Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Northern pike are feasting on crayfish

O. virilis crayfish in Red Lake
Creme Lure tube

Creme lure tube

Creme lure tube

It might surprise you to know that a big part of the diet of northern pike in Red Lake is crayfish!

We find crayfish in the stomachs of a great many pike that we clean for our guests. Of course, crayfish don't digest as easily as minnows and other softer prey so they linger longer but still, there's no doubt that pike do eat this crustacean.

A careful examination of these crayfish last summer indicated they are all the native species of crayfish which is Orconectes virilis and not the invasive species O. rusticus or rusty crayfish that have gotten into a great many lakes in Wisconsin and Minnesota and other places.

It is not a good idea to use live crayfish for bait for fear of transferring invading species to new lakes. However, there is an artificial bait favored by bass fishermen that is known to imitate crayfish and that is the tube jig.

If you want to try something new next summer, bring some tube jigs in 4-5-inch size in various colors and work these around rocky shoals, points and entrances to narrows.

If you are unfamiliar with tube jigs they look like a regular jig but have a bullet-shaped head that allows a hollow plastic tube to fit over the top.

Pike are well-known to hit regular round jigs, either bucktail or with plastic twister tails.

The tube jig differs in that it is entirely covered by the tube. It's a bit slower to fall through the water and often spirals which could imitate a dying fish or swimming crayfish.

To fish a tube jig for pike, cast it out and let it sink to the bottom. Give the rod a slow jerk and let the jig fall back to the bottom while you reel in your slack line. Repeat the process until your lure is all the way back to the boat. You can also just reel the jig right in but with the occasional pause or twitch of the rod.

Crayfish like to hide in crevices of rocks and in boulder piles so those locations would be good places to try the tube jig.

Weight of the jig head makes a big difference on the jig action. Light jigs fall more slowly and so must be given more time between jigs. Try 1/8, 1/4 and 3/8-ounce sizes.

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