Fishing for pike (Esox lucius)
Everything you need to know about pike fishing, king of freshwater predators!
🤓 Pike complete description
The pike is recognizable by its elongated body, covered with small scales. Its mouth is flattened in the shape of a duckbill and represents ¼ of the total length of the pike. Its mouth is widely split and provided with multiple sharp teeth. For those who like to count, it would have 700 to 800 teeth!
Its lower jaw protrudes from the upper jaw. You can note 5 sensory pores under the lower mandibles, clearly visible especially on large subjects. It has a single dorsal fin located far back in line with the anal fin. The tail is slightly forked.
Its volume is changeable, some pike are very slender and others much shorter and stocky. This does not necessarily depend on their biotope because these two opposite forms can be observed in the same place, on the same station.
Its coloration is more or less marked. A pike that lives on gravel pits is likely to be very pale yellowish. This is just a mimicry because this same pike can change color in few minutes (personal observation). Its background color ranges from olive green to orange-yellow, brown and even black. The sides are marbled with asymmetrical light spots and more or less dark stripes. The belly is milky white. As for the fins, they can take on a reddish color. They are also streaked with dark, a phenomenon particularly visible on the tail and the dorsal and ventral fins.
🌍 Where to fish for pike?
The pike is a global and northern species.
It is found in Alaska, Canada, Europe and Russia stagnant and slightly running waters. Pike likes lakes, ponds and rivers. It can face strong currents but will have its rest areas in quieter places.
It has been successfully introduced in Spain. In the US, northern pike have also been reintroduced to the southern and southwestern states. The pike is present in some lakes of Morocco. The pike is also able to adapt to brackish water such as the Baltic Sea, Sweden, Finland, Estonia. This contact with salt water and thanks to richer food allows it to quickly attain significant sizes and weight.
It should be noted that throughout the world there are several varieties of pike, North America, Asia and Europe. The most recent was listed in France, in Aquitaine!
⚖️ Pike size and weight
The maximum size of the pike has been the subject of much raving for over a century! A delirium of fishermen but also of scientists. One has only to read specialized books in the late 1800s and early 1900s to realize the fantasy exerted by the supposed maximum size of the pike. And his appetite! In fact, the reality is already quite impressive. We are talking about a 31 kg pike in Germany, a 1.47m fish ... Lake Geneva is probably the place where the most 18/22 kg pike have been caught. But the few exceptional catches divided by the number of fishermen per day shows that such a catch remains totally unusual.
A pike of 0.80 m to 1 m is already a beautiful fish which will weigh between 4 and 7 kg if the belly is quite fleshy. With 1.10 m, the pike reaches the mythical bar of “10 kg”, always according to its waist size. Strangely enough, it is relatively "easy" to catch a pike from 1.10 m to 1.19 m, but terribly rarer to exceed 1.20 m.
Between 1.20m and 1.30m they are the monsters of the category and France is well placed in this challenge. The weight of such a fish can vary from 12 to 18 kg depending on its build. Going beyond 1.30m and heading towards 1.40m is unique, and it has happened to some specialists in big pike but also to some neophytes armed with a simple spoon ... Certain corners of Alaska, Canada , the Baltic Sea, Holland, Spain or Russia supply very large pike every year. Still, taking a subject of 1.20 m + is rare, whatever the country.
🍎 What does Pike eat?
The pike is a real predator, carnivorous, omnivorous and even cannibal! Its potential menu is varied. In a pike's belly you can find fish of all sizes. It loves fry but reacts to large prey.
In Canada I found two pike encased in each other. They were both two feet tall and they both died, victims of disproportionate gluttony! The pike is a cannibal, the big subjects appreciate very much the pike of 40/50 cm. I remember a 1.10m pike that practically cut a 65cm pike in half that I was fighting. The spine was severed and the two halves were held by pieces of skin and scales, worthy of the attack of a barracuda ... This big pike must have been annoyed by the disappearance of its meal, the next throw it has jumped on my lure.
