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How to Catch Northern Pike: The Ultimate Guide

Northern Pike are incredibly popular gamefish among anglers all across the country. They are fun fighting fish and they taste great, too.

northern pike fish jumping out of the water

You can find pike in many lakes and rivers across the United States and Canada, but catching them is harder than it sounds, so we thought we’d put together this handy guide to help out our fellow anglers on their hunt for pickerel.

Keep on reading down below for a quick lesson in pike fishing 101 so you can land your next trophy fish.

Using Lures to Catch Pike

The first step to catching northern pike is to pick a lure that will induce them into taking a bite. In general, bright or reflective lures are the best. As with any fish, lures that make a lot of movement are useful tools.

pike mouth full of sharp teeth

For larger pike, use a larger lure, like the Musky Innovations Swimmin’ Dawg. Because pike have a strong bite, be sure to use a lure that will be able to withstand their strength and teeth. 

While the right lure is crucial for a good catch, it’s not the only factor to consider as you’re planning your fishing trip.

Best Time to Catch Pike

Catching northern pike is significantly more likely during their feeding times, and pike feed when there’s light outside.

lip grip a pike fish

As it gets into the evening, you’ll be out of luck. Try fishing for northern pike as the sun is rising or setting. 

Where to Catch Northern Pike

Besides time of day, consider the season and weather before you start fishing. In the spring, the water will be warmer, and here, you can find pike in areas with weeds and vegetation.

person holding a pike they caught

Pike will move farther away from these locations once the weather begins to heat up. If you’re by shore, bring a lure that won’t get caught so you don’t need to spend time untangling your lure from the weeds. 

If you’re fishing among vegetation and in shallower waters, you can use a smaller yet durable lure since the northern pike will likely be smaller. In more open and deep water, use a lure that goes a few feet deeper to ensure you get a bite.

Jerkbait vs. Crankbait for Northern Pike

When fishing for northern pike, you have many options for baits. Spinners, spoons, and frogs work well for catching pike, and so do jerkbaits and crankbaits.

crankbaits and jerkbaits in a fishing tackle box

Under the right conditions, you can use either jerkbait or crankbait for the best northern pike fishing trip. But what exactly is the difference between jerkbait and crankbait?

Although jerkbaits and crankbaits are realistic-looking lures with bills, there are some key qualities that set them apart from one another.

One difference between jerkbait and crankbait is their shape. Jerkbaits are slimmer and longer while crankbait is shorter and fatter. Because of their shape and design, jerkbaits are better in shallow waters, and crankbaits function best in deeper water. 

How to Use a Jerkbait to Catch Pike

Jerkbait lures move more unpredictably, and you can fish with jerkbait in clear or murkier water. Pack some jerkbait lures if you’re fishing near vegetation or flats.

pike fish caught on a jerkbait

Play around with jerkbait to see what type of retrieval method works best in different conditions with different types of fish.

If you can handle your fishing rod well, you can make the most of the jerkbait’s ability to move around erratically.

Use your wrist to control the rod’s movements. When the water is warm, you want to retrieve quickly. If the water is cooler, you can take more time with the retrieval. 

How to Use a Crankbait to Catch Pike

When the water and environment is murky, crankbait are a better option than jerkbait, especially if your crankbait creates a strong, rattling noise.

person fishing for pike with a crankbait lure

For deep water like open lakes, turn to your supply of crankbait lures. 

With crankbaits, you can hit the bottom on the rocks or fallen logs. After a short pause, a fish might bite onto the lure.

When it comes to your retrieval, you can move crankbaits slowly or quickly. Like with a jerkbait, you can experiment and play around with different techniques to see what works best for you.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to catching northern pike, you’re going to want to do your research and come prepared. When you do manage to land a nice pike, make sure you exercise caution so you don’t get bit!

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