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Saturday, December 29, 2007
Lighten Up for Red Lake's Northern Pike
If you want to catch more Northern Pike on Red Lake, Ontario, next summer, try fishing with lighter tackle.
I should add right here that I'm talking about anglers who like to cast for pike. Those who prefer trolling need heavier equipment just for the drag of their line and lure behind the boat. Trolling will be the subject of a future blog. Right now let's talk about casting.
Casting is the most popular way to catch these abundant and voracious gamefish. And although you can catch some northern pike virtually anywhere on the lake by casting any old lure, there are techniques and equipment that will help you catch the most and biggest fish.
And oddly enough, the key is to use lighter tackle.
Red Lake's Northern Pike zero-in on spoons that are 2-2.5 inches long (2/5 to 1/2 ounce), Mepps spinners of about the same size (#3, #4, #5), 1/4 oz jigs with 3-4-inch plastic twister tails. Beetle Spins (1/4 oz size) are deadly and so are 3/8 oz and 1/2 oz spinner baits. Topwater buzz baits of 3/8 oz to 1/2 oz can be lots of fun although pike miss these more than they connect.
Crank baits work well but they are difficult to take out of the fishs' mouths since they usually have multiple treble hooks. The 6-7 in length are good on straight stick baits like Rapala, Cotton Cordel, Rebel.
Shad Raps and the like also work well, especially the Rapala Shallow Shad Rap. Stick to the 2.5 to 3.5 inch size in these. They have the added advantage of being pretty darn good at catching walleyes.
It takes a fairly light rod and reel to cast these smaller lures any distance and you want to do exactly that: plunk them 75 feet or so away from the boat. It is the rod and reel (and line weight) size that so many fishermen make a mistake. They instinctively want heavy outfits which would seem natural since they are looking for big fish. Unfortunately, these rod and reel combos won't let them cast the smaller lures more than 30 feet. That's not far enough to catch the quantities of pike that are laying farther away.
A spinning rod with 8# test monofilament or braided line is perfect for this. That's not a mistake, 8# test. It's likely the same outfit many people use for bass back home.
How do you catch 20#-plus pike on 8# line? You set your drag so the fish can pull out line when it runs (but against the resistance of the drag). After a half dozen runs the fish gets tired and lets you bring it to the net.
What about the braided or fusion lines like Spider Wire or Fire Line? Couldn't you use the line that is the diameter of 8# but the strength of 20# (or whatever it is). You would be better off to use the line that is the diameter of 4# and the strength of #8. Why? Because you can cast smaller lures!
Those anglers who fish with smaller lures catch many more fish than those using large lures, sometimes 10 x more fish. The difference is like night and day.
They catch more fish and they catch more big fish.
The key to catching large quantities of pike by casting is to run the lure several feet below the surface as opposed to spinning it just below the surface. This presents a challenge when using the smaller lures because if you crank them in too fast they pop right to the top. Sometimes it helps just to choose a heavier lure, such as in the case of smaller spoons. Select spoons that are made of brass (heavier than steel) or which are of thicker metal. Little Cleo, Len Thompson and Dardevle are best. Cheap, thin metal spoons are worthless.
Finally, when casting, get these smaller lures close to cover such as weedbeds, logs and rocks.
Remember, you're in Canada to catch fish, not protect your lure from the bottom.
One last thing: why, you ask, do Red Lake northern pike like smaller lures anyway?
I have no idea. Sorry. I'm not a fish and no matter how hard I try, I can't think like one.
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