After spending 5 days last week in the Georgian Bay, Ontario fishing for Northern Pike, I’ve had a chance to reflect on the various methods that proved successful. Since each experience on the water yields new trends and patterns, I decided to summarize some of the things I learned (or relearned) following the trip... Here are my findings.
When you first begin fishing a new stretch of water that has been undisturbed for a while, the chances for catching larger and more active fish are at their highest. Now I know this is not great revelation since unfished waters, once fished, will catch fish, right? But, stay with me for a minute.
While on my most recent trip for Pike there was one area, Moose Bay, that produce more and larger pike than all the others combined. The first day was absolutely incredible with 3 fish landed over ten pounds and a dozen more in the 5-10 lb. range. Everything we threw that first day was either struck and caught, tail smacked (when a pike or other predator fish strikes its prey with a blow from the tail to stun it) or followed back to the boat.
The next day, we headed back to the same area but the intensity of strikes and follows had diminished. This time we only caught 8 pike in the same time span. By the third day of casting, trolling, and live bait rigging through the same areas in Moose Bay, bites and hook-ups were few and far between. As a result my fishing partner and I began to approach the fishing more delicately with slower retrieves and trolling speeds. We did not turn to subtler techniques on purpose, our trend toward fishing slower and quietly grew over time (and without our noticing) as a natural response to the diminished number of strikes and follows. But, the slower we fished the less we caught.
As we neared the end of the third day, with only a couple of fish to show for our efforts, It occurred to me that our presentation had slowed considerably and we were fishing much too delicately.
Northern Pike are impulsive and will often time strike through reflexive responses even when they’re not hungry or actively feeding. They are susceptible to being provoked into striking a fast moving lure that crosses their field of vision. I decided to employ the "annoy them into a strike" tactic.
I tied a size 14 blue and silver Rapala Husky to my line and let rip. Casting as far as I could with the wind, I then proceeded to retrieve the bait with a rapid Crank, crank, crank, ...pause, rip (and repeat) motion back to the boat. Halfway through the second cast a pike nearly pulled the rod from my hand.
In the last hour, my friend and I caught 6 pike with this frenzied cast and retrieve method of fishing. It was something I’d known and witnessed before but for whatever reason I’d forgotten. It’s only natural to fish more carefully when things turn slow and you may have to remind yourself to break out and trying something loud, large and fast to get the fish to strike again. Take advantage of a fishes’ evolutionary response to strike reflexively the next time things get slow on the water. It’s sure to reawaken their feeding response and put more fish in the boat.