In the stomach you can find crayfish, a baby hen, a rat, a frog, a little duck or a few large earthworms! Which doesn't make it such an easy fish to catch ... A resting pike can be surrounded by fodder without any panic being noticed. In the old books we can read that the pike eats 5 times its weight per day !!! A stupidity which has led more than one fishing company in France and even in Switzerland to open the pike during reproduction to kill them, Or artificially lower the water level to dry out reed beds when they are laid, to destroy the eggs, while the waters rich in predators are the most full of fish, which seems obvious elsewhere ...
The big pike, like the big trout do not in any way obstruct other fish or their congeners. In no way do they create a vacuum around them.
🌤 When to fish for Pike?
In most countries there is a season which is linked to reproduction and which results in legislation. This legislation can be downright simple with a national date for opening and closing. See quite complex as in Canada where you have to learn about each lake fished. Accidentally catching a big pike during reproduction is okay if handled correctly, on the other hand it is a shame to make it a goal at a time when they may have aggressive reflexes but remain extremely fragile bodily.
In France for exemple, February, March and April are breeding times. There is a definite discrepancy between the classic dates of several decades ago and those of today. Likewise, a lake and a river in a single department may be two months apart in establishing spawning grounds.
When it comes to fishing, every month of the year is interesting, especially with lures. Do not think that the pike is lethargic when the water is freezing. Supposedly scientifically proven ... Stupid. I say it's one of the best times, hard luring, in white water and more towards the surface than on the bottom! But not on the summer or fall positions, you have to look for those winter spots and that's what is captivating. The number of times I have to break the ice on the rings during a fight, on a very large pike! It's against preconceived ideas and I like it! In short, the 4 seasons are interesting with positions that are sometimes specific to a period.
🐟 Pike behaviour
The pike has a reputation for being lonely ... A theory too often repeated and totally false. It is true that in heavily fished rivers our fish adopt a solitary attitude, probably because they are few in number and more fearful.
In waters that are not subject to real fishing pressure, pike do not live alone. They can be several individuals together. Better, it happens outside the spawning that the pike is gregarious. I observe it every year and curiously at very different times. I don't know why, except that I saw 10-20 pike of all sizes caught in one place, without moving from place to place. Yes it's rare but I see it every year or a reliable friend of mine tells me about it. To illustrate this phenomenon, in Kazakhstan, in a boat, with two fishermen, without moving an inch, we caught nearly 40 pike in a row. The most curious thing is that the day before this post was empty and the next day too...
In Canada, on lost lakes, it is possible to see a few dozen pike together and especially to see 2 or 3 fish of one meter positioned one on top of the other. Out of the spawning period of course.
The wind and the food can bring the pike to change places. It is always good to know that. This phenomenon is extremely rare on small rivers or pounds but certainly not impossible on a large watercourse or a lake.
The pike is cut for speed but sprint style. Its lightning start always amazes! He likes to play on his mimicry to keep himself out. In some lakes that are a little over-fished, the pike can take more in-depth habits. As far as competing with so-called "deep" species. Gone is the image of the pike living in little water and in school stations. He can be be caught in pelagic. It’s not the funniest technique but the surprises are huge!
In the river and open waters, there is regularly a beautiful pike to catch. This fish is also able to descend 300 m of river, with current, to go hunting a common grayling on a gravel pit.
Despite its sometimes fierce appetite, the pike knows how to be indifferent to food for a fairly long period. So there are good times and more complicated ones that don't correspond to a specific season. A pond out of the way can feel empty for a month and all of a sudden deliver an impressive amount of touch. The pike is atypical and that's good for us!
🏠 Habitat & spots for pike fishing
The huge change that has revolutionized pike fishing is the equipment in general but above all a better knowledge of the fish and its approach.
It's time to forget he theories of yesteryear that we are repeatedly told in books and articles. We must get out of preconceived ideas! The solitary pike active in autumn and in water lilies is fine, but it is simplistic and uninteresting. This is just one situation, not necessarily the best, among many.
