|Kim Gross hoists a beautiful, finely-speckled northern pike caught by casting|
Anglers who are here in May are sure that is the best time to catch pike. Their photos prove this. June anglers think June is best. They also have pictures. July anglers "know" they are both wrong; it is July. "Baloney," say August fishermen who are reading this and looking up at their wall hangers. And when was the record set for most pike over 40 inches caught by two people in a single week? It was in September.
So maybe there really is no best month or maybe there are five best months. The point is, you can do well fishing for northern pike on Red Lake any month of the summer. The locations change a bit, but only slightly.
One thing that doesn't change is the technique used to catch the vast majority of northern pike.
If you want to catch lots and lots of pike you had better be casting. That is not to say you won't catch pike by trolling or -- early and late in the season -- using dead bait, but if you want to boat many dozens of pike each day, there is no better way than casting.
We have people who catch up to 100 pike in a single day for their boat. To do this they probably make 1,000 casts. They probably average a cast a minute, at least while they are fishing. Just knowing that fact tells you a lot about the lures they are using -- ones that don't take a long time to reel back in!
We're talking spoons, like the 2/5-ounce Little Cleo, Dardevlet, 2/5-ounce Mepps Wolf and 1/2-ounce Johnson Silver Minnow always with a trailer on the hook. For spinners, try the #4 and #5 Mepps and Blue Fox and smaller spinnerbaits.
The point is not to use a lure that is so big and heavy or pulls against your line so strongly that it takes a long time to reel back to the boat. You want the lure to be small enough to cast easily, run at least a foot deep on the retrieve and get back to the boat, all within a minute. This rules out giant Suicks or other stick baits, big tandem spinnerbaits and the like. They will break your arm throwing them so many times in a day. As it turns out, they also don't catch fish as well as the smaller ones. See Lighten Up.
You want to cast along the shoreline, but not blindly. Pick out structures, the best being weeds, and plunk your lure right beside them. Give a quick turn or two on the reel to keep the lure from hanging up, then slow down the retrieve enough that the lure runs almost out of sight on its way back to the boat. If you had a strike but no hook-set, cast back there again. If you catch one fish in a spot, cast back there again until you quit catching fish.
Stand up in the boat. You can see into the water better this way and you can also see fish following your lure, especially if you are wearing polarized sunglasses. If you do get a follow-up, stop reeling and give the lure a twitch. If that doesn't elicit a strike right away, start reeling again and repeat the process if needed. Keep your rod tip near the water while reeling -- it makes your lure run deeper.
Weeds are the magic ingredient when pike fishing. Where you find one, you find the other. With that in mind, July and August may be the easiest times to catch pike because the weeds have grown up and show easily. There are still weeds in September but they disappear as the month progresses. It is the remaining weeds that hold such promise for pike in the fall.
Pike experts are also experts on water weeds. The good ones to fish are bushy and grow in deeper water. Poor weeds are long and slender and wrap around your line.
Although weedbeds are usually great pike places, sometimes the shoreline with just patches of weeds here and there is better.
As you "plug" along a shoreline, be alert for bays that have weeds growing out in their middle. These can hold a lot of pike.
The biggest mistake made when going pike fishing is to use too heavy of equipment. Heavy baitcasting rods and reels won't let you cast the smaller lures needed. Ditto for heavy line. Heavy steel leaders kill the action of your lure.
A medium-action spinning rod and reel spooled with eight-pound diameter braided or fusion line will handle any pike. Just keep the drag set so the line will pull out with a few pounds of pressure.
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