My son and I are bass fishermen. We were raised casting through thick aquatic vegetation for largemouth. From an early age, my boy could cast, hook, fight and land on his own. He was confident in his fishing abilities until he met a fish he couldn’t handle.
We were fishing an unfamiliar Pennsylvania lake completely choked with weeds. The soup was so thick, even our topwater and weedless lures required cleaning after each cast.
On one retrieve, to free grass from his lure, my son lifted his soft-plastic lizard an inch out of the water and shook the cabbage off the hook.
We were both startled when a massive pike erupted from the stained water, mouth agape, sharp teeth slashing, eyes unhinged and determined. The missile-shaped fish quickly separated the lure from the line and disappeared in a splash.
Visibly shaking, my son dropped his rod across the kayak and gasped, “I know bass, but I don’t know pike.”
I managed to chuckle, “Well then, Luke, meet pike. Pike meet Luke.”
I still haven’t forgotten my first pike. Many years ago, I was visiting a lake cabin in Minnesota. As soon as I pulled up to the lake, before I unpacked the car, I put together a two-piece rod, marched straight to the shore and made a long cast. The sun was low making it hard to see what was going on under the water.
A few casts in, my lure snagged and the line broke. I cursed and blamed it on a bad knot. I tied on another jig, made another cast, and hooked my first pike.
The fish was small, but it fought with every inch of its snaky body. After a short but determined scrap, I unhooked the slimy little bastard, admired its bright pattern and angry look, then slipped it back into the water.
The little worm shot out 10 yards, jumped in the air, and looked as if it was asking, “Is that all you’ve got?”
Hooked On Pike
I became a pike fanatic.
Not all anglers feel the same way about pike. The toothy fish is not line or finger-friendly and frequently draws ire from anglers chasing bass or walleye.
If not managed properly, pike can fill a lake affecting other residents. Small pike are called “hammer handle”. I’ve read about lakes infested with pike.
But if you appreciate a violent strike, pike are unmatched in freshwater. Bass can hit hard too, but they are, well, just eating. With pike, there is a palpable savagery. The fish is intent on killing. A pike seems infuriated a lure dared to cross its path.
Other fish envy pike. In some parts of the world, alligator gar are called gar pike, sand pike are sauger and a walleyed pike is a walleye. The fish is officially named northern pike, although there are no southern pike. Curiously, deep in pike country, locals frequently refer to them as northerns.
Their Way Or The Highway
Pike demand you play by their rules, so use wire leaders to protect against razor sharp teeth. Every pike experience leaves a lasting impression on me. I’ve locked eyes with a mad water wolf as it darts away from the kayak.
Other times, the memento of a pike encounter is more physical. I have scars from needle teeth and treble hooks.
On a recent trip, my son and I sat in our kayak in the middle of the only open patch of water not clogged by weeds. Every time my lure hit the surface it was smashed with nerve-rattling glee.
As we cast and caught one pike after another, it hit us we were surrounded by bloodthirsty killers. The boy made a comment he hoped we didn’t have to swim to shore. I laughed, but must admit, I too eyeballed the distance to shore.
I was raised on pike, and having caught many of north America’s most desirable species, they still remain my favorite. The methods used to catch them are fun, the strike is incredibly savage, and they fight like demons. Caught from cold water and filleted properly they are delicious to eat. I let most of my pike go these days, though if there is a less co-operative species of fish to unhook I have yet to catch it. Great article.