How To

Fishing the Midwest for Big Fall Pike

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When pike move to shallower water in the fall, they become easier targets for anglers.

When pike move to shallower water in the fall, they become easier targets for anglers.

The fall fishing season is approaching quickly. The autumn months offer a wide variety of fishing opportunities for big fish—and lots of fish. Many anglers plan annual trophy trips for bass, walleyes, and muskies in the fall. One species of fish, northern pike, can be be easier to target this time of year. If you fish a lake that has a good population of northern pike, you should take advantage of this opportunity. Here’s how.

First of all, you need to be on a lake that has the potential to produce the big guys. Some lakes have lots of northerns around the two- to four-pound range. These lakes usually won’t have many big fish.

The best pike lakes are usually deep and have cisco, whitefish, smelt, or some sort of oily baitfish. The pike, walleyes, and muskies that eat these baitfish grow big.

During much of the year, these baitfish hang out in deeper water, and the pike hold close to them. Very few anglers chase pike when they’re suspended near the baitfish.

In the fall, many of these baitfish will move to more shallow waters and the pike will follow them. This is when they become most accessible to an angler’s lure. The pike are shallow and they are hungry, a winning situation for an angler that wants to catch a big northern.

There are several places to catch these pike in a lake, all depending on where the baitfish are. Look at shorelines that have gravel that baitfish can spawn on. Also look for rock reefs in water four to 12 feet deep.

However, in many bodies of water, beds of green cabbage weed in about seven to 15 feet of water can produce memorable action as well. Cabbage holds pike year round, but in the fall the big ones are prevalent.

Though trolling may work, casting probably works better. You’ll spook fewer fish, and it’s a thrill to have a pike as long as your leg attack bait boatside.

There are a variety of baits that will do the job. A Boobie Trap in-line spinner will produce, but so will a Booty Call Spinnerbait and a Stud Finder Swimbait. Salmo’s Maas Marauder has also proven itself to be attractive to giant pike.

Cloudy days with choppy water are good, but pike will eat when the sun is shining as well. At this time of year, the big ones are very opportunistic; when they get a chance to eat, they will. If catching a truly big pike is something you want to do, you should get on big pike water whenever you get the chance.

A large pike is kind of a rarity. Landing the fish and releasing it as quickly as possible is important. Netting the fish with the proper net will enable you to effectively release these trophies. Frabill has created a couple of nets specifically for big fish that will protect the fish and enhance release, for example, check out Frabill’s Big Kahuna net.

If you want to catch a truly big pike, the next couple of months will be the time to do so. Plan now to make northern pike memories.

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Image courtesy Bob Jensen

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