The Northern Pike: A Fierce and Fascinating Fish
The northern pike (Esox lucius) is a species of carnivorous fish that belongs to the same family as muskellunge and pickerel. They inhabit brackish and fresh waters of the Northern Hemisphere, especially in Europe and North America. They are characterized by their voracious appetite, powerful jaws, sharp teeth and aggressive behavior. They are also valued by anglers for their size, strength and fighting spirit.
The average size of northern pike varies depending on the region, habitat and food availability. Generally, they range from 43 to 64 centimeters in length and 0.9 to 2.3 kilograms in weight. However, they can grow much larger in some waters, reaching lengths of over 127 centimeters and weights of over 22 kilograms. The largest northern pike ever recorded by an angler weighed 25 kilograms and was caught by Lothar Louis in Germany in 1986. This is the current IGFA all-tackle world record for northern pike.
World Record Northern Pike in USA
The largest northern pike ever caught in the USA weighed 20.9 kilograms and was caught by Peter Dubuc in New York’s Sacandaga Lake in 1940. This is the current North American record for northern pike. The fish was so big that it wouldn’t fit in Dubuc’s boat and he had to tow it to shore with a rope. The fish measured 133 centimeters in length and had a girth of 64 centimeters.
Top 5 Biggest Northern Pike in USA
According to the IGFA records, the top 5 biggest northern pike caught by anglers in the USA are:
|1||20.9 kg||133 cm||Sacandaga Lake, NY||Peter Dubuc||1940|
|2||20.8 kg||N/A||Lake Winnibigoshish, MN||Cal Johnson||1929|
|3||19.3 kg||N/A||Lake Champlain, VT||William A. Roy Jr.||1977|
|4||18.6 kg||N/A||Lake Coeur d’Alene, ID||Wes Hamlet||2010|
|5||18.4 kg||N/A||Lake of the Woods, MN/ON/MB border waters (USA side)||John Gergen Jr.||2018|
States Where You Can Find Northern Pike
Northern pike are native to most of Canada and Alaska, as well as parts of the northeastern, midwestern and western USA. They have also been introduced to some states where they are not native, such as Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington. Some of the states with the best northern pike fishing are:
- Alaska: Home to the largest northern pike in North America, Alaska offers many opportunities to catch trophy-sized fish in lakes, rivers and streams. Some of the best places to fish for northern pike in Alaska are Innoko River, Minto Flats, Susitna River and Togiak River.
- Minnesota: Known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”, Minnesota has plenty of water bodies that hold northern pike. Some of the most popular lakes for northern pike fishing in Minnesota are Lake Mille Lacs, Lake Vermilion, Lake Winnibigoshish and Leech Lake.
- Wisconsin: Another state with abundant lakes and rivers that harbor northern pike, Wisconsin is a great destination for anglers who want to catch big fish. Some of the best places to fish for northern pike in Wisconsin are Green Bay, Lake Winnebago, Sturgeon Bay and Wisconsin River.
- Michigan: With access to both Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, as well as many inland lakes and streams. Michigan offers a variety of fishing opportunities for northern pike enthusiasts. Some of the best places to fish for northern pike in Michigan are Burt Lake, Grand Traverse Bay, Lake St. Clair and Manistee River.
- New York: The state where the North American record for northern pike was set, New York has some excellent fishing spots for this species. Some of the best places to fish for northern pike in New York are Great Sacandaga Lake, Lake Champlain, Oneida Lake and St. Lawrence River.
Best Bait for Northern Pike
Northern pike are opportunistic predators that will eat almost anything that moves. However, some baits are more effective than others in attracting and hooking these fish. Some of the best baits for northern pike are:
- Live bait: Live baitfish such as ciscos, suckers, alewives, shad, yellow perch and bluegill are very appealing to northern pike. They mimic the natural prey of these fish and trigger their predatory instincts. Live bait can be fished on a slip-sinker rig, a float rig or a quick-strike rig with a wire leader to prevent bite-offs.
- Spoons: Spoons are metal lures that resemble the shape of a spoon. They have a curved body that wobbles and flashes in the water, creating vibrations and reflections that attract northern pike. Spoons can be casted or trolled at various speeds and depths. They can also be jigged, twitched or jerked to create different actions. Some of the best spoons for northern pike are Johnson Silver Minnow Spoon, Dardevle Original Dardevle Spoons and Strike King Shadalicious Swimbait.
- Spinnerbaits: Spinnerbaits are lures that consist of a wire frame with one or more spinning blades and a skirted hook. They create noise, flash and vibration in the water, which draw the attention of northern pike. Spinnerbaits are ideal for fishing in heavy cover, such as weeds, logs and rocks, as they are less likely to get snagged. They can be retrieved at various speeds and angles to trigger strikes. Some of the best spinnerbaits for northern pike are BOOYAH Pikee Spinner-Bait Fishing Lure for Pike and Musky, Northland Tackle Bionic Bucktail Fishing Jig and Strike King Mini-King Spinnerbait.
- Crankbaits: Crankbaits are lures that have a lip or a bill that makes them dive and swim in the water when retrieved. They imitate the look and movement of baitfish, which entice northern pike to chase and bite them. Crankbaits come in various shapes, sizes, colors and diving depths to suit different fishing conditions. They can be casted or trolled at different speeds and directions to create erratic actions. Some of the best crankbaits for northern pike are Rapala Super Shad Rap, Rapala X-Rap Jerkbait XR10 Fishing Lure and Cotton Cordell Pencil Popper Topwater Fishing Lure.
More Useful Information
Northern pike are remarkable fish that offer a lot of enjoyment and challenge to anglers. However, they also require some respect and care when handling them. Here are some more useful tips to help you catch and release northern pike safely and successfully:
- Use a wire leader: Northern pike have very sharp teeth that can easily cut through monofilament or braided lines. To avoid losing your lure and your fish, use a wire leader that can withstand their bite. A wire leader also helps prevent deep hooking, which can harm the fish’s mouth and gills.
- Use a landing net: Northern pike are strong and thrashy fish that can injure themselves or you if you try to lift them by hand or by the line. To avoid this, use a landing net that is large enough to hold the fish without bending or breaking it. A rubber-coated net is preferable as it reduces damage to the fish’s scales and slime coat.
- Use pliers or forceps: Northern pike often swallow the lure deep into their mouth or throat, making it difficult to remove by hand. To avoid hurting yourself or the fish, use pliers or forceps to grip the hook and twist it out gently. If the hook is too deep or too embedded, cut the line as close as possible to the hook and leave it in the fish’s mouth. The hook will eventually rust out or fall out on its own.
- Hold the fish horizontally: Northern pike have delicate internal organs that can be damaged by holding them vertically or by the gills. To avoid this, hold the fish horizontally by supporting its head and tail with your hands or a wet cloth. This way, you can minimize stress and injury to the fish and increase its chances of survival.
- Revive the fish: Northern pike can get exhausted and stressed after a long fight, which can affect their ability to swim and breathe. To help them recover, revive the fish by holding it in the water and moving it gently back and forth until it regains its strength and swims away on its own. Do not release the fish until it is fully revived and shows signs of life.
Northern pike are one of the most exciting and rewarding fish to catch. They are big, strong, aggressive and beautiful. They also offer a variety of fishing options and techniques to suit different preferences and conditions. By using the best lures and baits for northern pike, you can increase your chances of hooking and landing these magnificent fish. You can also enjoy the thrill of fishing for northern pike while respecting and protecting them for future generations.