Tracking Down Big Fall Northern Pike

Many anglers look forward to the outstanding fishing action that is available in the fall. Throughout much of the Midwest, walleyes, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, panfish and even muskies are willing biters this time of year. A species of fish that’s often overlooked, but which can be very accessible in the fall, is northern pike. Anglers can catch lots of small northern pike throughout the year, but, often, the truly big ones are hard to find. October and early November can be a great time to catch trophy northern pike.


The reason that really big pike are rare catches in most waters is that most anglers don’t fish where the big ones live. First, you need to be on big-fish water. The best lakes will be the deeper, clearer lakes. Throughout the summer months, the big pike often suspend over deep water and feed on oily, suspended baitfish in these bodies of water. Most anglers who chase pike in the summer fish in vegetation that might hold the big ones in the spring but is mostly void of big fish the rest of the year. If you want to increase your odds of catching a big pike in the next few weeks, here’s what you need to do.


Follow the big bait for the big bites


In the fall, those baitfish that the pike were feeding on over deep water have moved shallow to spawn. They spawn on gravel or sand shallows that are close to deep water. If you want to catch big pike, you need to find where the baitfish are spawning. By the way, walleyes and muskies will be in the same areas. This time of year, big fish are feeding where the big bait is.


Cabbage weed beds that are still green and close to deep water, and that are close to the baitfish spawning areas, will hold pike. So will rocky points that are windblown and extend into deep water. If you fish areas like this, you’ll be fishing near big fish.


You’ll want to throw big baits for big pike. It’s tough to beat a Bird-Shot Bucktail Spinner, an in-line spinner, or a Bionic Bucktail Spinnerbait—a spinnerbait with an overhead blade. Both are magnum-size baits that appeal to magnum-size pike (and muskies).


Throw these baits with gear capable of handling big baits and for setting the hook into big fish. A heavy action casting rod in the 7-foot range works well. Some folks like a longer rod. P-Line XTCB Braid in 50- or 65-pound test will enable an angler to get great hooksets. Be sure to back off on the drag just a little. You want it to give a bit on the hookset.


Catching considerations


Truly big northern pike are pretty rare. I like to net them and get them back in the water as quickly as possible to guarantee a successful release.


For a change of pace in your fall fishing, give it a go if you’re near a body of water that is known for producing big northern pike. Any time is a good time to catch a true trophy pike. And, for the next few weeks, your odds of doing so are high.



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