PIKE THROUGH THE SEASONS S REFLECTIONS FROM A MANITOBAN PIKE ANGLER
By Daniel Kiazyk
1) Early Spring
Depending upon the type of spring, pike will be located in a few "prime" areas. Bays facing south with access to deep water are a good place to start fishing. Edges of dead plant life can be effective when they may be lying in wait, looking for some unexpecting meal to swim by. The mouth of a small river/creek will concentrate pike, especially inlets from areas where water will warm a bit more than the larger lake. Pike seem to like these areas for different reasons. Warmer water is definitely important but the life it draws to it in the spring is what the pike like best – food delivered right to them.
2) Later Spring
Pike seem to continue to relate to bays and incoming water, but they will set up just a little further out from the incoming water source and a little further form the back of a bay. Activity in general increases when pike move into these new areas. Some of my best pike have been caught during this period. A little secret I've run into while pursuing pike during this period is that this "season" will occur at different times in Manitoba due to the wide variety of waters and latitudes – in far northern lakes Pike may set themselves up in these areas until the middle of July.
Larger pike seem to disappear during this period. The "hammer handles" and small pike still inhabit many of those areas, which larger pike have abandoned for quite sometime. Can you still catch big pike? You bet" Three reflections have a large bearing on where you might locate a large pike. Firstly, they will head to "larger" deeper water. Big pike require deep cold water. Secondly, pike will frequent definite structural elements related to the deeper sections of a lake; I've caught many pike while fishing for lake trout and my bait comes up along structure related to deep water!) Finally pike will relate in proximity to forage. Even though the fish's metabolism is slowed by the cooler water, essox lucius (devil fish) requires an abundance of forage: put the latter three together and you'll find pike. In some smaller lakes where pike swim, you may have an advantage of locating fish, as they will be localized into definite areas – remember let the really big ones go – they're the gene pool for big fish. Some have attributed the lacunae of big pike in southern Manitoba to their removal (by commercial and angling pressure of a long period of time) and hence their genes are no longer present in many southern lakes.
4) Fall and First Ice
As fall approaches, pike once again seem to locate ice manydifferent areas. One key to their location will be to focus on forage. If the pike's predominant forage, moves shallow in the fall e.g. whitefish and tulibee, the pike will follow. If forage moves to deeper structure as do walleye and perch, pike won't be far behind. Of course, pike can be anywhere at this time (because water temperatures in shallow areas are once again to the large fish's liking) so a wide range of options exist. Mouths of rivers also become prime locations as they attract fall spawning fish as well as others who set up in the area due to false spawn or the availability of food. Rivers, streams, seem to have more forage in general for all species and pike of course will be there being such opportunistic feeders.
As the cold winds of January lock all of the Manitoba's lakes in 3 or more feet of ice, pike continue to feed. There are remarkably predictable times to contact larger pike through the ice. First ice as is a prime time to fish pike through the ice. River mouths or deeper structure all offer possibilities. The problem for me is that there isn't enough time to fish all spots before the actions wanes. It will only be at the end of the ice season when pike will move into bays where they'll spawn that you'll have another shot at a good fish. Fish in these contexts are quite vulnerable and should be released to complete their life cycle. Removing big fish at this time almost engenders futility for fish and other future anglers. Remove them and their potential progeny are wiped out forever. Wildlife managers have to consider limiting access to areas where these big pike frequent or a slaughter might be incurred.
Little pike , as one northern resident I knew always said, love to bite. If you were ever hungry and had some way to fish you'd never go hungry. The trick, however, is to focus your efforts on those times and places (using the appropriate techniques) where you might encounter more than a little "devil".