Northern Pike Fishing

esox lucious

Connecticut northern pike fishing has grown tremendously in popularity in recent years.  This can be attributed to  a rise in both pike numbers and waters that hold pike.  Fishermen in Connecticut now avidly persue the pike and respect it as a gamefish.  The pike's lightning-fast, savage strikes and fierce fighting test an angler's reflexes and skills.  Make it a day to head out for some of these toothy, slim beauties this year.

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Bait Fishing When To Catch Pike
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esox lucious, The Northern Pike

  The northern pike has really made a permanent home in Connecticut.  They are not native to the state but have been planted very successfully by the DEP and they are thriving in a few Connecticut waters.

   The pike has a long, slim body and its dorsal fin is near the tail.  The mouth is beak-shaped like a duck or alligator.  In Connecticut, they are a green or olive color with a bluish cast.  The color becomes lighter near the belly, where it becomes yellow or white.  The body is decorated with yellow-white spots on the sides.  This description is to differentiate the pike from the chain pickerel, a smaller native species in Connecticut.  The pickerel is yellow with black, chain markings on its sides.   It is generally smaller as well.

    When it comes to pike food, anything living in northern country up to 1/3 the size of the hunting pike is fair game.  This includes any and all species of fish, frogs, mice, birds, young waterfowl, muskrats, salamanders, snakes, crayfish, and anything else that meets the criteria.  Pike hunt by waiting and ambushing their prey.  They'll lay motionless for long periods of time in the weeds to grab a meal.  They will also group in schools of a couple or more and will hunt cooperatively.    Pike have a dangerous set of teeth in their mouth and they are meant for seizing and holding, not biting like a bluefish.  The teeth are set like barbs in the mouth.  When  prey is grabbed, they are held in place and prevented from escape, as out means pushing into the teeth.  Although they don't snap their jaws, make no mistake about it, a thrashing pike can tear a hand or finger with ease and efficiency that will shock you.  The teeth on the roof of his mouth tears into flesh and rips up and backwards.  In an incident in Lake Champlain, Vermont, I saw a fisherman lose a good chunk to a pike.

    The pike is pretty widely distributed in the world.   They can be found in the U.S., Canada, Alaska, Europe, and Asia.  In the U.S., the pike has been introduced into waters as far south as North Carolina and even Texas.  Naturally, they prefer colder northern waters.

Lure Fishing for Pike

    There are certain times when pike are very aggressive and will pounce on any artificial lure in the book.  Often though, like all fishing, it takes the right lure with the right presentation to draw the strikes.

    Pike will hit all but the fastest of lures.  A fast retrieve will usually outfish a slow one under most circumstances.  Since a pike's eyes are located on the top of his head and face upwards, the faster retrieve keeps the lure in the fish's field of vision.

    As far as lure selection goes, choose something that produces a strong flash.  Pike are very attracted to flashy lures and will make the strike more savage.  `Spoons are among the top choices for pike fishing.  The wobble and flash of a spinning spoon is tantalizing to a pike.  Daredevils and Red-Eyes are my top choices of spoons.  A quick retrieve is essential for the success of spoons.

    Originally designed for black bass, spinnerbaits are among the newest craze of pike lures.  They combine a hefty flash with a target the pike can see.  I usually use a grub trailer in a variety of colors on the end of a spinnerbait.  The vibrating tails will drive pike wild.  They work extremely well in very weedy areas where pike lurk.

    In-line spinners are also pike-getters.  I use a Mepps Aglia, usually with a gold or silver color blade.  If I'm not getting strikes on a larger model, I simply downsize.  Other spinners will work just as well as Aglias.  Occasionally I throw a large Rooster Tail on as well.  Spinners should be retrieved at a pace so that the blade is in constant rotation.  Vary the actual speed from slow to fast and slow again.

