Pike in the Shallows

Pike spawn in the late spring and depending on where you are fishing are available in shallow water well into early July.

Among my favourite places to try are the high-water sloughs and back channels along our many rivers and shallow bays such as Jackfish Bay on Lake Laberge.

These areas are often navigable if you putt along slowly with your motor tilted as needed to keep the prop off the bottom. Poling will get you through the really shallow areas. Wading is another option, although the bottom is often very soft.

Polarized sunglasses are essential, as this is an activity where the fish is seen and the lure is sent to that location or to where the fish is moving towards.

Pike often lie in ambush in the deeper holes. It is a regular event for two or three of these toothy predators to be chasing your offering simultaneously, and strikes on every cast are common. You can see all this action in one-to-four foot deep water.

Your heart will skip a beat at the sight of the impressive “V” wave pushed in front of a charging pike as it chases your lure, often from 25-30 feet away. Surface swirls from fleeing fish are common as you cast or move through an area.

The author’s son, Adam Sippel, with an oversized pike for release PHOTO: Larry Leigh

These are predatory fish that hide in the grass and weeds, under logs and driftwood collections. Sometimes they appear to be just sunning themselves, but they are alert to baitfish in the area.

Aggressive, hard-fighting pike are tough on tackle and will tear through any strength of line if a leader is not used.

Excitement is the name of the game as the shallow-water fight includes surface and aerial gymnastics which regularly soak both angler and boat.

Lures to use include shiny spoons, spinners, crank-baits and flavoured jigs. Frog or mouse imitations or any surface action lure are favourites, and weedless is a good idea.

Fish handling gloves are useful as pike have hundreds of needle-sharp teeth and razor-sharp gill plates, so cuts to the angler are not uncommon.

Work on your casting accuracy until you can plunk that lure down right next to that log or right tight to the edge of the grass or weeds. Practise with a hookless lure in your yard to hit a garbage can lid at varying distances.

Pike are a tremendously underrated fish, a reputation earned in warm backwaters in southern Canada.

With our seasonally changing water levels, our sloughs and back channels dry and become grassy meadows before the water gets warm enough to affect fish quality.

Check the regulations for any slot, size and the various harvest limits depending on where you are fishing. Live-release skills are essential as the size limits require many fish to be returned unharmed to the water.

Landing nets are hard on fish, so try to net only those fish you are sure you will keep. Big fish photos are a must, so have your partner all ready with the camera, hold the fish horizontal and minimize the time it is out of the water.

Fish stringers are ancient technology; take a large enough cooler containing ice. Kill and bleed fish to be kept, bag them and keep them on ice. Fish do not have connective tissue like red meat, so they start to break down quickly if not cared for.

Until you learn a simple filleting method, your pike will be very bony but the proper technique gives you firm, white, flavourful boneless fillets.

Pike are perfectly suited for any fish recipe from Poor Man’s Lobster to frying, baking, broiling or barbecuing, using any commercial batter or coating mix. You’ll always be happy with the old standard—roll in flour, dip in egg and milk, roll in bread or corn flake crumbs.

Where possible, fry in lard, as the fish can be cooked at a higher temperature than with oils.

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