5 Things You Must Know about Pike Fishing

Pike is one predatory fish I really enjoy chasing. It’s extremely aggressive, powerful and a spectacular catch.  There are also many myths related to pike fishing. Some of them are true, most of them aren’t. Trying to elucidate them, I answered some questions based on my pike fishing experiences in places across Europe.

Me, pike fishing on a river in Sweden in late august.

1. Hunger, curiosity or just predatory instinct?
Many people are convinced that pike only feeds because it’s hungry. This seems a pretty obvious and universal sentence, doesn’t it? OK, then this means you can’t catch pike if it’s not feeding, right? By believing this you will also have the perfect excuse for not catching anything. “Well you know, pike wasn’t feeding today”. Yeah, just bad luck.

The thing is that pike is a predatory fish, and that makes a big difference. It’s predatory instinct means it doesn’t always strike out of hunger. Pike are very aggressive fish and they tend to defend their territory against any intruder. How I see it, this is the key to fishing pike successfully using artificial baits.

What we must first do is locate pike and try to give them the perfect lure to eat or wrestle. Usually when pike don’t feed, they will react protecting their territory. Our job is to find something that can’t leave pike indifferent.

Stefan with a big mama on a cold spring in the Danube Delta.

There are times when you don’t get any decisive strikes, just light taps, that generally make you to set the hook earlier and miss the fish. It happened to me many times, usually in heavily fished waters, where pike tend to be very cautious. If you are confident that that spot holds pike, than lure change is the name of the game, until you grab their attention. In the end, either out of curiosity or out of irritation they would strike firmly. Also do not forget the fact that sometimes pike like to toy with their pray before they eat it, so don’t lose your patience and focus on making them grab the lure.

2. Big vs. small baits

Salmo Skinner, a must have lure for trophy pike.

Big vs. small lures. The eternal lure size dilemma. Does using a big bait ensure big pike? Are trophy pike caught only on huge lures? Well, my answer to the above questions is: no, not always. I’ll try to explain it in the rows bellow.

Let’s consider big pike. It obviously has more experience and is much more cautious than regular sized pike. Experience means also fishing smarter. Big pike, being aware of it’s size will try to preserve as much energy as it can, using qualities like camouflage, strike speed or very sharp teeth much better than a small pike. Big pike will mainly attack big prey, because that means a very consistent meal. A meal that will last for days. They won’t chase every little thing that swims by, that’s for sure.

Prey fish have no chance in front of these strong and sharp teeth.

You’re probably wondering, he said that big pike aren’t caught on big lures only. That’s right! Here you have two reasons why this happens.

The first reason is, as I said before, big pike are much more cautious. This means that if you throw lures sized bigger than the actual prey in the water, big pike might notice something’s not right. In most cases pike won’t strike. This means you should adapt your lure size to the prey fish in those bodies of water. Reading the water, and observing even the smallest of details can be crucial to your fishing.

Another case is when pike are in a feeding frenzy. Do you remember when your lure is chased and missed by a small pike, and just a moment after a big mama strikes? Well, that’s exactly what I’m talking about.

In this cases, a smaller, normal sized lure can be animated in a more aggressive manner, and can bring you more and sometimes even bigger fish. You will say, in this cases almost any lure might work. Try taking my advice and see what happens. You’ll see, it makes a difference.

These are only two cases in which normal or small sized lures can be more effective in fishing big pike. I’m sure there will be many other similar situations you will face on the water, so always keep an open mind when choosing your lure size.

3. Where can we find pike?
Being a very smart predator, at the top of the food chain in many waters, pike takes big advantage of the underwater structures. Structures can be anything from weed beds, underwater trees or boulders, even deep ridges or underwater edges that are close to shallow weeds. On big lakes formed on rivers, pike can also be found in areas where smaller streams flow into the lake or where currents form in these lakes.

Fishing on a big lake in Sweden, I discovered flowing water with underwater weeds where pike were hiding. I only caught about two or tree pike, before arriving to this place. The flowing water area was full with pike and they were feeding like crazy. This may also be because of the higher oxygen concentration in the water. My colleague and I caught about 30 pikes between 8 and 15 lbs in that spot alone. Even the local guide was amazed, saying he never caught so many pike in that particular place. It really was a terrific  pike fishing day.

When everything else failed, stream fishing got us a lot of good sized pike.

Another way to locate pike is to search for places that hold prey fish. In these places you will normally find pike feeding. Many of the structures mentioned above are perfect for holding prey fish. Pike uses all these structures in her advantage because of its strong camouflage. Once you discovered these places, you can also adjust your lure type, size and color, in accordance to what pike is chasing. Prey fish can normally be found in shallow water in the spring and they tend to move deeper as the summer wears on. As you can imagine, pike does exactly the same.

4. Is pike a solitaire predator or does it hunt in schools?
Pike follows the exact pattern of many predatory fish. This means that small pike usually hunt in schools, while big ones tend to become more solitaire. The small ones, being less experienced, tend to hunt in schools because this makes things much simpler. They use ambush to catch their prey.
Big pike on the other hand, use their camouflage, extreme speed and sharp teeth to deliver an instant deadly strike. They don’t chase prey for long distances, they hunt more efficiently, with short, lightning speed strikes.

Andrei managed to trick a big one, but promised to let her go, so they're both smiling.

This isn’t really a rule, but in many cases you won’t find small pike in the same area with big ones. They are as much territorial as they are cannibal with their siblings.

This one was lucky enough to survive the bite of her elder sister.

5. Size matters. Is small pike no fun to catch?
Pike is a spirited fighter and will always be ready for a great battle. Small pike can be a great opponent also if you adapt your gear to the size of the pike. A 3 to 6 lbs pike can be a great catch on a ML spinning rod, using lets say a light 6-8 lb line.
Because I’m a big adrenaline fan, I always use lighter equipment than anyone else uses for the same fish size. This is because I want to enjoy each fish fight. Frankly I don’t think there is a fish size that’s not fun to catch, it’s just choosing the right gear for it.

Small pike can be extremely fun to catch also. They are more energetic, will make more jumps, and you won’t get bored chasing after the big one.

Just use the right gear, and no matter how big the pike is, each strike will turn into a great battle.

Bonus 6. Is pike good for eating?
Who cares? We’re going to release them anyway. Especially the big ones :) .

Two sisters, going back to send their mama.

About Adrian

Professional angler, web enthusiast and tackle fanatic. Always in search for new things that can improve his fishing.
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54 Comments

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