Monday, February 4, 2013

Are larger lures working for northern pike again?

Larger lures were a poor choice for northern pike on Red Lake, Ont., for probably 20 years although they did work well before that. Now there is a bit of evidence that, at least in some instances, they are working again.
In the past two decades, I would say small lures outperformed larger ones by a factor of at least 10. In other words you could catch 10 times more fish with a smaller lure than a large one. It was an incredible difference.
I can only guess why pike preferred the small baits, and by small I mean spoons that were two inches to three inches, spinners that were 2-4 inches and stick baits that were no larger than six inches. I think the pike were keying on the size of smelt, which was their favourite food in those days. Although smelt grow to a foot  in places like the Great Lakes they only get to about four inches in Red Lake, and they are extremely skinny.
Smelt are like crack to fish. They are super-loaded with the calories that fish crave.
The preference for small lures fits perfectly with the emergence of smelt in Red Lake which were first discovered in the 1980s. Smelt are actually native only to the Pacific Ocean. They were planted in the Great Lakes and somehow have been transplanted into many Northwestern Ontario lakes including Red Lake.
Before the 1980s, Red Lake pike preferred larger lures. One-ounce Dardevles, eight-inch Rapalas, even big Suicks and Mepps Musky Killers worked well.
The last couple of years I have seen some hints that pike are hitting bigger baits again and guess what? The smelt population has crashed and pike are eating native fish again, things like perch and tulibee and suckers. (There still are smelt too, just not as many.)
Last year I picked up the Live Forage holographic image spoon shown at the right. If you haven't seen Live Forage lures, their images are incredibly life-like. I got a four-inch version only because the smaller spoons were sold out. To my surprise, Brenda used it to catch several large pike and even a big walleye!
A few of our guests also reported taking pike on bigger lures.
It's too soon to advocate wholesale change to larger lures but it might not hurt to stick a few in the tackle box for this summer's trip.
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