Stalking Early Spring Trophy Pike
by Ed Carlson
Winters grip now reluctantly fades as ice peals slowly away from bays an creek arms all over the frozen North. As Mother Nature Sheds her winter blanket we too can dare to peal a few layers away and again feel the growing warmth of the sun. Ah, could it be time to dust off a few long rods and make preparations for wonderful things to come?
Very soon some of the best opportunities of the year will arise for trophy pike, true bruisers, and very possibly a chance for that fish of a lifetime.
Wake up, its spring
Winter becomes shorter and the days become slowly but steadily longer. Sun light increases while temperature's creep up beginning the process of eliminating the accumulated snow pack.
Small streams of water meander into slightly larger ones, and thousands of tiny trickles eventually merge into creeks, streams, and rivers.
Through out this process the water will pick up sediments and also gather precious solar heat while gradually eroding the ice and snow it pass's over in rout.
A drop to a trickle, a trickle to a stream, a stream to a torrent, ever flowing faster an wider becoming dark warm and rich searching for a creek, river, lake, or bay to rush into and spread it's warmth and treasures.
At last, spring has shown promise and the scent of this promise is quickly picked up by baitfish, and very soon after that by hungry pre-spawn Northern Pike.
This pre-swawn behavior may begin long before the ice retreats from the banks of the creek arms. Pike start late winter migrations into back bays and channels both in the search for baitfish and to satisfy the urge to seek out spawning habitat.
Pike spawn in very cool water in comparison to other game fish. They are often the first to spawn in many systems, as their preferred temperature range for spawning is 33 to 45 degrees.
Pike Females deposit up to 100,000 eggs at random in what areas they find to be most suitable or avalable. On occasion they have even been known to spawn under the ice during late thaw years.
The scent of spring seeping into the water below the ice appears to triger a response that tells the pike spawn is nearing. The egg mass has been developing in the females since last fall but more energy is needed to fill out the eggs and prepare for the rigors of spawning.
To store energy they need to feed aggressively by means of hunting avalable forage, or scavenging upon winterkilled fish or amphibians left by retreating ice.
The stage is now set for the biggest pike of the year to be highly concentrated and ready to feed.
Evan considering that large portions of the bays or adjoining lakes or reservoirs feed by the early spring run off are most likely still largely covered by ice, the time for scout prime areas to fish is now.
Water temperature has now become the crucial ingredient to locating trophy pike and prospective shore angling locations. As ice recedes from shoreline areas the nutrient and sediment rich waters left behind are rapidly warmed by the growing strength of the sun.
During this period muddy bottom sheltered bay areas and murky creek flowages quickly heat up producing the ideal area for a multitude of pike to lounge in and ripen their bulging egg mass in preparation for spawning.
Conveniently lots of other tasty fish have the same idea so feeding is high on Momma pike's mind, however she is not likely to pursue aggressive presentations in per-spawn mode but key on winterkilled meals more easily consumed.
With all this in mind we look to sheltered back bays allowing warmth and security near likely spawning habitat. Prime habitat for successful spawning has proven to be newly flooded grass or brush.
Cattail bays may hold fish but grass is a better spawning habitat and more easily functions as a good place for pike to spread there eggs and offers a high degree of protection after the hatch has begun.
The ambient air and water temperature will dictate the degree of hunting that pike may pursue during this phase. Experance has shown me that a mid, to late afternoon bite is the norm in these very early seasonal conditions.
Scouting in the evenings or early morning pays dividends in huge pike. Map out several good bay's and creek arms noting the best wind direction for fishing each individual area. Many times the wind will change direction cooling a bay and sending the pike off to hunt for warmer waters near by.
I like to fish pre-spawn monster pike on the creek arms associated with a major resivoire, such as Lake Oahe in South Dakota, and Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota. Both systems yield monster pike that have hit the high 30-lb. range, with some approaching 40, huge pike in anyone's book.
These location tactics are not just restricted to these systems but often will prove productive in smaller lake systems and flowages anywhere in the pike's home range.
One handy trick I picked up years back from a long time pike wrangler was to take a pair of binoculars and scan the shoreline from one of the abundant bluffs that line the bays or creeks.
Borrwed this from the Fishing Minnesota site. It's a general start for your spring hunt. To tell ya the truth nothin beats acutal leg work and scoutin g. Do yur home work and it will pay off for sure. My local lake by my house , I was able to find one early spawning spot and was so happy when I did. I try and learn something every year I go out in the spring. Pay attention to the wind direction and temperature as these are 2 key factors to your success. Tight Lines and good luck!!