LATE SEASON PIKE
By Ken Poor
My boat never goes into stowage until after the launch ramps start to ice up or there is ice on the lakes. The main reason I wait so late in the season is because I like to fish late season northern pike. Late in the fall season, when the weed beds start to die off, all the bait fish that were hiding in them are exposed to the predators. That is when the big pike move from deep water into the shallows to feed on them and bulk up for the coming winter.
Specifically, the area to target is the deep weed edge on main lake or secondary points or the saddle in between islands or islands and the shoreline. Deep water adjacent to these areas is important. Typically, I will work depths from the deep weed edges in about 12-feet of water out to depths over 25-feet. Watch for the balls of baitfish on your locator with large marks close by.
Another key area is mid-lake humps with some weed growth that are adjacent to deep water. Again, watch for the balls of baitfish on your locator with large marks close by. Start your drift well up-wind of the hump and let the wind carry you past the hump before you end the drift.
When you select a lake for big fall northern pike the bigger the better, but only if it has a good forage base. Pike will eat any type of fish it can catch, but specific types of fish such as suckers, ciscoes and trout will result in bigger pike. Perch, walleye, bass and bluegill as well as just about any other type of fish in a lake is on the diet list for pike. The major difference in the types of forage is that fatty forage makes for fat northern pike.
Southeast Wisconsin lakes that can produce big pike include Browns Lake, Wind Lake, Geneva, and Delavan to name a few. Several other southeast Wisconsin lakes are fully capable of producing a big late season northern pike. For example, late in the season on Lake Geneva, use a slip-sinker rig, suitable leader, with a 4 to 6-inch fat head minnow or bigger, for big northern pike. Work the deep edges of the flats in 25 to 35-feet of water.
In September, the lake water begins to cool and as the season progresses the deep-water northern pike will move onto the flats to feed. When this condition occurs and if you’re lucky enough to be in the right spot, you could catch a Lake Geneva trophy.
Use a 6 ½ to 7-foot, medium heavy rod with an Abu Garcia 6500 reel or something equivalent and spool your reel with a 30-pound test braided line tipped with a high-quality wire leader.
Lures include ½-ounce white overarm spinner baits dressed with a red plastic split-tail dressing, straight shaft spinnerbaits either white or chartreuse, and deep diving silver/black or silver/blue wide body crankbaits with rattles. Each of these lures should range from ½ to ¾-ounces.
Northern pike have big sharp teeth and equally sharp gill plates. Make sure you have the correct tools with you for handling big pike and this includes a good size net, a long set of needle-nose pliers, a mouth spreader and wire cutters. For your safety and the proper care of the pike keep the pike in your net while you remove lures and also to take photos. Especially with big pike always practice catch, photograph and release (CPR).
Now you know why my boat doesn’t go into storage until after the snow flies. When the late fall pike show up, they are very aggressive and they are terrific fighters.