Friday, February 12, 2016

Consider a later-season pike fishing trip

Fred Polich caught and released this 40+incher in early August last year

Many Bow Narrows anglers are catching their personal bests on pike now

August is a tremendous time to target big northern pike
If you check out the Availability listing at right you will see we still have room most weeks in August and September. I don't think most people realize this is a tremendous time to fish, especially for big northern pike. I would recommend August, in particular, because the weather is usually nice and warm and the aquatic weeds haven't started to die-off for the season so it is obvious where to fish.
We have noticed that both walleye and northern pike go into a feeding frenzy about the time it is noticeable that the days are getting shorter, around the first week of August, and then continue that binge right through to September. I think the fish realize that summer is almost over and they better stock-up while the pickings are good.
Too many people, I feel, only consider walleye fishing on their trip. You can certainly catch them late in the season here, especially right in the narrows where camp is located. But we catch lots of walleye almost all the time so there isn't that much difference.
Northern pike, however, could be at their absolute best in August. Here's why: our pike are at their most active when the water is warm. Red Lake is at its warmest in July and cools off throughout August. That cool-down moves the walleye from the shallows to deeper water. Small walleye are a major prey item for huge pike. So as the month of August progresses, there are increasingly fewer walleye in the shallows where the pike like to hang out and as a result they are hungry and easier to catch.
To understand this, we must first shatter a stereotype that seems to be set in cement in the minds of so many anglers. This is the myth of fish going to deeper water in the summer when the lake is at its warmest. Wrong! Not at our camp at least. Red Lake is a deep-water lake. We have bays that are so deep they never warm up and they keep the rest of the lake from ever getting too warm. Our fish crave warm water. Fortunately, we also have shallow bays where the water does get warmer and these are the places stuffed with fish, right until the water turns cold again, then the fish actually go out to the deep spots because the water is warmer there.
I understand that other lakes are not like this. Shallow lakes in other places just get too warm in the summer and the fish either move to deeper water or turn lethargic. Not Red Lake! OK?
Virtually nothing changes in walleye and northern pike fishing until about the first week of August. They are all in the shallows and we do great fishing for them. Then we start to get some cool nights and the walleye begin to migrate. We still do great but we begin to do better in the narrows and mid-depth areas that might be staging grounds before they go to their deepest spots in September.
The pike, however, really like hanging in the weed beds and are discovering they have fewer walleye to pick on. This makes them more vulnerable to angling. This is also the time to pull out the larger lures, things that could imitate small walleye like Suicks and six-inch Spro as well as surface baits like the Zara Spook and the Live Target Walking Frog.
Toward the end of August we can begin to catch pike on dead bait again and this technique is especially good in September when the water is at its coolest.
I can say with confidence that I have never seen so many big pike in Red Lake as there are right now. We had so many of our long-time guests tell us last summer that they caught their personal bests, all above 40 inches and many in the mid-40s. We have even got them over 50 inches in recent years.
The anglers boating these monsters are getting them throughout the season while spending the majority of their time fishing for walleye. I suspect they would even do better if they spent the majority of their time casting for pike and came in August.
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