NORTHERN PIKE (Esox lucius)

See also: Lake Whitefish, Lake Trout, Yellow Perch and Burbot.

NORTHERN PIKE are aggressive feeders through spring, summer and fall and continue to be caught through the ice during the winter months. They can be identified by their large toothy mouths and greenish gold flanks spattered with rows of pale, cream colored spots. While other species become dormant and lethargic during the winter months, northern pike remain aggressive and maintain a healthy appetite under the ice. Pike are known to attack just about every kind of live and artificial bait. They are typical ambush predators; they lie in wait for prey, holding perfectly still for long periods and then exhibit incredible acceleration as they strike.  

Biology: Northern Pike are a spring spawner and immediately spawn just after ice-out from March to early May in water temperatures ranging from 4.4 to 11.1 C. Pike habitat usually consists of clear, warm, slow, meandering, heavily vegetated rivers or warm, weedy bays of lakes. However, they do occur over a wide range of habitat. They generally occur in shallow water in the spring and fall and move to deeper water in the summer.

 Ontario Angling Record: Largest Pike in Ontario is 42.12lbs from Delaney River, Kelowna.

 Lake Simcoe Size Range:  The average size range for Northern Pike is between 4 to 7lbs and in the higher double digits (12-15lbs) do exist in Lake Simcoe.

 Lake Simcoe Diet: Adult pike will eat virtually any living vertebrate available to them within the size range that they can engulf. They are an opportunist and will feed on whatever is most readily available to them. In the winter, much of their diet is made up of fish and would include emerald shiners, yellow perch, smelt, chubs and/or suckers.

 Recommended Baits: Recommended artificial baits would include plastic swimbaits, large flashy spoons, larger jigging rapala’s. Live bait would include live or dead large shiners, chubs or suckers. Keep in mind that large pike hit large baits and will also hit dead baits.

 Depth Range:  Pike are quite active in the winter and are usually found in shallow water between 4 -25 feet. Structure is a key component to finding pike, hotspots that work in the summer will generally work during the winter. Stick to points, drop-offs and structure adjacent to weedy areas and shallow bays.

On waters without distinct riverbeds, large weedbeds can be primary early-ice pike locations. Patches of green weeds live, year to year, after average weeds die off. Avid fishermen know these spots, but you can find them on any lake if you work at it. Best time to look is early ice, when you can walk around and look through the ice. Find clearings in those green weed patches.

On lakes with a distinct riverbed, follow that bed seeking places where it bends around an obstacle, such as an island or shallow structure (such elements are often obvious on contour maps). If you find a place like this that also has a beautiful weedbed nearby, be certain that Northern Pike will be nearby.

 Current Lake Simcoe Regulations:

Season is open from Jan. 1 to Mar. 31 and from the 2nd Sat. in May to December 31.

Sport License daily limit is 6 pike.

Conservation License daily limit is 2 pike.

Recommended Locations: Target the weediest sections and bays of Lake Simcoe. Cooks Bay near the mouth of the Holland River is a great place to start, most pike fishermen congregate in this area throughout the year. Other locations to explore include Big Cedar Point, Innisfil and out off Fox Island. The shallow, weedy shelves in Kempenfelt Bay and around larger marina's also hold good numbers of pike.