If you're thinking about a single stream or a single spot, pike behavior will boil down to one or two observations. When you fish for pike all over a country and around the world, your vision is much broader. And observations made outside of borders can help you considerably.
The ideal position for pike? It's between 40 cm of water and 20 meters! It is calm, stagnant water, but also marked eddies and areas of currents. It is a dead tree, a gravel pit, herbaria, it is also these sacrosanct water lilies and riprap. It's a rise from the bottom, a muddy bank, a break, a breach. An influx of water, dead water. So the perfect spot is likely to be everywhere. To be convinced of this is already a big step. This makes it possible not to fall into a routine that will make you fish the same places forever.
After that it is rather your fishing style that will correspond to a series of positions. A friend loves deep, flexible fishing. I prefer small depths and swimbaits. Obviously we do not fish for identical positions. If I venture into places i don't feel, I'm probably going to approach them badly. And the reverse is exactly the same. In addition, pike have to change their behavior depending on changing weather, mutating vegetation and increasing siltation. Pike can quickly adapt to new conditions, so do we fishermen! But approaching a new area without any prejudice and without letting any possible post pass, this is a fishing session that borders on perfection.
🎣 Techniques & tackle for Pike fishing
For pike, I would say there is lure fishing and ... that's it!
By fishing livebait, the pike which is more likely to swallow will be condemned. Animated dead bait is tedious and less productive. Trolling is purely food fishing so that does not concern us.
On the gear side, there is an endless choice of lures, followed by ultra reliable rods and reels. The braid is an asset for its finesse and the transmission of the tiniest touches. As for the leader, fluoro carbon has advantageously replaced steel, although ultra-thin flexible steel is still very useful! For treble and single hooks, I prefer those with a light barb. For a quick and efficient release.
🐝 Flyfishing for pike fishing
Fly fishing for pike remains marginal with us. Few fishermen do it in public waters. On the other hand abroad, it is a popular technique that allows you to make some superb fishing.
For the skeptics, a fly in the water is one of the best attractants for all predators in the world. In shallow water, sight fishing style, it is a treat and very instructive to see how a pike approaches the fly, gobbles it up and spits it out so quickly! There is no better way to explore seagrass and clear water. A 7 or 8 silk rod and fairly thick streamers do the trick. Opt for a fine steel leader, either 60 or 70/100 fluoro.
Depending on the depths sought there is the solution of a plunging silk, personally I do not like. There is also the possibility of plunging the imitation a little more, it is a little harder to throw but it is terribly more discreet in the clear water. The Float Tube or the kayak makes life easier and approaching the right area.
🐠 Lure fishing for pike
There are many solutions for pike fishing with lures! I would say there are 4 techniques that stand out. Soft lures, hardbaits, spinning / undulating spoons. Then the "big baits" with the swimbaits, Buster, Zalt and others.
Of course there are other lures, hybrids, there are endlessly, but let's stick with large families! And all of these families of lures allow fishing from the surface to a certain depth. The choice is enormous. If you hear that one of these lure families is no longer working, it's only because they are being misused. Everything works, in good hands! And everything is mediocre when the motivation is not there. It’s that simple.
Fishing for Pike with a soft lure
Soft lures have this immense advantage of being efficient in the smallest sizes as in the largest, with a large or extremely light weight. This weight can be shifted for slow lure work. The armament can be prominent or hidden on the surface of the lure to pass without hindrance in the seagrass beds.
In a boat, this is a technique that can be done vertically, especially with the help of a depth sounder. It is one of the few decoys that completely static can cause nice attacks. Colors, sizes, vibrations, solidities, there is something for everyone. Big pike fishermen delight in imitations of 25 to more than 30 cm, which implies a solid and powerful equipment often disproportionate to the size of the fish sought ...
And let's face it bluntly, a good soft lure in the hands of a total beginner can quickly lead to a few catches. It is clear that soft lures are indispensable in the search for pike. The only condition remains, that of loving fishing with these bits of plastic, which is not really my case ...
