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Northern pike

General Facts
Northern pike are a very aggressive hard fighting coolwater species. They prefer relatively shallow weedy areas of lakes and slow moving rivers. There is a marked tendency for movement to deeper, cooler water during the summer when water temperatures are highest, especially for the larger fish. Although not as readily kept for eating as compared to other species, the flesh of the pike, albeit more bony, is very tasty and makes excellent fish cakes.

Where
Northern pike are relatively adaptable to a variety of waters in the northern half of the state, the most surprising of all being the Passaic River. Good fishable populations with fish up to 15 pounds are also present in Spruce Run Reservoir, Budd Lake (pdf, 260kb), Farrington Lake, Cranberry Lake, Pompton Lake, Deal Lake and Pompton River. Fish the pockets in weedy areas and along the weedline in lakes and the deeper holes and around fallen trees in rivers. Pike will be found moving into deeper water in the heat of the summer. In lakes, the mouths of tributary streams can be very productive in spring, just before and after the spawning period.

Passaic River Pike - Feature Article, 2/13

When
The best pike fishing is during the cooler seasons, fall, winter and spring. Pike feed entirely in the daylight and are active all day with morning considered to be the better fishing period. The pre-spawn period just after ice-out, and after spawning in early April, are a very productive periods. Winter ice fishing is one of the most productive and popular periods to fish for pike.

How
Using large shiners fished on the bottom or with a bobber is effective in both lakes and rivers. Large spoons, such as the Daredevil and Johnson weedless, have been synonymous with pike fishing for generations. Large spinners, such as number 4 or 5 Mepps, cast or trolled, are also very effective. Ice fish using tip-ups with large shiners or medium suckers, even dead bait, near the bottom. Fly fishing with large streamers is effective and becoming more popular.

When using live bait, a light wire leader is recommended. Live bait fishing demands a bit of patience on the angler's part. Pike typically grab the bait sideways, then attempt to swim off to turn their catch in their mouth and swallow it. Trying to set the hook to quickly often results in the hook being pulled from the bait or the entire bait being yanked from the fish's mouth.

Northern Pike Distribution Map

Northern Pike Stocking Summary, 2013 (pdf, 18kb)
Northern Pike Stocking Summary, 2012 (pdf, 12kb)
Northern Pike Stocking Summary, 2011 (pdf, 9kb)
Northern Pike Stocking Summary, 2010 (pdf, 14kb)
Northern Pike Stocking Summary, 2009 (pdf, 9kb)
Northern Pike Stocking Summary, 2008 (pdf, 8kb)

Northern Pike Fact Sheet (pdf, 19kb)

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Last Updated: February 14, 2013