Cool Water Pike
By Kurt Amundson
When the temperatures consistently soar into the upper eighty and ninety-degree range, the "dog days" of summer come on strong. Heavy weed growth, algae blooms, and an overall negative feeding mode of most fish makes a fishing trip less appealing and usually less productive. However, there are a few species of fish that continue to provide excellent fishing action during the "dog days" and one those species is the northern pike.

The northern pike is traditionally a cool water species. Why is it than, that many of the biggest pike taken each summer are caught during the warmest months of the year? The answer to that question is directly related to the location of the baitfish of northern pike as well as a preference for temperature. Big northern pike will feed on a variety of baitfish including ciscoes, suckers, perch, shiners and gamefish such as walleye, and sunfish. They may also feed on baby ducks, snakes or whatever happens to swim near them. Pike tend to concentrate in locations where they can easily ambush their prey or they will concentrate in locations where the number of baitfish is so great that it is relatively easy to pick off a few. This is where your "dog day" pike action comes into effect.

When the temperatures rise, baitfish such as suckers will concentrate near cool water springs or where a cool water creek empties into a lake or river system. The water temperatures may be several degrees cooler in these locations. This will attract baitfish and pike to the location. Find these spots during a hot stretch in late July or August and you may be in for some of the best northern pike fishing of the year.

Finding cool water springs in a lake may not be easy. You can check your temperature gauge on your graph for subtle cool water changes or you might ask a local bait shop owner or guide for the locations of the springs. An easier spot to find is a cool water creek or river emptying into the lake or river system. When I lived in Southeastern Minnesota a few years ago, I spent some time pursuing pike on Lake Pepin. The pike are enormous in Pepin and during the heat waves of July and August, 15-20 pounders were being caught. If you fished the cool water springs and where the rivers (such as Wisconsin's Rush River) emptied into the lake, your chances of boating a nice pike were very good.

What presentations are best for pike in these generally shallow cool water situations? The old standby of a big sucker minnow and bobber seems to work very well. For artificial baits I have had good luck with large, No. 18 Rapalas or Blue Fox Spoons. The Husky Jerk is also "deadly" when cast into the incoming current of a cool water creek. Keep in mind that these pike will spook easy so it is best to anchor a comfortable distance away from the location or use your trolling motor to ease into the location. Heavy line or a superline are a must along with some type of steel leader.

Catching a ten pound plus northern pike used to be fairly common many years ago. Far too many of those pike went under the fillet knife and today's generation of fisherman is paying for this foolishness. When you target cool water pike, take a camera with you. If you do land a giant, snap a few pictures and then release the fish to ensure that our pike fisheries will be there for future generations.