pike out. Same deal except this time Chris had the pike 2 feet out of the hole a second time, the scoop broke and away went the pike for another lengthy fight.
I gave Chris the pole back and said, “I would show him how it’s done”. I too grabbed the pike with the gloves and lifted it 2 feet out of the hole and it shook and I too dropped it back in the hole. One last fight for Chris and this time, I was able to grab the fish and drag it out onto the ice.
We walked over to the biologists shack and took a picture in front of his name tag as we figured no one would believe that it came out of Unity Pond. We also contacted Scott who did pick-up the head and aged the Pike at 9-11 years old. We estimated it at about 20-25 lbs and she was carrying about 4 lbs of eggs.