Fish for pike with a spoon
The more or less shiny or colored palettes look like old-fashioned fishing in reference to the Mepps-style spinning spoons of our parents and grandparents. Undulating, spinning or spinners, these lures are often used by default. Nothing works so we try a spoon.
But this family is also very technical, we do not fish in the same way with an undulating, spinning or spinner spoon. We must forget these too stereotypical linear trajectories and bring some opportune animation. A spoon will inevitably take fish and a pike monster will always be able to succumb to such a lure! When the waters are colored, a spoon remains a benchmark lure. Spinning spoon and spinners can be used with a soft lure, bucktail or feathers.
Fishing for pike with hardbait
Swimbaits are inseparable from pike fishing. It is this category of lure that has seen the most beautiful evolution. In a short time we went from simple (but good) Rapala to a multitude of performing swimming baits from the surface to several meters deep. All sizes and effects are available. And above all, some can really cast very far, giving us the opportunity to explore areas previously inaccessible from the shore.
To fish more in depth we will have the choice on a long lip or a short lip on a well weighted lure. And for the surface, the best can propel themselves very far with the possibility of making noise with the aid of mettalic balls or prefer a quieter swim, especially on spots that are subject to fishing pressure. Specialized sea lures like the BKS cleverly make their way into our top picks.
Not only are the solutions very numerous but depending on the way of reeling back the lure, these solutions are even multiplied! Just as you have to find a shoe for your feet, it is good to find a lure for your hand. Working the lure, speed of animation, letting the lure sink, these are details that totally change the way you see a single lure. And then in the sizes and the colors the choices are immense. This is my basic technique and I like the clean strikes it gives.
Big bait fishing for pike
Bigs baits are all those lures that are unusually large and sometimes fall outside the previous categories. The Nordic countries have paved the way for us with Buster, Zalt and I encourage European fishermen to look into specialty musky stores in the United States. There is a wealth of interesting information there. Also with purely "tropical seas" lures, especially those we use in tinted waters. Because they often have the particularity of working slowly and having a stroke appreciated by big pike.
Rather than recommending one or two specific lures, it's more interesting to try out some strange ones yourself. Just to see, and get an idea. Because like I said, we do not all fish in the same way and what works for one can be catastrophic for another, remember! Then for fun, go once or twice to Sweden or Finland to better assimilate this big lure fishing. Baltic pike love it!
🏆 The search for a record pike
The sheer number of impressive photos on the net and in magazines can make anglers who want to embark on the adventure believe that catching a 10kg pike is easy. Even if some add to it by showing the same fish every year under different seams, others must have tendonitis by dint of presenting the pike at arm's length. The fact remains that a lot of very large pike are taken every year.
Many fishermen have specialized in this exercise and with great success. Setting the goal of catching a 1.10m + pike is a superb personal challenge. By boat or on board, it's accessible in many countries! And no need to go to private ponds.
Looking for little-used lures, finding positions and knowing how to approach them, testing different ways of recovering your line, this is a constructive program. And why not turn to a professional fishing guide in this research, to progress. This hunt can take a year, two years or more, but it must be successful. In any case for the most conscientious and the most patient!
Last advice, when in doubt or in failure, open up to others. Better to ask a question or two than to doubt, this is by far the most promising solution! Take 10 real big pike specialists in France, ask questions and you will have a lot of different answers. On the schedules, on the stations, board or boat, on the depth, on the miracle lure and on the season. But everyone will be a perfectionist in their field.
