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Northern Pike Spawning and Angler Considerations

What ice is left is receding quickly and to many northern anglers this means a great opportunity to connect with a pike. Not only are they hungry from winter but as the water temperature creeps only into the 40’s, pike go to shallow areas to spawn.

Unlike species like largemouth bass and sunfish which seek gravelly flats to make nests, this species needs shallow vegetative areas for a spawning. Conservation of marsh and wetland habitat benefits pike spawning because if this watershed is linked in any way to a larger body of water, the pike will be back there this time of year, sometimes in water so shallow their backs are out of the water.

As pike are moving in and out of these inches-deep weedy areas, they are in their trademark aggressive mode and will slam lures such as spinnerbaits and swimbaits. During actual spawning however, they may be completely uninterested in eating. But this period seems shorter than say, a largemouth bass. Bass go through staging, creating a shallow bowl for a nest, and then protecting their fry. For pike, there is no nest creation or fry protection. Plus as one local angler, Randall Hedderick, suggested, the window for their spawning water temperature is fairly short as spring rapidly approaches. When I find carp way up in the same “skinny water” areas, I know the pike spawn is over and the big ones are back in deeper water.

Be sure to check your state regulations for pike because they vary greatly. For example in Michigan inland waters, possession of pike is prohibited from March 15 to the last Saturday in April which is pike spawning time. However, in Iowa the season is open all year and there is no size limit. And double check that you have renewed your fishing license because it helps fishing conservation efforts in your state.


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Andy Whitcomb

Andy Whitcomb

Andy is an outdoor writer (http://www.justkeepreeling.com/) and stressed-out Dad has contributed over 380 blogs to takemefishing.org since 2011. Born in Florida, but raised on banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, smallmouth bass, and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After earning a B.S. in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.