Pike are often left behind in the fall because the musky fishing turns on, so more anglers put their efforts into the larger of the two cousins. In waters with good pike populations, the fishing gets good from mid-September through October. These predators move to main lake rock piles where they feed on oversized cisco and smaller whitefish.
On waters like Shoal Lake, pike are everywhere with few musky to contend with. I like to look for pike on the same large reef structures that I would look for muskies on Lake of the Woods. The bigger the spot, the more likely it is to hold big fish. Large, baitfish imitation baits are the best.
For casting, I like six to ten inch swimbaits, depending on the size of the fish in the system or oversized jerkbaits. Trolling with large crankbaits to fish deeper water is a great tactic as well. It’s all about covering as much water as you can to contact fish.
Z-Man makes some larger swimbaits designed for fishing saltwater that are killer for pike. I like the Mag SwimZ, rigged on a large ¾ to 1 ounce jig head. Use a slow retrieve when the water is colder.
My friend Alex Keszler has been going up to Great Slave Lake to guide over the past couple of summers. He has been using these baits for lake trout up there with a lot of success.
WEATHER A KEY
Let the weather help you decide where to fish. On windy days, fish the windblown structures. I think it gets these fish moving around looking for easy meals and it allows anglers to make a stealthy approach.
On calm days, anglers might do better focusing on areas with more current. These spots will attract forage and help set pike up in predictable locations. I like narrow channels areas or saddles between islands, then look for little points or “stick-outs” in these areas. Catching big pike is fun and fall is prime time to do it!