Canadian Pike: Masters of The AmbushBy Tom Berg
Northern pike are among the most elite of Canada’s gamefish. They are at the top of the food chain in the cold, clear lakes that they inhabit, and they maintain that position by eating all other fish that are small enough to swallow. Rows of needle sharp teeth are used to grab and hold their prey, but first they have to catch it.
Ambushing smaller fish is a favorite pike tactic, and they are masters of the game. Big pike tend to set up shop at the edge of a weedbed or even a clump of weeds and wait for a hapless perch or minnow to swim along. Before the smaller fish have a chance to notice the motionless pike, it lunges forward and engulfs them, and that’s the end of their story. Then the pike gets back into ambush position and waits for the next meal!
According to Webster, the word ambush means: the act of lying in wait to attack by surprise. Fishermen can use this behavior to their advantage when fishing for Canadian pike by looking for places where pike might try to ambush small fish. Big weedbeds hold lots of likely ambush sites. Points in the weedbeds provide good hiding places for the predatory pike, and any small fish that come around the corner suddenly come face to face with the toothy grin of Mr. Pike.
Gaps, holes and indentations in the perimeter of the weeds are also prime ambush areas. Pike lying in the holes seem to melt into the background, and they patiently wait for the next passerby. Since the whole idea of the ambush is to surprise the prey, the best ambush points are those that allow easy access to good hiding spots.
Straight weed edges can even be used as an ambush point. Pike often get right into the thick weeds and position their head at the edge of the green growth, and simply wait for baitfish or panfish to cruise along the weedy edge like a highway. The well hidden, motionless pike is usually overlooked, and the unsuspecting baitfish is ambushed. A quick attack and it’s all over.
One of the best areas to catch ambush-oriented pike is in the large reed beds present in many Canadian lakes. These thin buggy-whip reed beds are a favorite haunt of hungry pike, and they choose ambush points throughout the entire reed bed. Fish stake out areas along the edges, but they also hunt in the middle of the reeds.
Look for anything unusual inside the reeds that might point to a pike hideout, like a small clump of lily pads or some other type of weeds. A thicker clump of reeds might be all that it takes to attract a pike, or even a group of two or three reeds that have been broken and are hanging down in the water. Sometimes it doesn’t take much.
Fishermen have long known that pike love hunting around weeds, so that’s where they hunt for pike. Some use live bait: minnows, golden shiners, even large suckers. But most anglers today use artificial lures in their pursuit of the feisty northern pike.
Many lures are excellent pike catchers. Mepps spinners and spoons are hard to beat, especially the larger models. Size #4 or #5 dressed Aglia spinners and the heavy-duty Musky Killers are proven producers. When it comes to tempting the biggest pike, go for a Mepps Giant Killer or even a Tandem Giant Killer! Natural colors like gold, silver and black are always good, but bright chartreuse, orange, and firetiger sometimes outproduce everything else.
Spoons have been catching pike for more than 100 years. Everyone has heard of the famous red and white Dardevle spoon, and it has caught countless numbers of pike over the years. Of course, the Dardevle spoon comes in a rainbow of colors besides red/white. Large Mepps Syclops spoons (#3) are also deadly. Canadian Viper spoons from Thundermist Lures are quite good, too. Gold or chartreuse are always great colors for big pike.
Lures that imitate other fish are extremely productive, too. Reef Runner Ripshads and Little Rippers seem to be custom-made for toothy northern, and they come in a wide variety of color patterns. One of the best is the green perch finish (perch are a favorite pike food), but many of the other natural finishes and metallic colors are great, too.
One important thing to note is that you should always use a quality steel leader when fishing for northern pike. Their teeth are razor sharp and if they inhale your lure they will cut the line instantly. Some people don’t use leaders when fishing with large plugs and really big inline spinners, but those people do lose a certain percentage of fish and lures to bite-offs. It is better to go with a leader, and the new Knot 2 Kinky nickel-titanium leaders can’t be beat (www.aquateko.com). Besides losing a nice fish, big pike lures are expensive!
In the end, it doesn’t matter if you fish for northern pike from a boat or cast to shallow weeds from the shore. Use your favorite lures in openings and pockets in the weedbeds where pike can ambush an unsuspecting meal, and you will be well on your way to battling it out with the Great Northern Pike.
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