June 15, 2017
By Steve Ryan
Northern Pike are ferocious predators. From an early age they're fearless. With a mouth full of teeth designed for grasping, puncturing, and slicing prey, their aggressiveness works in their favor to grow quickly but against them in being caught by anglers prior to reaching top-end size.
The North American record is 46 pounds 2 ounces and dates to 1940. But across the Atlantic Ocean, pike have been captured to nearly 70 pounds — on par with the IGFA all-tackle muskie record. In recent years, photographs of European pike in the 40- to 50-pound range appear regularly on the Internet. Pike the size of trophy muskies exist and should be found more frequently in North America.
American pike are handicapped by a general lack of highly protective regulations and the failure of anglers to embrace the same catch-and-release mentality as they do with muskies. For this reason, a tiny percentage of pike in the lower 48 states reach 40 inches. In prime Canadian waters, fishing pressure is far less and pike routinely top 40 inches.
Along the 52nd to 56th parallel of Ontario, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan, 45-inch fish occur with regularity and pike of 50 inches are a possibility.
Whether it's a 45-inch pike in U.S. waters or 50-inch fish in Canada, these are rare fish — a fish of a lifetime even on the continent's finest fisheries. But if your passion runs deep for giant pike and you have the perseverance to put in the work, the following fisheries offer an opportunity to make those dreams a reality.
Taltson River, NT
Many of the world's finest pike anglers consider the Taltson River the premier trophy pike fishery in North America. They also tout these river fish as the thickest, most muscular, and strongest anywhere. Pike in this tributary of Great Slave Lake live to old age in these cold clear waters with an abundant food supply neatly funneled into current seams.
There is no bad week of the season for pike on the Taltson or the delta area along the southeast shore of Great Slave Lake. Casting and trolling Bull Dawgs is popular among lake anglers to connect with pike surpassing 50 inches, while river anglers downsize to Mepps Cyclops and Luhr Jensen Krocodile spoons.
Contact: Taltson Bay Big Pike Lodge, 867/394-3141, taltsonbaypike.com; Aurora Nights Lodge, 867/394-4001, auroranights.ca.
Wollaston Lake, Sk
Featuring some of finest lodges and fishing in Northwest Saskatchewan, Wollaston is a jewel to be admired at least once by every serious pike angler. Big water means plenty of sumo-sized pike. The fishery is so large that Wollaston Lake Lodge offers daily fly-outs to two locations on the north end of the lake. Whether you prefer fishing rocks or vegetation, Wollaston delivers trophy fish in both settings. Top producers on a recent trip included 4.8-inch Kalin's Sizmic Shad swimbaits and Biwaa 6.5-inch Strout articulated swimbaits, while super-sized lures failed to produce more or bigger fish.
Contact: Wollaston Lake Lodge, 800/328-0628, wollastonlakelodge.com; Minor Bay Lodge, 888/244-7453, minorbay.com.
Lake Athabasca, SK/NT
Lake Athabasca ranks among the largest lakes in North America. More known for its outstanding lake-trout fishing, pike over the coveted 50-inch mark live here. If one topping the North American record exists, Athabasca is not a bad bet. Having produced a 101-pound laker, 29 pounds heavier than the world record, who's to say a 50-pound pike isn't possible. Rivermouths on the east shore stack with fence-post pike in spring, while the vast bays at the south and west end teem with big fish all summer.
Contact: Lakers Unlimited, 306/864-8087, lakersunlimited.com; Blackmur's Athabasca Fishing Lodges, 877/922-0957, athabascalake.com; Jug Bay Sportfishing, 780/792-6761, jugbaysportfishing.com.
Kesagami Lake, ON
It's likely the finest drive-to pike fishery in central Ontario. For a crack at a 50-incher, get here during late summer. Days are long and pike feed heavily into the afternoon hours and are susceptible to big double-bladed spinnerbaits like Northland Bionic Bucktails worked along the edge of thick cabbage beds.
Contact: Kesagami Wilderness Lodge, 800/253-3437, kesagami.com.
Great Slave Lake, NT
Trout Rock Lodge has the advantage of being the sole lodge on the North Arm of massive Great Slave Lake. With thousands of islands to provide shelter from strong winds and the elements, these vast waters are often fished in comfort and safety. Many protected bays offer rich vegetation and abundant preyfish, attracting giant pike.
Contact: Trout Rock Lodge, 907/375-6590, edonah.com.
Utik Lake, Mb
Unbelievable fishing for trophy pike within a 20-minute boat ride from luxurious accommodations. Big fish are caught all season from shoreline structure, rocks, and vegetation. Sebile's Stick Shadd and large streamers like the Monster Magic and flashtail whistlers account for monster pike in shallow lairs here.
Contact: North Haven Resort, 866/531-3848, northhavenresort.ca.
Yukon River, AK
The last frontier for 50-inch pike in the U.S. is the Yukon River drainage. Gator pike in backwater settings are susceptible to well-placed streamer flies and swimbaits like the Sebile Magic Swimmer Soft.
