How to catch Northern Pike in Minnesota

Northern pike on a northern Minnesota lake.
Northern pike on a northern Minnesota lake.

It helps to actually go fishing

Guilty as charged. I haven't gone fishing yet this year. After a person buys a fishing license, it helps to have a place to go fishing, like a lake. Once on the lake you can choose to fish from a dock (if available) or from a boat. There are lots of options for boats, from fancy pontoons with trolling motors to high end expensive models. On a budget you could use an aluminum rowboat or even a canoe with paddles.

I am actually psyching myself up as I type this, a bit. It also helps to have a fishing pole, or rod and reel. I grew up on Zebco 404's but there are Rhinos and for the novice, even a long bamboo pole will work with a bobber and worms. No need to get too fancy. Anyway, for northern pike, or 'northern's as they are called here (jackfish up in Canada), the old standard is the red and white spoon with a treble hook, called a daredevil. Not sure why. Might be a brand name. You need a good leader, which is a steel or thick filament as these fish have sharp teeth and can cut the line.



In the summer, as the weed beds get established, troll, or move the boat slowly around the edges of lily pads and outside of wild rice beds. The best fishing time (for me) is evening, when the water can get still as glass and the hot sun has subsided. You might spot a bittern or crane in the shallows. Ducks fly over. You cast (throw) the hook out a distance, and slowly bring the line in by turning the handle on that Zebco reel. The red and white spoon is made of metal, and will sink if you go too slow. Then you might have a snag on weeds or a lily pad. You can make a joke about getting your vegetables or not getting skunked at this time.

You have something called a 'drag' on your reel. This is a device that will allow your line to be pulled out reluctantly if a northern pike hits it. This is a safety tool that prevents your line from snapping.

Another favorite hook is called a Red Eyed Wriggler or wiggler. This gold or silver spoon is a little heavier, has two treble hooks (three pronged barbs) and small red 'eyes' which spin on a small piece of wire.

Floaters work well, and might be preferred if you are getting lots of weeds. The Rapala, or Finnish minnow, comes in all shapes and sizes. Some are shinier and blue and fat. Others are torpedo shaped and silver or gray. They have a little scoop under the chin which acts like a reverse 'wing' and will pull the minnow deeper if you reel it in more quickly. These Rapalas can also catch bass and walleye pike if they are feeding in the area.

Frog lures come in different shapes and materials. Some are rubber or plastic and float on the surface. I once had one made of wood that had little hinges for the legs, each with a treble hook, until a northern bit the leg off. It also helps to have a 'tackle' box, which has all your hooks and leaders and line and pliers and bobbers and 'you name it'. A good place to get this stuff is Gander Mountain or Cabela's or Wal-Mart.

Once you have a fish, it will fight. Northerns rarely jump as bass do. They will pull backward, and you might not even be sure you have a fish until there is a sharp tug. Sometimes you are snagged on a sunken waterlogged tree branch or rock. As the pike gets closer to the boat, it will probably try to go down. You might see a flash of white from its belly below the boat. It might bend the rod a bit as you try to get the net under it.

I have seen fish thrash in a person's hand, and watched the hook burrow itself into his finger very deeply. Fish are hard to hold on to.

A net is a good idea. If you have a fish you want to keep, a stringer is a good idea. Stringers are made of nylon with a sharp metal point which is threaded in the mouth of the fish behind the jawbone. Stringers are also made of metal and look like huge bobby pins which work well.

The fish then is put back in the water, and swims along or is pulled along as you resume rowing or paddling. A good pair of pliers is important if the hook is swallowed deeply.

For those who enjoy eating fish like northerns, fillets work well as there are plenty of bones. Otherwise, you can cut the fish into 'steaks' and coat with flour and fry or bake. Lemon is a good juice to flavor the fish after it is cooked.

In conclusion, fishing is a time to spend out of doors as a hobby or to catch supper. Northern can be frozen after it is cleaned and rinsed thoroughly. You can put it in a plastic wrap or baggie and maybe even date it. If you aren't going to fillet, it is necessary to 'scale' the fish and clean out all the entrails as well as cutting off the fins, tail fin, and head, which is cut off right behind the gills. Sounds pretty gory as I write this.

If you are fishing off the dock, simply cast the red and white spoon or whatever (no sinkers needed or bobbers) with a wrist action movement in a direction where you won't get tangled in weeds, but not too far out. Northerns feed in transition zones where there are hiding places for smaller fish and frogs, etc.

It helps to have bug spray along for mosquitoes. Your attitude is also important. Even if you don't get a single bite, you will have had a healthy stretch of time with a nice view and fresh air.

I hope to practice what I preach soon.

Erik Grams of Blaine caught and released this 46-inch northern in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on opening weekend of Minnesota's fishing season. The fish had a 20-inch girth.
Erik Grams of Blaine caught and released this 46-inch northern in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on opening weekend of Minnesota's fishing season. The fish had a 20-inch girth.

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8 comments

Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 7 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

I used to love fishing with my brothers as a child. Just sitting by the river and observing nature was enough. I never dated my catch though!!!


lefseriver 7 years ago

something fishy about that remark...


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 7 years ago from San Diego, California

There I am :)

Totally ready to go. Take me with you. Let's set up shop at the pair-a-docks.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 7 years ago from San Diego, California

Haha, of course, and I'm definitely working my hardest to be sure to make it there by Sep. I'm doing odd jobs out here to save up some money and pay the bills. I'm working a photo shoot today and tomorrow :) My first time as a paid picture person. Lots of fun!


MotherReece 7 years ago

I think I recognize that person in the picture (holding the fish). =]


James Williams 7 years ago

Good article. I enjoy writing and reading about Pike as well. Be careful with using bug spray while fishing, as the smell on the line or bait will turn off the fish.


todeletepress7 6 years ago

i go to fletchers lake and caught huge pike that had to be released because they couldn't fit in my livewell X)


smartgilas 5 years ago

Thank you for this article. With the gander mountain coupon

, I get to maximize the budget I have for the items I need.

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