These northern pike fishing tips are primarily for fall northern pike fishing. For me fall northern fishing was always better than spring fishing. Doing most of my northern fishing in MN, with their late opening season, generally the big northerns were already in deeper water by the time the season opened. At least in Southern MN.
I’m going to assume you have some knowledge about fishing for northerns but I’ll give a couple of the techniques I use and some tips on what I look for when fishing northerns in the fall.
As far as northern pike fishing lures goes I liked a large red daredevle, a fluorescent orange and gold daredevle, a magnum floating rapala, musky lures like a suick or a musky spinner. Big lures were good lures and still are under the right circumstances. However I will say that he majority of my big northerns have come on bait and not northern pike lures.
I was always hoping to catch a huge trophy northern pike but the biggest I ever caught was just a hair over 17#. Not huge by my standards but damn big for SW MN. I’ve had my picture in the paper so often I lost count and most of the fish were northerns over 8-9#. 4# northerns were pretty common but anything much above that was considered a good fish for the area.
When I’m riding around checking out lakes, or even in other parts of the country, I just automatically pick out where I’d fish and for what. Sometimes you can drive by a spot on a strange lake and notice it looks and has almost the same conditions as another spot on a different lake, but a spot where you know you can catch big northerns.
Northern habits or instincts are pretty much the same in almost every lake so it you can match what you know to be good conditions you should catch northerns. There are two types of conditions I’m always on the lookout for.
The first type of structure I look for is some shallow water with some deeper water on each side. A typical example of this would be roads that are under water. The other conditions or structure I look for are large boulders that are around a rocky point with drop offs into deeper water close by. If the boulders are in calmer water that’s good to. One more for you, If you can find some shallow water in a bay that has an old creek bed that’s a couple of feet deeper than the rest of the water. All 3 of those places have worked well for me to catch large northerns.
One other place worked well for both northerns and crappies. Both were there during most of the open water period. It was a very small lagoon with 12-14 boathouses built on wooden poles. Lots of 4# northern pike in the lagoon but every now and then a 10# and some days a couple of them. I’ve seldom seen another place that duplicated those conditions.
If I’m trolling in the fall I’m going to start with the daredevles and then to the floating rapala and then the musky sized spinners. I’ll troll right where the prop wash disappears behind the boat. Maybe 20 feet behind and at a fast walk. Most any good northern pike lures should work well in the fall but I’ll still take shore fishing over a boat.
Oops, almost forgot my secret northern fishing weapon. It’s not a secret I keep but it’s also something I guess most people just don’t believe. Anyway, my big northern fishing secret is simple a couple of drops of Dr. Juice Northern on each bait or lure. That combo will out fish anything without Dr. Juice. I know that for a fact as I’ve tested it numerous times and even written about it once. You can read about it here at Northern Pike Fishing Tips rather than me write more about it here.
Here’s a fact you might not know about northerns but they like to come up to inches below the surface and bask in the sun. Except for the creek bottom thing all methods are in water warmer than the surrounding water and all provide close cover so the “Esox Lucious” can ambush her prey. As you might suspect from the fact they like to lay in the sun they also aren’t real ambitious, preferring to strike from ambush or better yet, finding something freshly dead that they like to eat.
I take advantage of the warm water or where the warm water and cooler meet around rocks or other cover and the freshly dead aspect to catch the vast majority of my northern pike. My favorite pike fishing bait is a large frozen smelt. At least 7 inches long or longer. The longer the better. Big pike like big bait. By the smelt for northerns when ever you see them as the larger smelt can be very hard to come by. I’ve used smelt that was frozen for 3 years without a problem so if frozen in freezer bags it should be good for at least 3 years.
I’m lazy too so I have a 25# snap swivel at the end of my line. I hook the snap to a 3/8th – 1/2 oz jig head with a heavy hook. I attach at 4-5 inch line with a treble hook at the end. I use the same trebles for northern pike that I use for walleyes. However the northerns don’t really seem to care about the size of the trebles so go as big as you’re comfortable with.
Attach the line with the treble hook to the jig head. Then hook the large smelt thru the head with the jig. Put the treble right alongside the dorsal fin toward the back. Now put a couple of drops of Dr. Juice Northern on your smelt and cast it out on top of the roadbed. If you haven’t had a bite in 15 minutes put a couple more drops of Dr. Juice and cast if back out but into the ditch this time. If you haven’t had a bite in 30 minutes move on to the next spot.
This smelt and Dr. Juice combo is irresistible to big northerns so if you haven’t had a bite move. There just aren’t any hungry big northerns around. This same technique works in the bays on the Missouri River in South Dakota in the spring just after ice out and a couple of days of sunshine. It should work in any shallow bay in the spring and fall.
If I can’t find any large smelt I will use large suckers or creek chubs. Same technique as for the smelt. Jig head and treble plus the Dr. Juice. If I’m fishing northern pike around rocks I often use a float to hold the bait up a foot or two off the bottom and occasionally I’ll add a large colorado inline spinner to the live bait rig. You can also stomp on the sucker to kill it and lay it right on the bottom. Don’t expect this to work quite as well as the smelt but it does work.
If I’m feeling ambitious I’ll start out casting a few northern pike fishing lures but not for to long as the dead smelt also work a lot better than pike lures do, from shore. Northern lures are great but once again, not as effective as the dead smelt and Dr. J. If you have a noisy and large lure in your fishing tackle box you might give it a try but as before, don’t waste to much time as the dead baits work much better.
If you have any questions about these Northern pike fishing tips and pike fishing lures you can post a comment and ask on this blog and I will answer it for you, if I can.