The Pike are BackBy Craig Ritchie - September 21, 2022
Part of that comes from limited opportunity. Bass fishing is great in September, but I've been fishing bass all summer. Walleye fishing is turning on, but that will only get better in the weeks ahead, and it's the same for the muskie and steelhead. Not so for pike. Where I live on the Great Lakes, opportunities for really great pike fishing are actually fairly limited. There's terrific action in the spring when the season first opens, but it's short lived, as rising water temperatures soon drive the fish into deep water for the summer, where they're extremely difficult to locate. By mid-September and into early October, they return to the shallows for another big feeding binge. Then as water temperatures continue to drop and even out, they once again scatter lake-wide.
It's only for a few weeks in the spring and fall when numbers of bigger pike are concentrated in easily predictable spots, and that's why I make a point of getting in my licks while the action is at its peak.
Finding FishThe reason pike concentrate in spring and fall comes down to water temperature. Although they're attracted to shallow water and its wealth of easy prey, adult pike are fairly sensitive fish and don't like being too warm. That's why they retreat to the depths every summer.
As lakes approach fall turnover, water temperatures in the shallows drop, inviting pike back to their early season haunts. What that means is the best places to find pike in early fall are the very same places where you last saw them in May - hanging out along shoreline structures that connect the shallows with the depths of the main lake basin.
On lakes that lack such distinctive structural features, look for pike to gravitate to the open side of deep weed lines, which can do essentially the same thing. What you want are spots where winds confront places where prey fish can be found in abundance.
Fall Pike TacticsLocating pike is more than half the battle in the early fall, because once you find them, the actual catching is pretty easy.
If I'm fishing a fairly extensive area and I'm not sure where the fish might be, I'll usually start by trolling the face of the structure with large, deep-diving minnowbaits that kick out plenty of vibration. The idea is to work the bait right over bottom, or just over the tops of any submerged weed patches. Old standbys like the Rapala J13, Rapala Super Shad Rap, Bucher Jointed Depth Raider and Rebel Spoonbill may be legacy baits, but they continue to put big pike into boats year after year.
If I'm fishing a place where the structure already suggests key focal points - spots on top of spots, as some anglers put it - then I'll forget the trolling and just begin casting right from the get-go, to keep my offering in prime territory for as long as possible.
The whole game is incredibly weather-dependant, and the rapid onset of cold fall weather will bring the fast action to a close. That being the case, get out there while you can, and take advantage of this limited opportunity to enjoy fast action with chunky, aggressive fall pike. It doesn't last for long, but while it does, it will quickly make you forget about all those other temptations competing for your attention at this wonderful time of year.