    Plastic worms are catching more and more pike, as are soft-plastic jerkbaits like sluggos.  You can rig them weedless (Texas), on a jig, or even Carolina rigged.  I like the weedless, weightless, topwater presentation the best for pike in water from 4 to 10 feet.  Any deeper and you'll need weight.

    Lastly, as for most gamefish, you can't beat the old Rapala.  A large golden Rapala can work wonders when pike are shying away from other lures.  Twitch the bait in violently around weeds and dropoffs.  A steel leader will take some of the action away from the lure, but they are essential for northern fishing.

Bait Fishing for Connecticut Northerns

    In Connecticut, bait fishing for pike out-produces fishing with lures.  Since pike waters are few and anglers are many, the pike see many different lures on almost a daily basis.  Eventually, the bigger fish will start to shy away from these lures.  That's where bait becomes deadly.

    For starters, try a large (4-8 inch) golden or silver shiner.  Fish it on a 4 or 5/0 hook with a steel leader attached.  You'll have better hooking percentage if you hook the bait through the mouth.  Start by fishing the bait on a bobber with the lead according to the depth and vegetation of the waters fished.  Pike will grab a baitfish sideways, swim off to cover, and then turn the fish and proceed to eat it head-first.

    This is the most common method of baitfishing for pike.  It accounts for many keeper and trophy sized pike in Connecticut.  You can also use terrestrial baits as well.  Frogs, perch, snakes, white perch, sunfish, and bullheads will also take pike.  You can fish them in the same way you would with the shiners.  Concentrate around dense weed edges, dropoffs, and river mouths.

When to Fish for Pike

    Pike bite well through the whole year.  The best time to catch them on rod and reel is the duration between ice-out and the start of summer.  The larger pike come into the shallows to spawn.  In Connecticut, the D.E.P. nets many adults to be control bred.  Other northerns will spawn (and try to spawn) in water that is 1-4 feet deep.  Big "logs" can be seen sitting in shallow water near breeding territory in the spring.

    Lures will work well in this period, with rapalas and spinnerbaits the number one choices.  Live bait will also take pike in this time.  Use smaller shiners (3-5 inch) around shoreline weeds and structure.

    After spring, your next best shot at a trophy northern is ice fishing. Click here to link to the ice fishing page.  Since pike are a coldwater species, they remain active throughout the winter.  Live minnows on a tip-up will take pike readily.  You can also try jigging for them.  Live or dead minnows on a Swedish Pimple or large teardrop jig works well.  Remember to use a steel leader either way!  As a rule, use the lightest leader that will do the job when ice fishing.

    During the hot summer months, the really big pike move into deeper water.  Smaller pike will remain in water from 4-10 feet deep.  These smaller fish can still be caught on lures and bait but the big northerns can become tough to catch.  One of the most successful ways of catching big summer pike is deep trolling.  A spoon or wobbler fished off lead line or a downrigger keeps the action alive.  Concentrate around dropoffs and deep weedlines.  Often, a single piece of structure such as a log or sunken debris will hold a trophy northern all summer long.  Leaving only to feed, this is the extent of their warm water travels.

Connecticut Pike Waters

    The lakes and rivers in Connecticut that hold pike are growing but still few.  When talking with most Connecticut fishermen, two names come to mind: The Connecticut River and Bantam Lake, in Morris.  These two bodies probably offer the best shot at landing a northern.  Both have plenty of them and they grow to trophy sizes readily.  These two areas are also the most popular.  In the river, look for deep runs and holes with good structure, especially weeds and submerged timber.  Pike will hold in these areas.  Cast to them with lures or drift live shiners down past the lies.    Bantam Lake consists of mostly weeds.  Although lures will take fish, the majority and larger fish come on live shiners or other bait.

    Although these two spots are the most popular, Connecticut offers other lakes that hold pike.  Some of them have good numbers of trophy fish.  Cast a line for pike in:

Colebrook Reservoir, Colebrook
Lake Lillinonah, Brookfield (state record yielding)
Mansfield Hollow Reservoir, Mansfield