Fly Fishing for Northern Pike - Part 1
The Northern Pike (Esox lucius) was mostly considered a trash fish until around the early
1960s. Bait and artificial fishermen didn't like them. No one is quite sure just why people's
opinion of them changed but now they are considered a sport fish. From a fly fishing
standpoint, they are certainly a sought after species. They hit and fight hard and are
tough to land on a fly rod.
Northern Pike are predators. They will eat just about anything they can catch - forage
fish, baitfish, minnows, frogs, mice, leeches, crawfish, dragonfly and damselfly nymphs.
They will hide around cover and attack their prey and they will feed on anything they can
catch in open water. Once they chop down on something, it will rarely escape the huge,
curved teeth of the Northern Pike. Northern Pike flies need to be trough.
Northerns are found in lakes but they can exist in some rivers. You can catch them on the
fly just after the ice melts. They will begin to feed in the shallows when the water
temperature reaches about 40 degrees. They will usually remain in the shallows until they
spawn. Spawning occurs between water temperatures of 45 and 50 degrees but it varies
depending on the location. They deposit their eggs in as little as six inches of water.
Northerns prefer shallow water with weeds. The more weeds, the better they like it. The
shallow water of the northern sides of the lake usually warm up first and they seem to
prefer the most shallow areas they can find. Once they begin to spawn, they will cease
feeding. If you are seeing lots of Northern Pike in shallow water during the Spring and
they are not eating your fly, most likely they are in the process of spawning.
When the spawn is over, the Northerns will move out of the shallow bays and coves out
into the lake where the water is deeper. The bait they mostly rely on usually does the
same thing. This usually occurs when the water reaches about 60 degrees but it greatly
depends on the location of the lake.
Fly anglers need to change their strategies when the pike move into deeper water.
Whereas you can usually see the fish in the very shallow water of the early season, you
can't see them later when they move to deeper water. You have to rely on blind fishing
methods as opposed to sight fishing.
Copyright 2010 James Marsh
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