Rod Bending Pike Action

By Patricia Strutz - October 1, 2008
One of Wisconsin's most common gamefish is the scrappy Northern Pike. This predator is easily identified by its dark background marked by light colored horizontal bars. With a voracious appetite, a northern pike makes for steady rod bending action accentuated by quick bursts of strength and speed.

As a musky fishing guide, I especially enjoy encounters with pike because they keep us focused and "in the game." Fishing for hours at a time without even seeing a musky is all to often a common plight for the musky fisherman. These down periods can lead to daydreaming and missed opportunities when the elusive musky finally does show up. I welcome the chance to have my clients tie into a few pike to keep everyone mentally sharp.

To specifically target the "eating size" of this species, I recommend that female anglers equip themselves up with a spinning combo. Here's my suggestion: Shimano Convergence CVS 66M rod with Shimano Sedona 2500 reel. This rod will allow you to work a wide variety of lures, including the very popular and effective plastics. This larger spinning reel has a large line capacity for heavier lines. Spool the reel with 14# monofilament line, something with very low memory. You'll want a limp line that will not coil. A fluorocarbon leader can help prevent bite offs.

If you are going to target larger pike, you would benefit by gearing up with a baitcaster. It has a much better drag system and almost no line twist as you will have in a spinning reel. It will also handle the larger lures you'll be throwing. My suggestion: Shimano Convergence CVC-F70H rod or Compre CPCM70MH rod with Shimano Cardiff 300 reel. A 7'0 rod is the correct length for throwing larger spoons, bucktails, and spinnerbaits. You will not achieve much distance with anything shorter. Shimano rods have tapered foregrips. Gals should grip the foregrip (instead of palming the reel) for a stronger hook-set. The tapered foregrips are ergonomic; thus lessening the fatigue factor. The reel is a small and lightweight round baitcaster that will handle a fight from a big pike. Spool it up with 30-50# Power Pro (back with mono first) and a fluorocarbon leader to prevent bite offs.

Both artificial lures and live bait will produce results. I've found that many gals (myself included!) don't particularly care to use live bait. Since pike are notorious for hanging out right in the thick of the weeds; spinnerbaits (both the hairpin and the in- line style) work well. Any color blade will work. It's more the illusion of speed that gets these fish going instead of the color. In-line spinners, such as a Mepps #5, have been very productive because the blade spins relatively fast in comparison to the amount of forward movement of the lure. So, this gives the illusion that the prey is trying to get away, yet the slow moving lure is still easy for the pike to hit. I like the Mepps in a red & white combo.

Minnow baits and lipless crankbaits in the 3"-4" range can be used as well. These lures are very easy to cast and twitch through weedy areas. Producer Tackle's Rattlin' Shads and Roberts Outdoors PT Rattlers are both good. And the old stand-by, a single hook spoon such as a Johnson Silver Minnow tipped with a white twister tail, can be deadly. Again, color choice is not important, though I have found pike seem to have a penchant for chartreuse, white, and red.

If you prefer to use live bait I highly recommend using a slip bobber. If you are fishing in 5' of water you don't need 4' of line hanging out behind a stationary bobber. That type of set-up is very difficult to cast. A slip bobber rig tipped with a 3"-4" minnow, small sucker or shiner is your best bet. You'll need to judge your bobber size and amount of weight to anchor that minnow down appropriately. I normally use a single treble hook which I put just behind the dorsal fin.

Once geared up properly, it's time to hit the water. How does the new pike angler choose a lake to fish? Contact the DNR to review their creel census and information from shocking or netting. That will give you an indication of the numbers of pike in a particular lake. Once on the water, to find the pike: find the weeds. Look in small back bays located on the north side of the lake. These areas get warmed by the sun and weed growth will be good. Predator fish hide in the weeds, using them to help ambush their prey. Hopefully their next meal will be your appetizing spinnerbait!

As a stout catch and release advocate, most of the pike caught in my boat are released back into the water. This ensures a strong fishery for future generations to enjoy. Once in a while I do keep one and feel pike are among the best tasting freshwater fish our lakes have to offer. Properly filleted and cooked, a tasty pike rivals anything served at a 5-star restaurant. Many anglers lament the amount of bones they have to pick out of a meal of pike. The secret is to learn how to remove the "y-bones". Here's a step-by-step guide to properly filleting a pike:

  1. Start by making an incision along the belly and through the tough area between the two rear ventral fins.
  2. Next, keeping firm pressure on the back of the knife blade, cut along the backbone, all the way to the tail. Remove the fillet.
  3. Now you'll need to remove the rib cage. This requires a very shallow cut. Slide the knife just under the white body cavity lining and, again, keeping pressure on the back side of the knife, cut toward the belly and remove the rib bone.
  4. Locate the "dotted line" that runs almost the entire length of the fillet. This is one of the tips of the y-bones. Just above the dotted line, cut straight down and along the line until the tip of the knife blade clicks along the bones. The long side of the y-bones run into the fish towards the backside.
  5. Next, locate the bottom of the y-bone. It is found just below the dotted line. Cut in and under the y-bone, following the same lateral line as you did for the top part of the y-bone. Put pressure once again on the back of the knife blade and cut upward to meet the edge of the dorsal cut.
  6. Gently lift out the strip of flesh containing the entire set of y-bones. This method allows you to save two great fillets of pike, totally void of any bones.
This method does take a little practice but is well worth the effort. If your pike fillets look like they were driven over by your truck and boat, you'll need a bit more practice! Northern pike is firm, dense, and white. It can be cooked in a variety of ways- from frying up fillets in the traditional shorelunch manner to marinating the fish in lime juice and cilantro and grilling over a campfire. My favorite way to prepare it is in a stir- fry variation. My husband just raves about this dish that I call "Northern Creole." I have provided the recipe below and hope you readers enjoy it, also. I do add some extra cayenne and Cajun seasonings as we prefer it quite spicy.

Northern Creole

  1. 1# fish fillets
  2. ½ c chopped onion
  3. 1 clove garlic minced
  4. 1 16 0z. can tomatoes cut up
  5. 1 T. dried parsley flakes
  6. ½ t. bottled hot pepper sauce
  7. 1 T. cornstarch
  8. 1 T. cold water
  9. 3 small bell peppers, julienned (I use one green, one red and one yellow pepper)
  10. ¼ c. margarine
  11. 1 T. instant chicken bouillon
  12. Hot cooked rice
In skillet, cook onion, peppers, and garlic in margarine till tender but not browned. Add undrained tomatoes, parsley, bouillon, and hot pepper sauce. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Blend together cornstarch and water. Stir into tomato mixture, cook and stir until thick and bubbly. Cut fish into 1" pieces. Add fish to tomato mixture, stirring to coat. Return to boil, reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 5-7 minutes until fish flakes easily with a fork. Serve over rice. Fishing for Northern Pike provides rod bending action and can add a couple of tasty meals to your dinner table.
Author Patricia Strutz
Patricia Strutz
Patricia Strutz, "A Blond and Her Boat", is a musky fishing zealot whose energy and enthusiasm for the sport is contagious. Her true passion is row trolling for 'skies in late fall. She offers traditional casting packages, too. Strutz also works with other pro's to offer group fishing trips to Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Canada. Check out the WOW! Women on the Water page for complete details. Patricia especially enjoys teaching other women how to hunt muskies. She is an outdoor writer,co-inventor of the Sea-View Marine Shield, instructional DVD host, and may be booked to give presentations on musky fishing to interested groups. www.ablondandherboat.com