Photo: James Spiers

How to find—and catch—the very biggest northern pike in fall


Many pike anglers fish small, shallow, weedy lakes with dense populations of northerns more often and longer than they should. They figure they can sift through the smaller pike and eventually nab a trophy, but it rarely works out that way.

Just ask the researchers at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. After sampling several densely populated pike lakes, they found that fewer than six per cent of the female fish were longer than 30 inches, while fewer than three per cent reached 34 inches. The main reasons? Warm summer water temperatures, low oxygen levels and a lack of quality forage.


Whenever possible, therefore, it’s best to instead target the biggest pike lakes you can find—with ample depths in the 40- to 60-foot range—that provide quality pelagic forage. They should also have clear, trout-type water, which helps pike feed more successfully, according to research. In water with one- to three-metre visibility, for example, the body weight of the pike increases by six per cent with every additional metre of visibility.

For big fall pike, try muskie-sized lures (photo: James Spiers)

To catch the biggest pike in the system during fall, you should cast or troll muskie-sized jerkbaits, glidebaits, swimbaits, spoons, and doubled-bladed bucktails. As hard as it may be for some anglers to believe, from an energy perspective, the optimum prey size for tiger muskies, the northern pike/muskie hybrid, is 40 per cent of the predator’s total length.

In turn, that means a 40-inch pike—the minimum trophy size for most anglers—will devour a 16-inch sucker, cisco or whitefish, or even a fellow pike. A true trophy 50-incher, on the other hand, will have no trouble eating a 20-inch bait. When it comes to catching trophy northerns in the fall, the expression “go big or go home” truly applies.