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Hooks And Antlers Outdoor Column

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Northern pike season opens on Saturday May 5, and early season offers some of the best fishing of the calendar year.

During much of the year, northern pike are scattered throughout a water system, and many of the fish inhabit deep water. In contrast, spring pike tend to congregate in prime locations adjacent to their spawning grounds where the fish are readily accessible to anglers.

Also, prey species are at their lowest number of the year so early-season pike have longer feeding windows than summertime fish that tend to be active primarily during the early morning and early evening hours.

Protecting the Resource

While early season offers good fishing for the angler, a word of caution is needed as pike populations are vulnerable to “overfishing” at this time of the year.

Catch and release is a sound practice for ensuring the health of any pike population, and for anglers who want to keep some filets for eating, selective harvest is recommended. Selective harvest involves keeping smaller or medium-sized fish for eating and releasing the larger fish so they have the opportunity to spawn again.

Locating Spring Pike

Locating spring pike means heading to the bays. As a general rule, the best bays in early spring are south-facing ones and wind-protected ones while the best bays in later spring are north-facing and wind-blown ones. In other words, seek warmer bays early and cooler bays later. Apply the same principles to portions of very large bays.

No matter which bay an angler fishes, though, specific locations in that bay will attract pike. One such gathering spot is a tributary mouth. Another is any shoreline that breaks into deep water as pike tend to lie at the very bottom of such breaks. If the bay has a channel, the edges of that channel will certainly hold some pike. Also, points and shoal edges are can’t-miss spots.

Like other times of the year, weed beds, especially the outside edges and openings, are pike magnets. Flats, both large and small, tend to hold northern pike. The very best flats will have scattered weeds and boulders, and the most productive spot on any flat will be the edge that drops, even if only a few feet, into deeper water.

Another prime spot in any bay is the deepest hole there, especially around its edges. The mouths of bays, too, will hold pike. Check out any points or weed growth there. Also, be sure to try any break-wall as its stones will absorb the sun’s heat and draw baitfish.

Angling Techniques

Effective techniques for spring pike include casting artificial lures, suspending live minnows, and trolling minnow plugs or spoons. No matter what technique an angler utilizes, the best advice is to employ a slow presentation. In fact, pike commonly strike an offering when there is a pause in its action. Once water temperatures creep into the sixties, though, pike will strike a faster presentation.

Casting artificial lures such as plugs, plastics, spoons, spinners, or jigs is the most popular technique. Minnow plugs and plastic jerk-baits are best worked in a stop-and-go fashion, an action that simulates struggling baitfish. A disadvantage of hard baits is removing sets of trebles from a pike’s toothy mouth.

A key aspect of casting spoons and spinners is to allow them to flutter towards bottom before beginning the retrieve; this action gets the offering to the fish’s depth and also simulates an injured baitfish.

If an angler were limited to a single lure for casting, that lure should be a jig. Jigs allow anglers to cover a lot of water, to fish a variety of depths, to imitate injured baitfish, and to make that all-important, slow presentation in the cold-water conditions of spring.

Tipping any jig with a minnow or plastic worm will slow the jig’s fall, and anglers can expect 90 percent of strikes to occur on the fall. An asset of jigs is its single hook, a feature that allows for easy unhooking and releasing of fish.

Suspending a minnow below a bobber is a time-honored technique that works well in shallow water for both shore and boat anglers. In the past, bobber fishers typically used two rods, but newly adopted regulations now allow anglers to use three lines. Bobber fishing is a relaxing way to fish, but for best results anglers should change their locations periodically.

Another live-bait technique involves drifting a minnow below a split shot or an ear sinker. Advantages of this method include the option of fishing various water depths as well as the ability to cover a lot of water. Boat control, especially on windy days, is a key to successful drift-fishing.

Trolling, too, allows an angler to cover a lot of water and to fish a variety of depths. One trolling key is to utilize a setup that matches water depth. The use of planer boards can be especially effective when targeting springís shallow-water pike.

Calendar

April 30: Lisbon Sportsmen’s Club Hosts Trap and Skeet Shooting at Pray Rd. Property.

May 1: Spring Turkey Season Opens in New York State.

May 1, 4-5: Adams Center Sportsmanís Club Hosts Hunter Education Course (Pre-register at 232-2942).

May 3-5: Redwood Fire Hall Hosts Hunter Education Course (Pre-register at 785-2533).

May 5: Moose River F&G Club Hosts Hunter Safety Internet Home Study Course (Pre-register at www.hunteredol.webs.com).

May 5:Seasons Open for Northern Pike and Walleyes in NYS Waters.

May 5: St. Lawrence River Walleye Association Hosts Opening-Day Walleye Tournament at Waddington.

May 5: St. Lawrence Valley Sportsmen’s Club Hosts Opening-Day Walleye Derby at Ogdensburg.

May 7:Lisbon Sportsmenís Club Hosts Trap and Skeet Shooting at Pray Rd. Property.

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