October is the Month for Big Northern Pike

I’m going fishing next week. And October is a wonderful time to be on the water in the Midwest chasing walleyes, largemouths, smallmouths and panfish.

On this trip however, those species will all be safe—we’re going after the northern pike.

Pike are very susceptible under certain conditions in spring, but in some bodies of water in the fall, they’re even more susceptible. I’ve chased pike in October from Devils Lake in North Dakota to Little Bay de Noc in Michigan, with other memorable stops on pike waters like Lake Winnibigoshish in north-central Minnesota.

When we hit it right, the action is world-class. Here’s how to get in on the pike now.

First, you need to be on good “pike” water. Just like with any lake or reservoir or river, some produce good pike fishing, and some don’t. Some lakes have lots of small, skinny pike, while others produce the big guys. Typically, lakes with the smaller pike won’t produce the big ones. Big ones come from lakes that are home to oily baitfish like tullibees. Pike that eat these get big because tullibees provide much of the protein it takes for the pike to grow larger.

Pike fishing is so good in fall because of the movements of baitfish, and these smaller fish are going through spawn in autumn. During summer, they’re out in the deeper water, often suspended and not relating to anything other than water temperatures. The large northerns are running with them too. And because of these wandering tendencies, it’s tough to find these pike and catch them.

The tullibees moving into spawning areas have the pike right there with them; they are much more accessible to anglers because of this. During the summer they could be almost anywhere, but now they’re hanging out in certain areas and are looking for something to eat, which makes pike easier to catch.

In some lakes, deeper weed beds will hold lots of pike. In other lakes they’ll be near the rocks. Also, a little breeze is better than no breeze. With a little wind, they’ll be shallower, but with a lot they’ll often slide a tad deeper.

We’re after “big fish,” so we’re going to be using big baits. We can fish fairly “fast” early in the fall and into mid-October, but when the water gets really cool later in the month you’ll want to slow down a bit.

It’s a good idea to have one angler throwing a spinnerbait, while someone else in the boat is throwing a crankbait. Sometimes the fish like the flashier spinnerbait; sometimes they prefer the crankbait.

I use a Cabela’s Tournament ZX Rod to throw these baits. I’ll team this with Sunline SX1 Braid in 40-pound-test. This combination seems to do a very good job.

If you live near good pike water, you should take advantage of the opportunities out there now. If you don’t, you should hook the boat up and go somewhere where they do exist. If you hit it right, you’ll be glad you did—a good pike bite is truly a memorable thing.