March 31st, 2015
Spring is by far my favourite time of year to catch big Pike in southern Ontario. During this time of year, the Pike are up shallow, concentrated in small areas, and ready to feed. This opportunity is only available for a short time after ice out, as the Pike will begin moving out to their deeper summer areas in late May or early June depending on how warm the water is.
Spring Pike locations are pretty easy to find by looking at your lake charts and satellite images. You want to look for a shallow back bay with nearby access to a creek or small river. The pike spawn back in these creeks, and remain nearby for about 2-3 weeks post-spawn. Typically these areas are about 2-5 feet deep and characterized by dirtier water than anywhere else on the lake, as well as emergent vegetation. A lot of times these areas will be shown as marshland on your lake charts. The dirty, shallow water heats up much faster than the main lake, and will normally be at least 5 degrees warmer early in the season.
Typically for this type of fishing, the afternoon bite is going to be much more productive than the morning, and calm, sunny days are much better than cloudy and windy. This pretty much goes against everything we’ve been taught as anglers, but it’s all based on water temperature. In the morning, the water is cold and the pike are going to be much more lethargic, but once it starts to heat up, they start to cruise around, letting the sun warm them up and become much more aggressive. It’s not uncommon for water temperature in these back bays to fluctuate by as much as 5-10 degrees Celsius over the course of a day. In my opinion, the key time to be fishing is between 11 am and 3 pm. Early in the morning it’s a good idea to scout out all the bays on a lake searching for fish, so once the water heats up, you can dial in to where the fish are and focus your time on the highest concentrations of pike.
When I’m out pike fishing early in the year, there are three different baits that I’ll be throwing about 99% of the time- jerkbaits, swimbaits, and a spoon. Post-spawn, I really believe that a productive technique is more about pissing the fish off than having a natural, realistic looking presentation. Therefore, I generally throw bright coloured baits and give them a very erratic action. For jerkbaits, two of my favourites are Rapala X-Raps and Husky Jerks in a bright orange or clown colour. I like to use a two-twitch cadence with about a 3 second pause in between, but it can vary from day to day. As for swimbaits, last year nothing could beat a 4” white XZone Swammer rigged up on a 1/4 oz. football head, reeled just fast enough to keep it up off the bottom. Going into this year I’m also excited to try out the new PowerTeam Lures 4.8” Swinging Hammer and Berkley’s new Havoc Sick Fish swimbait. Finally, a chrome Williams W60 spoon is something that I’ll always have tied on when pike fishing and it’s one of my go-to lures that will catch fish when nothing else will.
As for tackle, I’m always going to be using a baitcasting combo for pike, spooled up with PowerPro braided line between 40-65 lb. test. I use the same rods for pike as I do flipping heavy cover largemouth, so anywhere from a 7’-7’6” medium heavy or heavy action rod. Instead of using a fluorocarbon or wire leader, I like to use a short 25-30 lb. monofilament leader. The mono provides a little extra stretch when a big pike crushes your bait and is also very buoyant which helps keep jerkbaits up off the bottom in the very shallow water.
Here in southern Ontario, the spring pike season will start at ice out in Zone 17 and the second Saturday in May for the rest of the lakes. It’s a great time of year that a lot of anglers don’t take advantage of, and provides a realistic opportunity to catch some trophy pike.
Steve is a talented multi-species tournament angler, based in Orillia Ontario. When Steve isn’t on the water, writing articles or editing YouTube fishing videos, he’s an Environmental Studies student at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario. Steve plans to pursue a career following his passion for the outdoors and in particular fishing.
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Steve is a talented multi-species tournament angler, based in Orillia Ontario. When Steve isn't on the water, writing articles or editing YouTube fishing videos, he's an Environmental Studies student at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario. Steve plans to pursue a career following his passion for the outdoors and in particular fishing.More by Steve Rowswell