Among pikes and pickerels, only the muskellunge grows larger than a northern pike. The IGFA World Record northern pike, caught by Lothar Louis in Germany in 1986, weighed 55 pounds. Northern pike are circumpolar, living in lakes and rivers of the northern hemisphere, primarily across the northern United States and Canada and in most of western Europe. They are less common in Asia. Northerns prefer clear water, weedy lakes, ponds, creeks, backwaters and gently flowing rivers.
How to Catch Trophy Northern Pike
Pike are ambush predators, generally willing to sit motionless until they spot anything alive. And “anything” means just about anything: in addition to other fish, pike are known to eat invertebrates, small mammals and waterfowl. Since northerns often prowl near the surface, topwater lures are an exciting way to target the fish. Northern pike have a well-earned reputation for shadowing a lure to the boat before striking it.
After an exciting strike, angry rushes rather than screaming runs characterize a pike’s evasive measures. They’re capable of jumping, but pike rarely do. Expect them to shake a head full of small teeth, throwing the lure out of their hard jaw. Use a net to land pike, they are too slippery to handle.
Generally, a northern’s meat is white, light and sweet. In warm water, pike have a muddy taste. However, like all members of the pickerels, the flesh of northerns contains a narrow row of Y bones running just above the ribs. Before digging into a pike, remove the Y-bones.
Top Spots for Northern Pike
There are many great lakes and rivers for northern pike, the biggest fish are found in these three countries:
Pike are caught in lakes and tidal water.
Great Slave Lake and elsewhere in the Northwest Territories.
Rivers are loaded with large pike; the Holitna River is a favorite.
Expert Pike Fishing Advice
Finn Sloth has been targeting big pike in Scandinavia for many years. A team angler with Hobie Fishing Europe, the Denmark native is looking to beat his biggest, a 46.6-pound giant he caught in a small Danish lake. Together with partner Dennis BomBom, Sloth owns High 5 Lures. He says his biggest fish was taken on a Wolfcreek soft plastic. Sloth offers pike enthusiasts some advice:
- When the water is cold, slowly retrieve a curly-tailed soft bait.
- As the water warms, concentrate on shallow, weedy bays near deep water; males move in first and larger females follow.
- Don’t hesitate to target very shallow water before and just after pike spawn.
- If you’re after trophy fish, use navigation charts and a fish finder to find edges, plateaus and deep holes.
- Trolling is deadly. Big pike like to follow a lure before striking. Trolling gives the fish plenty of time to make up its mind.
- Look for baitfish on structure and you’ll find northern pike.
This article was first published in Kayak Angler Issue 45. Subscribe to Kayak Angler and get the magazine delivered to your front door. Download the Kayak Angler Magazine+ app to seamlessly glide between the digital archives, the latest articles and videos.
Now that’s a snot rocket! | Feature photo: Doug Olander