I know a lot of you anglers out there follow specific moon phases to target many different fresh water species. Now being honest with only yourselves, how many of you have used them to target Northern Pike?
I know what you’re thinking, who could imagine there would be any logic behind these aggressive fish. Roaming around under the ice eating everything in sight at all times of day. Thrown under the bus as a very careless fish you could catch on a broken toaster any day of the week. The fact of the matter is to consistently ice monster pike there are many factors relating to the moon that come into play.
As young fishermen, and still to this day, my brother and I always get an In-fishermen Sonar Lunar calendar from our father for Christmas. In the early years we would always write down what fish we caught on which day only to keep track of who caught more! As the years went on we started to use these calendars more effectively, understanding prime times and noticing trends on moon phases. Spending most of our time after Walleye and Perch, we realized we had never caught a true monster Northern Pike. It wasn’t long and my brother and I were spending 35 plus days a winter after them. To figure these fish out, as soon as possible, we knew we had to write down anything and everything that happened each and every day. In a very short period of time patterns were appearing all around us. A true passion of pursuing these creatures was born.
We break our Moon Phases down in three categories:
Key days – Three days before to three days after the full moon. Key times – Early morning two hours before sunrise to two hours after the sunrise. This is by far our most successful time during this phase. In saying that in between these key times in the dark of night can be successful as well. It’s worth your time to spend these nights on the ice. Not only do you usually have the lake to yourself but the big ladies let their guard down.
Key days – Four days prior to four days after new moon. Key times – What we call “Lunch Time” two hours before and two hours after midday. This is by far our most successful moon phase of them all, hoisting some of the most amazing pike we have ever laid our eyes on during these times. If you add on a sunny day during this phase, it’s a recipe for the true monsters that lurk below.
Key days – Initial day of the first quarter to two days after. One day prior to two days after the last quarter. Key times – Timing of bites can be very unpredictable but being on the ice during the important days puts the odds in your favour. This is the most patience you will need in your hunt for trophy pike but the rewarding feeling is remarkable when it happens.
Early season is dead bait tip up fishing’s finest hour. Sunny days elevate your baits half way up to 2 feet under the ice in your water column. Overcast days keep your bait within 1 to 3 feet of the bottom. You want to represent a dead baitfish because these pike are looking for the easiest meals they can get their hands on. I strongly recommend vertically hanging your bait nose down and/or horizontally hanging it upside down. This is important because of the scattered forage during early season. They often hit these baits and spin your spools like crazy to ensure they don’t come second to the dinner table.
Place your first bait at the initial drop off on shallow flats then stagger your baits in a line towards the next drop in the water column. This is the early season pike feeding grounds, with fish often cruising through at high speeds searching for an easy meal. Keep yourself away from noise and traffic of other anglers if you can. Big pike are very spooky. We often target new locations when pressure is high.
To simplify what needs to be remembered start with these daily notes: Moonphase / Barometric Pressure / Wind Direction and Speed / Location / Depth Presentation / Bait Size and Type / Time of Day / Temperature. With many lakes being a little different from one another, documentation is something I can never stress enough.
Most waters only allow three or less lines a person, which makes it hard to use a big variety of different baits. We try and have a minimum of three people to run more lines, which allows us to break down which baits are the money makers that day. As soon as one bait shows it is producing more then others don’t be scared to change all tip ups to that bait. Since many lakes seem to carry a preference of bait type, this is the quickest way to find your lake’s bait preference effectively. In summary all these factors play a huge role in being consistent icing monster pike. Proper documentation and watching patterns appear will give you the confidence to know your next bite could be over 40 inches long.
Dave has been fishing since he was in diapers thanks to his father. For the past 14 years he has been competing in walleye tournaments in Alberta with 14 top 10 finishes including an Anglers Cup Championship on Lesser Slave Lake. Dave is also involved in AYA kids fishing tournaments and is head fishing guide at Koobies Krankers. He also loves to spend many days on the water with his brother and father. Dave always reminds people the importance to take a kid fishing when the opportunity is there.