Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Do northern pike suspend? Yes, sort of.

Red Lake northern pike
I'm sure Bow Narrows angler Carl Cieplik didn't catch this beautiful northern pike by trolling over deep water. He almost certainly was casting along the shoreline and weedbeds.

But I have known of other anglers who "accidentally" caught pike, including some whoppers, by doing that very thing -- trolling lures that run just below the surface in waters that were 20-100 feet deep.

Usually these fishermen never expected to catch anything in these conditions; they were just moving from one island to another and didn't want to reel in all their line.

I don't know of anyone who caught many pike at one time doing this. Usually it's just the one.

So while its not a recommended way of fishing for pike -- just about all of them are along the shorelines or at least are on the bottom in deeper water -- it is possible.

In a way, I don't think these fish are suspended. Rather, they are cruising just below the surface.

Many times on dead calm days I've seen schools of fish, some of them pike but mostly lake trout, whitefish and tulibees, that have "pinned" a cloud of baitfish against the surface.

This phenomenon is called a "bait ball" by ocean fishermen.

There are also usually sea gulls, terns and loons taking part in the action. In fact, that is what you'll notice, all the bird activity out in the middle of the lake. They will spook when you are about a hundred yards away but you can then cut your motor and idle or paddle up to the bait ball. Usually you can catch three or four fish before either you scare everything away or you lose the location in the featureless center of the lake.

If you want to try something new when fishing at camp next summer, try trolling out in the big water on a day when the lake surface is like a mirror. Let out a lot of line, 100 feet or more, and use a shallow running stick bait such as Rapala. Try something that will stay within 12 feet of the surface.

You might just find a school of fish or big loners that are looking for bait fish that show up easily from below against the mirror surface.

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