How to Catch Giant Pike
Understanding Mid-Summer Pike
Dog Days can be Hog Days
Mid summer is the most misunderstood time for catching giant Pike. Armed with the correct information in your ever increasing arsenal of fishing knowledge you can make the so called “dog days” the most productive time of year for truly monster size pike.
Please remember I’m intending for everyone from novice to expert to gain a better understanding of the how and why of midsummer pike fishing.
As a guide, when I have new guests I hope that I’ll have the opportunity to speak with them ahead of time to discuss their level of skill and preference in fishing methods. Usually it is simply “we want to catch big pike or bigger pike or giant pike” this is of course just fine with me.
Each morning while I’m waiting for my guests to arrive at the dock I make sure that the boat is clean and organized. As my guests arrive I inspect their equipment as I help load it into the boat and organize it. Keeping the boat organized is important to a safe days outing. Many potential problems can be avoided by maintaining a safe “working” area. I’ll recommend placing rods in positions that prevent injury and keep the rods from falling around which is harmful to the equipment and potentially to the people in the boat. In a skiff with bench seats I always lay rods along the side of the boat. I place the reels ahead of the bench. This way when the boat vibrates over waves the rods will not fall. Placing the reels on the floor and rods leaning on an angle is just a mess waiting to happen.
I usually suggest retying knots if they have fished the previous day. I will suggest this again several times through out the day.
Let’s start with the dreaded Post Cold Front
Now it is mid summer and let’s add a mile high sky 24 -48 hours after a cold front. We know that 24-48 hours after a cold front passes the pike fishing will be slow – right??
Usually I will suggest walleye fishing out on some mid lake humps for a few hours. This is usually me with wide-eyed stares “what the pike guy wants to catch sissy walleye”? This is followed by grumbling or plane outrage. If I am allowed I will use my sonar unit (a Lowrance x15 – great unit) to search for pike suspended off the sides of these mid lake humps. We’ll use jigs tipped with minnows and fish exactly as we would if attempting to catch walleye. In fact we will catch plenty of walleye. Although I will intentionally move away from the sweet spots on that piece of structure if we are catching walleye too quickly especially if they are up off the bottom and hitting very lightly. If a big pike is active on a spot the walleye will be laying right on bottom. If the walleye are on bottom but are biting aggressively I deduce that there is plenty of food for the pike. If the walleye are up off the bottom 2-3 feet then an active big pike is not likely at work at that sweet spot at that particular time. At these times it is very likely to have a pike grab a walleye as it is retrieved.
I’ve learned to recognize big pike on my graph. The most active ones are 1-5 feet off bottom. When I spot an active pike I’ll hold the boat over top of it and jig for walleye. I will have my guests vary their jigs depth from 0 to 9 feet off bottom. Very often we’ll catch a large pike while we are doing this. I prefer to take this approach for several reasons. First I will want some walleye for shore lunch. Second, as we all know, big pike keep bankers hours and prime time is from 10 -4. (Except during a new moon when sunrise and sunset can be dynamite). Third and most importantly is that this method catches lots of giant pike.
Quite often I’ll have 4 or more clients and they will follow in a second or third boat.
If I take this approach and we do not catch any big pike within an hour the boats that are following often start to give up on me and leave. More than once I’ve heard those departing mention something to the effect of “I guess all those big fish he caught on TV were fake.” Those boats will venture off and likely find a shallow bay and catch a bunch of hammer handles and maybe even a few decent 30-inch fish maybe even a 40. At days end they’ll return with stories of their catch and I am genuinely happy for them. Then the guests in my boat tell them about the fish that they caught. At this time of year Big Pike Do Not Mix with little pike. There are always exceptions to every rule. However in general if you are catching a bunch of hammer handles the your odds are very unlikely that you will catch many large pike in that area at that time.
Pull them off the shallows
While we are working this hump I will have my guests take long casts up onto the shallowest part of the structure. I especially like humps, which top out at 4-5 feet and have some cabbage and or boulders strewn about. I know exactly where to have my guests cast because I have pre scouted the area and marked it with a small dark marker buoy. You have also done this – correct? I’ll have them use rattle traps which will catch plenty of pike up to 36 inches but not many over 40 inches. I also have them use Suicks, long minnow baits like Cisco Kids and shallow diving Rapalas. We’ll even work it over with spinner baits and spoons. In most cases the Suicks will catch the largest pike. Do not drive over the shallowest part of the structure. This is where your most active pike will move up to feed. In your prescouting you likely noticed that you could catch a lot of small walleye and perch at this spot. This shallow spot will often have a variance in bottom make up. For example if your hump rises out of 20 – 30 feet of water and has a large flat maybe 200 yards by 80 yards wide and that flat is 8 to 10 feet deep and composed mostly of sand. Look for an area where it reaches up to 4 or 5 feet and the bottom is made up of rock. Or if there is a patch of cabbage in the vicinity that’s even better. In short look for anything different, something for the pike to use as an ambush site.
Pull them out of the deep
One effective method is to position the boat on the edge of the drop in 10 feet of water. Use an 8-inch paddle tail shad on a one-ounce jig. Make long casts into the deep water. Let the jig drop to the bottom then swim it up the side of the hill. If I don’t catch them on the retrieve I’ll keep an eye on my graph. If I spot a big pike below I’ll start jigging again. This is effective on big pike and big walleye.
Remember the Edges
As the day wears on and more pike become active you will catch pike in other places across the flat especially on the edges. The primary edge, secondary edge where it drops into deep water, the weed line edge, mud bottom to sand bottom edge, etc. You have undoubtedly recognized by now that the “edges” are key feeding spots for fish of all kinds and the Giant Pike who eat them.
When fishing tough situations like post cold front and lakes with less than great numbers of trophy pike you have to “know ” that you are on the right spot. Years of experience have taught me that nothing replaces years of experience. Articles such as this help and give you a starting point in your search for more and more knowledge. What I’m hoping to do is point you in the right direction. And that is not toward those hammer handles in the shallow bays.
Of course the mid lake humps are just one location.
Be sure to read Midwest Outdoors next month, I’ll discuss Cabbage beds, share how to make inexpensive marker buoys and dispel some of the pike fishing myths in part two of Mid Summer Pike.
If you have specific questions about How to Catch Giant Pike or would like a copy of my 2 hour DVD “How To Catch Giant Pike Two”, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org I will do my best to answer your questions. Visit www.anglerskindom.com click on the articles section for articles on other methods and times for catching Giant Pike.
Until the next issue – tight lines. Kevin Geary
Kevin is the past Producer/Host of Outdoor Encounter TV Series, Producer of the 2-hour video How To Catch Giant Pike, Camp owner and Fishing Guide. Kevin has caught more than 3000 Pike over 40 inches and is considered an authority on modern freshwater Pike fishing.