Early Season Northern Pike

April 7, 2015 by  

By Bob Jensen


When anglers gather and the talk turns to early season fishing, walleyes are a popular topic in many areas.  In other regions, chasing largemouth bass gets the conversation going, and in other areas, it’s crappies.  One fish that is ignored, or at least doesn’t generate as much early season fishing interest is the northern pike.  That’s too bad:  Pike are willing biters early in the year and they’re fun to catch.  If you want to catch early season northern pike, consider the following ideas.

First and obviously, you need to be on pike water.  Some areas have pike, some not so many.

In most bodies of water where pike live, they’ll be the first spawners.  They’re back in the bays or slack water areas dropping their eggs before walleyes, bass, or panfish do so.  Often times, even early in the year, the pike we catch will have completed the spawning ritual.


Northern pike are biting right now in some regions. John Peterson caught this one on a spinnerbait.

On large rivers or lakes, pike will be found in areas that have warmer water and vegetation.  Bays often have those requirements and are where you’ll find the largest gathering of pike.  If you’re quiet and the water is clear, you will often be able to see the pike cruising.

In the smaller rivers that criss-cross much of northern pike country, bays and backwater areas aren’t too abundant.  If that’s where you fish mostly, look for pike around anything in the water that will break the current.  A log, rock, broken piece of culvert or tile, just anything that a pike can get behind that provides a current break will frequently be a pike’s temporary home.

Another good spot on a small river can be where there’s a turn in the river.  When a river turns, it creates a corner.  The current washes into the outside turn of the corner, and the opposite side has substantially less current flow.  Northerns will often be found on that inside turn where current flow is light.

Lots of baits will take northern pike early in the year.  Slow moving baits will be best to start.  As the water warms, larger, faster moving baits will be more appealing.  The larger baits will be more attractive especially to the larger fish.

If the pike are especially lethargic, something below a bobber will be best.  Some very successful pike-catchers prefer a dead minnow under the bobber.  Suspend the bait above the bottom, maybe a foot up, and patiently work it where you think the pike are.  Rig the bait on a quick-strike rig so you can set the hook right away.

A jig/minnow combination can be productive, but a jig/plastic offering will usually be just as good and is a lot less hassle.  In many areas, a three inch Impulse Swim’n Grub on an eighth ounce Slurp! Jig will be as good as it gets.  Use a swimming retrieve and keep the bait within a foot of the bottom.

Spinnerbaits and minnow-imitating stick baits like a Salmo Sting or Minnow will also be productive.  If you choose the spinnerbait, go with about a quarter ouncer.  If the stick bait is your choice, tie on something in the four to five inch size.

Keep in mind that the waters we’re talking about are not those lakes and rivers in remote areas where the pike grow huge.  We’re fishing where most people fish.  You’ll get a big pike every now and then, but most of them will be those willing biters and hard fighters in the four to ten pound range.  Those guys are fun and they’re biting right now.  Get out and catch one!

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