Northern pike fishing, southern style
Outdoors with Mike Norris - August 16, 2002
Last week I made my annual pilgrimage to Wollaston Lake in northern Saskatchewan. I spent four days fishing for trophy northern pike, headquartered at Wollaston Lake Lodge, arguably the most modern and customer-oriented fishing lodge in all of North America.
I have to boast that while there I filmed a television show for Midwest Outdoors. Based in Burr Ridge, Midwest Outdoors reaches more than a million outdoorsmen in several Midwestern states through its magazine and television shows. The TV show is aired locally on WJYS out of Chicago. The show I filmed should air in October. Readers can reference the Midwest Outdoors web site at www.midwestoudoors.com for upcoming show titles and dates.
During the taping, I caught and released a number of northern pike. But here's the kicker - I caught and released eight northern pike measuring 40 inches or better which were captured on film for the television show. Yes, eight monster pike in one day. The largest of the eight pike measured 47 1/2 inches long.
But as a testament to how spectacular the fishing is at Wollaston Lake, I must admit I didn't catch the largest northern pike that day. Big pike honors went to Jim Jorgenson of Boise, Idaho, who caught a 50-inch northern pike.
Jorgenson told me he had been fishing for northern pike from various resorts in Canada for the last 22 years, but he had not had a better trip than he experienced last week. He not only caught a 50-incher, but his fishing guide led him to the "Grand Slam" of fishing during his stay. That is, he caught four different species of gamefish, including northern pike, walleye, lake trout and Arctic grayling.
Huge bucktail lures and oversized jerkbaits are the usual associations I have when it comes to catching large northern pike. Yet Jorgenson caught his prize pike on a small black and silver Rapala minnow. My 47 1/2-inch pike came on a slightly larger chartreuse and black Mann's Minus 1 crankbait.
Other huge pike caught during the week came on soft plastic lures more associated with southern bass fishing than northern fishing. Here's why:
When fishing for trophy northern pike, knowledgeable anglers rely on search lures for working water quickly and finding areas that hold active fish. I, for example, often cast and retrieve a No. 5 Mepps Musky Killer to seek out active fish in large pike producing bays. At times the pike are aggressive and will readily strike this style lure. But more often, the pike are just curious and will only follow the lure. As the lure nears the boat, following pike will tail off and slowly sink to the bottom (usually 4 to 6 feet deep) and hone in on their location. These are catchable fish.
It's time to turn to "southern style" soft plastics to catch them and here's how.
I always have one or more "southern style" soft plastic fishing lures rigged on other rods in my boat. With curious but reluctant pike in sight and lying on the lake's bottom, I can quickly pick up another rod and pitch the soft plastic bait in front of its nose. Then, with one or two twitches of the lure, I can entice the pike to engulf my offering. Pike are absolute suckers for this technique.
My sampling of "southern style" soft plastic lures that accompany me on all my trophy pike trips include 5-inch Berkley Power Jerk Shads, Storm's Wild-Eyed Rattling Soft Plastic Minnows, Zoom's 7 1/2-inch imitation lizards, and ISG's Slop Hog II imitation frog. Each of these baits, when rigged properly, can be fished weedless through shallow patches of cabbage, eel grass and lily pads that pike often hide in. When using these soft plastics for toothy northern pike, I still use a Berkley.
If you'd like information on Wollaston Lake, call 1-800-328-0628. If you have Internet access, I'd suggest visiting the lodge's web site: www.wollastonlakelodge.com
While at their web site, don't forget to check out the "Braggin' Board" for pictures of Jim Jorgenson's 50-inch pike and my 47 1/2-inch pike, along with hundreds of others.
Outdoors with Mike Norris is heard every Thursday from 3-4 p.m. on AM1280 WBIG. Mike Norris can be reached at email@example.com