Northern Pike …. Designed for Mayhem

Paul Prentiss

Last week three of us were driving towards Alliance Nebraska, then on to Ellsworth and straight north into the Sandhills region.  It’s beautiful hill country with large ranches, lots of lakes, and very few people.  On Saturday we would meet a fourth angler coming in from Denver.  It was a small group (6 to 8 fishermen is the norm) which was just fine because we could spread out in the large double-wide trailer on the ranch.  We’ve got a BBQ, satellite TV, bunk beds, stocked kitchen, and no cell service – perfect!
A larger group went up over the Mother's Day weekend (not married or no kids) but they had tough fishing due to unrelenting wind.
Why would a group of Colorado Fishermen travel 6 ½ hours for Northern Pike Fishing?  If you have seen a large Pike smash your fly in shark-like attack, you’ll have an answer to this question.  It’s about the sheer ferocity and determination of the initial strike that keeps you casting hour after hour.

The Northern Pikes scientific name is Esox luciusEsox is the genus (pike, muskie and pickerel) and lucius translates to wolf or water wolf.  A perfect description of a fish designed to ambush its prey using concealment, speed, and a set of impressive canine-like teeth.

The teeth are particularly interesting.  Along the bottom of the mouth they are angled rearward.  In combination with the teeth on the roof of the mouth which are Velcro-like, escape is just about impossible.  It goes without saying that fishermen need to keep their fingers clear of this set of dentures.  I can testify that puncture wounds are painful, deep and likely to become infected.  This is the reason special long nose pliers and other devices designed to hold onto pike should be in your tackle bag.

Other features worthy of note are the coloration of the body, eyes, and sense of motion/sound.  Pike are predominately greenish brown with blotches of white along their flanks.  Effectively they blend right in to their environment.  Eyes are located on either side of the head providing monocular and binocular vision.  There may be debates as to the quality of their sight but it's good enough to zero in and nail their prey very quickly.  The lateral line and inner ear give them an ability to detect sound and vibrations. The net result produces an eating machine that is at the top of the food chain in any body of water they inhabit.

Pike fishing for pike requires heavy duty equipment meaning 8-weight or better rods, good quality single action reels with adequate backing, sinking and floating lines, and the right leader material (wire or hard monofilament).  Part of the reason for heavy equipment has to do with the size of the fish and part has to do with the size of the flies.  We're talking large wind resistant patterns that soak up huge amounts of water. A large part of the fun in fishing for Pike is constructing the flies.  They’re tied on 1/0 and larger hooks and have names like Flash Tail Whistlers, Deceivers, Double Bunnies, Waterdogs, etc.  The objective is creating something that appears alive and tasty.

Spring is a popular time to fish for pike because they move into the shallows to feed after spawning.  They are hungry and aggressive.  The May timing of our trip to Nebraska is timed to take advantage of this situation.

The fishing was not as good as we’ve experienced in prior years.  We had wind and the lake was turbid due to the wave action in combination with a shallow bottom.  But we all caught fish – probably averaging 12 a day.  Although the conditions were perfect the fish, they were not in the shallows nor were they concentrated in any particular area.  On the other hand, we met our objectives for the trip - fish hard, eat well, and have as much fun as possible.

The Trip in Pictures

“He took my fly just like this”

“Where’s the handle?”

“Ah come on just a little kiss”

“What do you mean this isn’t a pike?”