📝 Pike fishing stories
France, spring 2009. Frosty morning, the pike season has just opened but it's the big trout I'm looking for on a gravel pit. Little water, I can see the bottom almost everywhere. And there in front of me, on the pebbles in just a meter of water, a huge, huge, monstrous pike! I have my trout rod and my 10/100 braid. I cast my lure, an X80, and I pass it in front of its head. He does not start, he opens his mouth and without panic he gobbles my hardbait. The fight is powerful and intense because of dead trees and bushes downstream. He writhes, sometimes he plunges his entire head into the vase, probably to get rid of the lure ... Impressive. There it is, I never have a landing net, I go into the water to bring it in my arms! I miss it several times, I am tense, conscientiously that it is a record! I finally got him and I understand his massive figure, it's a female who hasn't laid eggs yet. I handle her gently, in my arms I feel like I'm holding my kid! This pike is 1.27m with a disproportionate waist circumference: 0.66cm! I take 2 scales and I release the beast ... Her dress is extraordinarily beautiful. She leaves quietly, the water is calm again, it's over. Under the microscope this scale shows 15 marked streaks, maybe 15 years? I retaliated for pike that long but never of this weight. I weighed one at 16 kg +, this one was much heavier. 18 kg minimum ...
Kazakhstan, May 2, 2008. First morning of fishing with Michel. We discover this country of reed beds, the harshness of Russian fishers and the incredible density of pike! At 11:30 am on the stop, Vladimir made the accounts, we released 102 pikes! Unbelievable ... Without monster but with many fish of 80/90 cm. The feeling of fishing a fish farm! We join the other boat, at the head of our friends we can guess the fishing. But in which country did we fall? !!! For 3 years I will return with friends to fish for a week in these places, always with amazing results! Never met other fishermen if it was not poachers that go as far as the Caspian Sea for the sturgeons. Camouflaged, hooded, armed with Kalashnikovs on their ultra powerful boat. And the combat helicopter is never far away ...
Sweden, Baltic Sea, April 2007. The sea has just thawed for just 15 days. Swedish people bathe ... Early in the morning, with Mika, we take our little boat for a trip around a multitude of islands and islets. Two hours of navigation to find our spot from the day before. It's a discovery fishing because here the information is scarce and without great flavor. An instinctive prospecting fishery. Our rods are armed with large lures, here it is a paradise for Buster, Zalt and other large swimming fish. It is a labyrinth, channels, seagrass beds, shoals and an always close horizon. We are in the action from the start, our option is good. Beautiful pike are active! Sometimes we landed to an island for a shore fishing. A delight. These Baltic pike are not very pretty, but they have character! We release dozens of fish from 0.80 to 1 meter. No luck, I unhook 2 submarines and Mika blew up his leader in fluoro on a monster. In the evening, happy and tired, we return in a fairly limited wind. Saltwater fishing, atypical fishing. It was my bro Mika's last fishing trip ...
Canada, Yukon, July 2015. Dream bivouac, at the end of a succession of lakes. Our friendly guide explains to us that no one here is casting from the shore. The first tests right in front of our tent were incredible! Pikes in quantity, of good sizes and not very complicated to bite. This morning, Normand drops us off at the mouth of a river that connects two lakes. The first hundred meters of this stream is a breeding ground for fine pike! No panic, there are only two of us, you have to be methodical! Start by making the edges, then cast further and finish with lures that propel themselves at long distance. In my range of hardbait there is all that. Realis, K-Ten, X80 Magnum and above all Vision to pass just above seagrass beds. A monstrous golden eagle is watching us from the opposite shore and getting angry with each of my catches! In this clear water the pike remain wary if we are not careful. Using your lure box becomes a fun game! We will release dozens of splendid pikes and a pair of large lake trouts. 4 hours later, Normand comes to pick us up, we haven't seen the time go by ...
✍️ About the author
Julien Derozier is an adventurous fisherman who has crisscrossed the 4 corners of the globe in search of the most beautiful specimens. Recognized as one of the best French-speaking fishing guides in the world, his sense of observation has allowed him to catch thousands of fish in all situations. It is his ability to meticulously note all the details of his fishing sessions in a small book that inspired Grégory, co-founder of FishFriender, to imagine the smart fishing logbook that has become FishFriender. It was almost 25 years ago, on the edge of the Gabonese forest, among giant tarpons and elephants
Today, Julien shares with us his experiences, his anecdotes and his analysis of certain species he has encountered. Far from being exhaustive, its approach can be supplemented by your own experiences. If you practice another technique, or have fished this species in other regions, do not hesitate to complete this article.