Contact: Midnight Sun Trophy Pike Adventures, 800/440-7543, mstpa.com.
Reindeer Lake, SK/Mb
Reindeer Lake was one of the first fisheries to get U.S. anglers excited about pursuing trophy pike. The lure was the promise of huge fish during any week of the season. Due to catch-and-release policies, a 50-incher remains a possibility at Lawrence Bay Lodge. Classic patterns of weedless spoons and burning bucktails result in a daily hit parade from aggressive pike.
Contact: Lawrence Bay Lodge, 701/262-4560, lawrencebay.com.
Lac La Martre, SK
Ultra-clear waters make this big lake a sight-fishing paradise for stout pike that routinely top 45 inches. Whether fly-fishing or working topwater baits, it's a visual experience like no other — most strikes are seen before they're felt.
Contact: Lac LaMarte Adventures, 810/334-9381, nwtfishing.com.
Winnipeg River, MB
Big river systems grow big pike and the Winnipeg River system takes this to extremes by producing 50-inchers annually. With deep water and strong current, anglers focus on secondary structure in depths of 12 to 20 feet where baitfish concentrate. Guide Matt Cornell notes that steep breaks provide great ambush spots for feeding fish, as well as optimal travel corridors into the shallows where pike find shelter from fast currents of the main river. Don't hesitate to heave 8- to 12-inch lures to get noticed here.
Contact: Matt Cornell, 204/291-5375, bruinoutfitting.com.
Tobin Lake, sk
Slow-trolling edges of the river channel or along near-shore structure accounts for monster pike from late summer until ice-up on this reservoir of the Saskatchewan River. Tobin also produces lunker pike through the ice season on large dead ciscoes and sardines set along stump flats.
Contact: Tobin Lake Resort, 306/862-4976, tobinlake resort.com.
Rainy River, MN/ON
An abundance of food in the form of ciscoes, suckers, and smelt grow big pike in these waters interlaced with countless islands to form plenty of points, saddle areas, and bays to chase the pike of your dreams.
Contact: Capt. Chris Granrud (218) 290-6102, rainydazeoutdoors.com; Camp Narrows Lodge 866/294-5067, campnarrows.com.
Lake of the Woods, MN/ON
This border fishery offers enough upper-echelon pike to go around. The southwest corner of the lake, consisting of Zippel Bay and Buffalo Bay, is renowned for big pike early in the season and at first ice. Large double-bladed bucktails draw the attention of chunky pike sometimes surpassing 48 inches. Jerkbaits like #12 X-Raps work for pike of all sizes.
Contact: Zippel Bay Resort, 800/222-2537, zippelbay.com.
Madison Chain, WI
The Madison Chain is one of Wisconsin's best managed pike fisheries, consisting of five lakes, each offering a different flavor. Lakes Monona and Mendota are big-pike powerhouses offering shallow weedflats, deep cabbage, rock reefs, extended points, and fast breaks into deep basins. With a one-fish, 40-inch minimum regulation on Mendota, big fish abound. Focus on transition areas between weed-choked bays and main-lake structure. Pike use these areas as corridors while moving between shallow flats and the basin, especially early and late in the season.
Contact: Steve Everetts, 847/707-1827, finseekers.com; Lee Tauchen, 608/444-2180, leetauchen.com.
Green Bay, WI
Pike numbers are far from their historic highs on Green Bay, but over the last several years guides have been catching fish in the 42- to 48-inch range more frequently. Casting bucktails around vegetation along the west shoreline is the quickest way to connect with 'gators, but don't overlook historic hotspots like Little Sturgeon Bay and Detroit Harbor on Washington Island.
Contact: Bret Alexander, 920/851-4214, alexandersportfishing.com; Beach Harbor Resort, 920/743-3191, beachharborresort.com.
Spinney Mountain Reservoir, CO
Spinney Mountain Reservoir is not your typical pike fishery. The lake sits at nearly 8,700 feet above sea level with trout and yellow perch as the primary forage for pike. This results in fast-growing, stocky fish up to 30 pounds. Late summer and fall are best.
Contact: Will Dykstra, 720/775-7770; tightlineoutdoors.com.
Fort Peck Reservoir, MT
Recent high-water years have resulted in banner forage populations and extra-heavy pike on this impoundment of the Missouri River. Stretching over 100 miles, it offers opportunities for pike surpassing 45 inches. Feeding flats with submerged timber adjacent to the dam are focal points for tremendous fall fishing.
Contact: Brent Chemnitz and MoRest Motel, 605/845-3668, oahewalleyes.com.
Lower Twin Lake, ID
This natural lake in southern Idaho recently produced a pike surpassing 40 pounds. Pike were illegally stocked here and have made out like thieves, feasting on stocked rainbow trout and kokanee salmon and growing fast — they reach 36 inches in just 3 years.
Contact: Fins & Feathers Tackle Shop, 208/667-9304 fins1.com. –
*In-Fisherman Field Editor Steve Ryan, Chicago, Illinois, keeps track of trophy fish locations around the globe.