Last week the guys and I (Pat McSharry and Ben Brettingen) found ourselves on Lake of the Woods in search of a hot pike bite that we plan to feature as one of our non-current open water TV shows to air late winter 2015 when everyone is burned out on ice fishing and desperately in need of an open water fix!
With this first shoot in the bag I think it safe to say we’re off to a solid start!
Before I get too deep into the actual report I thought some might be interested in how we came to choose pike on Lake of the Woods as a target species. I’ve never fished for pike in the summer on Lake of the Woods. Neither had Pat McSharry. Ben Brettingen had spent some time chasing pike up in the NW Angle but never down on the main lake.
What sent us up there in search of a pike show was, quite simply, the awesome late winter pike bite we experienced this past March. The average size of the fish caught was simply amazing and we thought it would be very interesting to try and connect the dots between a late ice bite that had the fish staging out on main lake structure and a post-spawn bite that should have the fish setting up in shallow bays.
Here’s the link to that ice show if you missed it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJ_avJnfMEE The first pike on the ice went 43.5″ long and based on girth measurements would have weighed in around 25 lbs. That kind of monster gator is worth a return trip!
On our drive up we speculated that the fish would definitely be done spawning and would likely have dropped back out of the spawning rivers and ditches into the lake. We couldn’t find any accurate water temp info so our first order of business was to check in on the water temps and use that info to help guide our first moves.
We planned to stay in Warroad on this trip and focus our search on the western side of the lake so getting that temp info was as easy as launching the boat in the Warroad River at the public access and turning on our graphs. 68 degrees was the tally which lead us to speculate would be much, much too warm to have the spawning females up in the rivers or ditches on the south and west side of the lake we considered part of our search area. That said, we did take the time to check it out for ourselves by fishing some of the likely spawning rivers and ditches just to make sure we weren’t overlooking something right at the start of our search.
It didn’t take long to eliminate the small tributaries with the only fish present being small hammer handle sized pike. While they were very eager to play ball we didn’t make the 6 hour drive to catch two-footers. Clearly the females had dropped back leaving nothing but the smaller males in their place. Of course our time spent in the rivers wasn’t a complete waste as we picked up on a definite preference for larger lures that would turn out to be a key piece of the puzzle. More on that later…
Our next move was to begin picking apart shallow bays in our search area looking for the big pike we felt would likely be on a good feed in an attempt to pack on some pounds following the rigors of the spawn. If course finding the fish always seem to be the primary challenge we all face as anglers regardless of the species being fished or time of year.
Shoreline reeds or reeds in shallow portions of the bays again produced a lot of small pike but nothing of size. Our next clue to putting together a workable pattern was again related to water temp. Reeds in the back bays in shallow water were showing temps approaching 70 degrees which we knew would be much too high for mature pike to tolerate. We needed to find cooler temps!
So we abandoned shoreline or weeds in shallow bays and focused our efforts on isolated reed patches near deeper water. BINGO! While harder to find due to the fact that most of the best reed patches barely stuck above the water, if at all, once we found one of these isolated reed patches in deeper, cooler water it was GAME ON! Temps in 6′ of water ranged from 58 – 62 degrees and the big pike were holding in these small spots in big numbers.
Our first day was spent scouting locations which meant Ben Brettingen, IDO’s #1 camera man, got to fish. He did NOT waste the opportunity as you’ll see in these photos. Ben immediately opted for a #6 Super Bou spinner while Pat and I fished smaller baits like 4″ jeerkbaits that had been good for us in the past on pike under similar conditions. While immature pike would eat up those jerkbaits with glee the larger pike all but ignored them while Ben got the ball rolling with a couple giants that woofed the Super Bou spinners like candy!
Once all three of us started throwing #6 Super Bou spinners and #8 Super Bou spinnerbaits the net stayed wet for the rest of the day with big fish coming to the boat for all of us consistently.
For anyone looking to get in on some great pike fishing Lake of the Woods is the place to be right now with large numbers of big fish hanging in relatively shallow water. Find the deeper reed patches. Keep an eye on water temps and fish trophy pike sized baits and you’re going to be a happy angler!