By now the leaves have started to fall, or quite possibly they may have already fallen, completing their one-way trip to the earth. It’s late fall, freeze up is a month away and there’s a hint of winter in the air. This is the pike’s last hurrah. All pike are feeding and feeding well this late into the season, which for many of us may seem a bit strange, as pike are usually associated as the fish of summer. But fall pike are a different animal all together.
For one, the bigger a pike gets, the more intolerance it has for warm water. In fact a big pike, say any fish about 10 pounds or better, will take off and move to the sanctuary of the deep during the summer. That’s where the cooler water is. This is why we catch very few large pike during the heat of the summer. Sure we all catch a bunch of pike about six or eight pounds, but catching those big toothy critters over 10 pounds are hard to come by.
Come fall, however, lake water temperatures cool to the point that big pike are no longer inhibited by temperature and are free to roam, which is exactly what they do. They push up into the shallows to hunt and I really do mean hunt, other fish. In my neck of the woods the lake whitefish makes up a large portion of the Pike’s diet and it isn’t uncommon that half of the pike we catch during a regular fall outing will have the tail of a lake whitefish sticking from it’s throat. Contrary to trout, late season pike are active fish.
I’ve had days where a top water bait catches everything in the water. You can’t go wrong by starting the day tossing a Zara Spook or a Suick in the shallows, be it a weedline or a fast break off a point. Both are good prospecting lures that get hammered, and I mean absolutely hammered when the bite is on. There are days, however, when the fishing requires a little more effort and that’s when I switch to two old faithfuls. I’ll either run a floating diving Rapala Original Float Rap in the Firetiger color or a firetiger Husky Jerk Rapala. Both are plugs and they are great at catching pike.
If the lake has a little chop, the floater diver is more than enough to get a pike to bite. The same can be said if the day is a little or a lot overcast. On those sunny flat calm days however, I’ll move right over to the husky jerks and work the mid depths. The Husky Jerk is a suspending crank bait that will literally hang in the face of a following Northern, which more times than not is too much for them to take and they’ll lunge out to strike.
The neat thing about fall pike is that all classic holding water will have pike, but as fall progresses to freeze up an interesting and annual occurrence happens. The weeds start dying off. This in a pike’s life is a big event. As weeds die, they consume, rather than give off oxygen. That’s a bad thing for a fish, which requires oxygen to survive. But not all weeds die off at once. There will be islands of green healthy weeds kicking around right to freeze up and it is these places we should concentrate our efforts. When you find a green healthy weedbed late in the season you’ve found a pike paradise, packed full of pike of all sizes.
Fall is typically when I’ll catch most of my biggest pike. The reason is simple: aggression. These fish are putting on the feedbag and doing everything in their power to bulk up for the winter season. It’s a straightforward program – eat and eat more. The best approach is to start the day working active presentations and move a lot. It’s run and gun fishing, hitting the best spots and hitting them fast. It guarantees that the bait will be in front of more fish and odds are, more fish will bite.
If you’re like me, the hardest thing for me to do is leave a place when I’ve started catching fish. But the pattern usually goes; get into an area, catch a bunch fast and then the action starts to taper. I often stay, trying to squeeze out those last one or two bites. Eventually I’ll pull anchor, move a mere hundred meters away, get into a whole new batch of fish and I’m right back into the red hot action. Mobility is often the key to steady pike action.
Pike fishing during the waning fall season is fun. It’s packed with action, excitement and big fish. I’m sure all it will take is you landing that first three footer and you’ll be as firmly hooked on fall pike fishing as I am.