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Jw 16 pound pike

The spring of 2012 following the winter that wasn’t has been a test for spring pike anglers on Georgian Bay. By mid March it looked as though we were going to skip spring and jump right into summer. As April rolled around it was as if Mother Nature woke up and realized what the date was, turned on the cold and hit the wind switch. These seasonal abnormalities might be confusing to most anglers but the pike just stick to the same schedule they have always been on. As soon as the ice breaks up they begin their migration to the same spawning areas they have gone to for most of their lives.
Last year (Spring Pike 2011) we wrote about the decline in available spawning habitat due to lower water levels. Pike prefer to spawn in very shallow marshy areas and shoreline grass. The declining water levels on Georgian Bay have left many of these marshy areas high and dry forcing pike to find other suitable habitat such as shallow weeds or various aquatic vegetation  that are less than desirable taking longer to warm with less protection for fry.  The mortality rate of north pike is extremely high during the first year. On average less than 3% will reach sexual maturity. After that they move to the top of the food chain with few predators to worry about.

On average North Pike live less than 10 years in most inland lakes but Great Lake pike live much longer and grow much larger. Growth rates vary but on average a 6 year old fish in Georgian Bay will grow to 76 cm or 30 inches in length.  Growth rates slow after they reach sexual maturity at approximately two years for males and 3 to 4 for females. It is at this time they choose a spawning area and will return to it for a lifetime if the habitat is suitable. Pike have been known to travel great distances to return to their original spawning bays. Last year (2011) water levels were very low in the spring and this year they are even lower. Given the extremely mild winter and lack of precipitation maximum levels normally peaking in early June may have peaked by mid May. These declining levels will eventually take their toll on populations.

My annual spring pike fishing partner Bob Formosa and I have been  exploring the eastern shores of Georgian Bay for over 35 years covering water from north of Pointe au Baril to Severn Sound.  This year we targeted the areas north of Honey Harbour for our first outing. We spent the first day in the Moon River area and although we caught a lot of fish the first afternoon, average size was a little smaller than we were looking for. We always seen to be on a quest for the next 20 pound fish and after covering a lot of water and big fish bays we came up empty.

The second day we moved south and continued with the same pattern but moved out of stained water to the clearer waters of the bay. Our first targeted area has produced some big fish over the years. Our morning pattern was the same. We would fish the outer areas with deep cabbage and deeper water points leading into shallow bays and work our way closer to the skinny muddy areas where big fish go to rest and metabolize food. Big fish don’t normally feed in the shallows. They feed in deeper water and move in with a full belly. These fish can be very difficult to catch during the afternoon period when the bays have warmed and the sun is high. But often after lying belly down in the mud all night to rest after a late dusk and early evening feeding, they are ready to feed again and this is the optimum time to find and catch big fish.

Classic spring pike areas have mud or clay near shore. The darker bottom warms faster and holds heat longer. They should be close to deeper water with a healthy forage base. The perfect bay has coon tail weed close to shore and deep cabbage weeds near the primary feeding zones. Cabbage grows in firmer bottoms and coon tail grows in mud or clay. Points with shelves at various levels are perfect for ambush feeding. These bays have all the essential elements to make a great big fish area.

Water temperatures can play a big roll in how active fish are but as we have learn the last few years fish will can be aggressive in colder water. Ideally a bay or area has been warming for several days and by the time the temperatures have reach 60 to 65 F they should be consistently active. Once the water is constantly over 70 F there is no reason for big fish to visit the shallows because they can metabolize food anywhere. Big Georgian Bay pike are shoal fish and like it deep, clear, and cool.

We fished water from 53 to 58 F. Under these conditions the presentation has to have variable speeds and actions. Long pauses are a must.

After combing the outer waters with jerk baits and swimbaits we inched our way shallower. Half way in the bay there was a patch of coon tail weed with the odd strand of cabbage. Bob cast a jerk bait just over the bed and as it flashed over the weeds he felt a tick but no fish. A second cast and a couple of jerks, a pause and wham! From the outset Bob know it was a big fish as it headed for open water and tried to grind the jerkbait on the bottom. It was a few minutes before we got the first look and after several minutes the fish was beside the boat. We weighed the fish quickly and released it. The fished 18.5 pounds and that was a great start to the day. Bob Formosa with a classic fat Georgian Bay Big Girl weighing 18.5 pounds and about and approximately 42 inches (107 cm).

After disturbing the area with our first fish we decided to let it rest and try a bay close by. A few casts using a Live Target Smelt jerkbait was all that was required and a few minutes later we boated one over 16 pounds. This was an incredible start to the day and reminiscent of a day two years ago up near Pointe au Baril when we landed 11 fish over 10 pounds. As the sun set high on the bays and the water became murkier from the carp spawning near by the bite shut down. Pike are site feeders and like it clear or free of sentiment when hunting. We caught a couple of smaller fish close by but we were still in search of another one over 20 pounds.

We found several large fish shallow and some even larger fish in deeper water but on days when the bay is like glass and the water is crystal clear it’s a hard day to get bit. Sometimes a lowly sucker just sitting close buy can trigger a strike or even some rubber bait just lying on the bottom. In these conditions a big fish will stare at a bait for a long time before picking it up. Sometimes they just rub up against it or hover over it. It requires a lot of patience to wait out a fish like that. But with so much water to cover we didn’t want to play the waiting game. Even when the bite is dead there is so much to explore for future reference.  The bass have moved into the bays  already and whereas the pike are under some pressure to find new spawning habitat the bass seem to be thriving under current conditions. Often you will have to leave a once productive bay because the bass are so aggressive.

Baits and Rigging

I use several rods so I'm ready for any condition. Most of my rods are 6'8" to 7'2" medium heavy with fast or extra fast tips. All but two are bait casting and they are all loaded with 30 pound test braid. The other two rods are spinning rigs with 20 pound brain. I use them for weightless plastic baits required for very quite presentation. Up until this year I used a combination of heavy fluorocarbon and titanium leaders. Now I only use the titanium leaders. String Ease makes a great single strand fast clip that is very thin even at 30 pound test.


The last couple of years we have had very good luck using swimbaits like Mega Swammers. This year it was an all jerkbait bite. Even then the bites came during long pauses. The baits we used were as follows. We did use some other jerk baits with different colour patterns. Different jerk bait designs act differently depending on speed and other techniques. I can make a Live Target Smelt run 2 to 4 ft. and as deep as 6 ft, with the right action. The smelt also has a soft rattle which is nice in stained water. Sometimes you just want it to dart and pause and other times you want it to roll up on it's side to create more flash. The Husky Jerk runs much shallower and tend to roll more and has no rattle. The new String Ease leaders are much lighter which is essential to allow jerk baits to suspend properly. The fluke was used weightless for extremely slow presentations and a soft entry into the water when in very shallow quite bays. The Swammer swimbait is excellent for deep weeds and burning across the surface over shallow grass flats when used weightless. Under the right conditions we may have thrown some spoons as well. When fish are more aggressive spoons and bucktails are perfect for covering water.


Georgian Bay offers great pike fishing year round and there is thousands of miles of shoreline and more bays and inlets than can be seen in one lifetime. Even a bad day of fishing can be an enjoyable day on the most beautifull body of water anywhere. If your fishing through July or August when the water warms take a snorkel if you have one. It's beautiful under the surface as well.


And don't forget a camera!

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