Count me a fan, if one of only a few.
It was cold, I’ll admit. The wind was a bit gusty, too, and had a bite to it at times.
But the sun was shining. It had been a while for that.
I looked to my right. I looked to my left. I looked straight across the lake, to the opposite bank.
No one was in sight.
That would change a little later. One other solitary angler, dressed in some of his hunter orange clothes in a blazing tribute to the air temperatures, came in later, but that was it.
It was just him, me and the northern pike.
I’ll take that every time.
On this early evening I would go on to catch a half dozen or so northerns. They weren’t big by pike standards, with the largest topping out at a just-legal 24 inches. But even the “small” ones were mostly 16 to 18 inches or so.
Most exciting, all were aggressive biters, caught in water shallow enough that I was often able to see their shadowy form lurking behind my lure right up until the strike. It was sight fishing in a way.
Not many people both with pike, for whatever reason. But right now, early spring, is the time to target them. They’re among the first fish to spawn, and the urge to reproduce puts them within reach of more anglers at this time of year than any other.
How to catch them? Here are some five tips.
Seek shallow water
Pike are “broadcast” spawners, in that the females shoot their eggs out to that they stick to weeds and the like. That kind of grass blooms first in coves where the water is skinny, especially if it has a dark mud bottom. The water in such places warms up faster than elsewhere in the lake, too.
If you can find a shallow bay – the kind of place that will be almost impossible to fish later in summer because of all the vegetation – that can be a pike hotspot early on.
Seek slow water
For the same reasons mentioned above, when it comes to finding pike in rivers, seek out slow backwaters and eddies.
Northerns that have just spent a week or more trying to procreate want to eat, but at peace. Think of it like wanting to enjoy a meal sitting at your dinner table rather than behind the wheel, eating from a drive-through on the way to yet another appointment.
Such pools are perfect if they have weedy vegetation. It doesn’t even have to be green; last year’s dead grass attracts pike, too.
The pike bite really picks up right as the spawn winds down. The fish are hungry and looking to eat after burning so much energy.
They’re also a bit run down.
Tempt them by fishing slowly. Live baits – be it cut bait or bit minnows – fished on the bottom or under a bobber work. So, too, do slow-moving jerkbaits and shallow-running crankbaits.
A lot of artificial lures are painted to be ultra-realistic these days. They look as if they could swim themselves if taken off the store pegboard and dropped in the water.
Pike, though, often seem to prefer gaudy offerings.
If you’re throwing jerkbaits and crankbaits, consider those painted with a firetiger pattern. Bright blue lures seem to work, too.
If you’re tossing spinnerbaits, consider those same colors, as well as pinks and purples.
In early spring, the weather from day to day can vary pretty dramatically. One day you’re sporting shorts, and two days later you’re back in long pants and a jacket, maybe even with a hat and gloves.
Be ready to seek pike on those warm days.
The first few days of warm weather after a cold spell can be pretty magical. They likely don’t change water temperatures much overall.
But even a 1 degree increase can sometimes spark pike to feed. Be ready to go when conditions are promising.