Rigging for Late Summer Northern Pike

By Dave Duwe - August 1, 2006
When the heat of the summer comes the Northern Pike action also heats up. Northern Pike prefer cool water to make their home, which makes them very predictable in the hot summer months. Big Pike will either be on the thermocline if the lake has one or on the deep weed line where they can attack their prey. The two lakes I fish most are Delavan Lake and Lake Geneva and each have a different pattern.

Delavan Lake has the deep weed line bite. The fish in July and August are in the 19-26 ft depth range associating with the deep weeds. The best way to catch these fish is by lindy rigging suckers. I prefer using a ¾ oz walking sinker and a 1/0 bait hook. Circle hooks also work very well. The leader length I like is 24 inches. I do not use a swivel, I prefer using a small split shot to hold my weight. This way if you get a deep hooked fish, you can simply cut the line, tie a hook on and slide your weight higher. It's a faster way to get back in the water.

This system is pretty basic, the key to the method is setting the hook directly above the fish, when you set the hook from the side you'll have a lot of break offs. I use no leaders because it reduces the number of bites and I prefer using plain 20-25# test Silver Thread. The best locations for the fish are the weed lines directly associated with shallow bays. The warm water pushes all the shallow fish to ambush points on the weed line where they can remain cool.

With the warm temperatures one of the biggest difficulties is keeping the suckers alive, due to the fact that the bait shops tanks have the fish at a very cool temperature. To combat this problem I like putting my bait in a floating bait bucket and then putting it in a 5-gallon pail of water. Once they warm up pretty close to the water temperature of the lake, I'll put them in my aerated live well.

Lake Geneva's Northern Pike population relate to the thermo cline. The thermo cline is typically present on our around the 4th of July. It starts in about 23-25 ft of water and by the end of summer it can be as deep as 45-50 ft. A thermo cline is a layer of water where the temperature gradient is greater than that of the warmer layer above and the colder layer below. A thermo cline is not found in all bodies of water. It it typical only in bodies of water that are very deep. Lake Geneva for example has a maximum depth of over 140 ft.

The rig is very similar to the one for the deep weed line bite. The only difference is using a smaller diameter line due to the cleaner water. I use 17# test clear Silver Thread. One good thing about fishing so deep is the lack of weeds, you are actually fishing away from the weeds, fishing the temperature change instead. The way that I present the bait is a slow back troll with my Minnkota transom mount trolling motor. I always prefer backtrolling because I can keep a more constant depth. I always go into the wind to maintain bottom contact. The bite can sometimes be very subtle, sometimes it feels just like a little extra weight but being that you know it can't be weeds, you should be able to recognize the bite. Again, make sure you always set the hook above the fish, don't drag the line across their sharp teeth. The key to this pattern on Lake Geneva is the bait. Lake Geneva Northerns prefer blue chubs rather than suckers. This can be a problem because most bait shops prefer the suckers due to their longer life.

To find the fish, you need very good electronics. I use my Vexilar Edge 3 with split screen and dual transducers. Those big boys show up really nice on my graph. Around the first few weeks of July, I will start out at around 25 ft and add 5 ft each week thereafter. Once the cool fall temperatures approach the bite ends because the upper water column will cool making the northerns more comfortable.

This summer try one of these methods on your favorite lake and see how it works for you. You will probably have a chance at a trophy fish of a lifetime.

Author Dave Duwe
Dave Duwe
Full-time guide Dave Duwe owns and operates Dave Duwe's Guide Service, featuring the lakes of Walworth County, WI. Dave has been guiding for over 20 years and is one of Southeastern Wisconsin's best multi-species anglers. Dave is an accomplished outdoor writer and seminar speaker. He is a member of the Great Lakes Outdoor Writers Association and Walworth County Visitor Bureau. Sponsors include: Lund Boats(Jerry's Sport Service Inc.), Mercury Marine, Arkie Jigs, and Vexilar Marine Electronics, a pro-staff member of Minn-Kota trolling motors,Hummingbird graphs, Cannon downriggers, Lindy, Pure Fishing and All Terrain Tackle. For more information, please check out Dave's website www.fishlakegeneva.com .