Look for northern pike in the lakes and larger river systems of northern states. The northern pike is an ambush predator, meaning it will typically attack its prey where it feels comfortable doing so and where it knows it has experienced success before. Look for pike where a stream or small river enters a lake or larger river. There will be much baitfish activity in such a spot, which in turn attracts pike. In a lake, the narrow strips of water that exist between large islands are prime spots for pike to wait to surprise the smaller fish swimming from one part of the lake to another. In the winter, pike tend to stay in shallow water after the ice first forms before moving out to deeper water after about three weeks. Before the ice melts however, pike return to the shallows, where you can catch them is a little as 3 feet of water.
Pike are one species that you can target almost exclusively with large spoon lures in the open-water fishing season. The popular red and white Daredevil spoon gained its following for a reason, and one reason is that the members of the pike family, which also include the muskellunge and pickerel, will chase and grab them with unabashed gusto. You can use the largest of these spoons for pike, as well as large spoons with different color patterns. One trick that seems to attract pike is to cast the spoon so that it splashes down onto the surface, creating a commotion, before beginning to retrieve it. Accomplish this by casting the spoon much higher than normal, but still with enough accuracy to land it where you suspect a pike may be swimming. Jerk you rod tip right before the spoon hits the water, which will cause the spoon to hit the surface as it comes back a bit towards you. The resulting splash will be more noticeable for a pike; begin your retrieve after waiting about two seconds for the spoon to start sinking.
Ice fish for pike using tip-ups, but rig them properly or the pike will chew right through your line. Their sharp teeth give them a weapon most freshwater species lack and can help them escape from inferior line. Use at least 40 lb. test ice fishing line when targeting pike, and attach your hook to wire leaders, which will foil a pike's attempt to break the line with his teeth. Choose live bait such as small suckers, chubs or large shiners, but be aware that a hungry pike will hit anything it finds below the ice, so spending extra dollars you may not have on more expensive, larger baitfish is not necessary. Do not be afraid to set up in water less than 6 feet deep, as pike will cruise around under the ice, especially if there are weeds present, looking for a meal. Hook your bait behind the dorsal fin; hooks as small as a No. 4 hook will suffice. Monitor your tip-ups closely and when their flags alert you to a bite, hustle to them. The large northern will usually take off with your bait, causing the line to come screaming off your tip-up's reel. Set the hook and tire the fish out until you can guide it up through the hole in the ice. A lip-gripping tool that someone can employ to grab the pike by the jaw takes its sharp teeth out of play once you get its head through the hole.