Moody Bastards – Pike in open water (2016/06, LURE Magazine)

  • date
  • 14. Juni 2016

Pike in open water can be finicky creatures, but there are ways of working out their mood. I let you in on the secrets I’ve learnt over years of experience.

When thinking about pike in open water, most Anglers imagine a rowing boat, two sideplaners and a guy scouring the lake all day. For many years I used to fish for pike like this, trolling or angling the bank areas (except of course at the Bodden around Rügen island). It’s not that these methods weren’t effective, but with time they just weren’t as much fun for me anymore.

It’s just more fun to hold a rod in my hand and trick a fish into biting with a purposeful cast and well-adapted lure presentation. If the whole process takes place in a water desert without visible landmarks, I am the happiest fisherman!

It took a while until I really dared to cast jerk- and swimbaits for hours in the middle of nowhere. I would have never started if I hadn’t been able to combine many single trolling experiences into one consistent whole .

Before I begin: locations of open water pikes vary a lot depending on the waters, but are always connected with pelagic feeding fish, underwater structures and currents (even in still waters). For example, if the wind blows towards one bay for days and then suddenly turns, water drains from that bay and causes a current.

If you see pike on the sonar under a school of feeding fish, you can assume they are in babysitter-mode and just accompany the swarm. If they can be seen in the middle oft he school (vertically), they are on the hunt.

The ideal angling depth is determined by the question if the water stratisfies during summer or not. To form a thermocline or a zone with progressing temperature, it has to be deep enough. Pike will be found in or above the thermocline zone during summer, but also in their temperature comfort-zone at approximately 17 to 22° Celsius. Before stratification they will stand where the thermocline zone begins in summer, up until right under the surface. After stratification up to double as low in the water and until about three metres under the surface. Of course these are only approximate reference points!

At the end of the day, everybody has to work out pike locations for their waters by themselves. What I can tell you are conditions and a few tricks to get those fish on your lines.

Pike Psychology
Pike can be classified by their behavioural condition into three main groups: negative, neutral and positive. Especially in big waters where predators seem to stand in the middle of nowhere, these conditions correlate soundly with three external factors, so called triggers: First the moon, secondly the weather and finally the barometric pressure.
According to my notes, they have an influence on the pike’s biting behaviour in exactly this order.
Water level and water opacity are left out here as they have very specific impact on each water. Not only am I trying to be at the water while conditions are generally good, but I also react to changes during angling and choose places I suspect or know to be promising. That way I get hold of the moody predators in positive or at least neutral temper.

I discovered that it’s not necessarily – as often assumed – moonrise or moonset that generates neutral or positive temper with pike, but moon overhead and moon underfoot. Especially the latter. So I like to fish at daylight during full moon, and switch to night fishing during new moon.
That causes me to rather be at the water during moon underfoot (lowest point seen from my position on earth), although this is not only true for full- and new moon (where the effect is particularly intense), but affects angling in any moon phase.

Special constellations with the sun also have an effect. If moonrise or moonset coincide with sunrise or sunset, I assume a positive reinforcement with the pike and try to be at the water. The following list should help the moon worshippers among you to organize their angling time best:

  • moonrise: 1,5 hours before until 1 hour afterwards
  • moon underfoot: 1 hour before until 1 hour afterwards
  • moonset: 0,5 hours before until 1 hour afterwards
  • moon overhead: 0,5 hours before until 0,5 hours afterwards

Weather and barometric pressure
Especially during bad, season-atypical conditions, weather fronts that restore the seasons’ normal weather prove to have positive impact on open water pikes.
The longer weather has been atypical, the bigger the effect on their biting mood. That brings me to the next important factor: barometric pressure.
For the longest time I assumed that only the Zanders’ appetite is spoilt by it, but know better now.
A pike’s mood can also be influenced by even the slightest pressure variation. As I mentioned before, weather fronts have an impact on fish – and as these often come with big pressure changes, pikes react strongly to them.
Lots of ups and downs – horrible for any zander angler – seem to be beneficial for the pikes. To me, that means fishing for zander during constant conditions and for pike during inconsistant ones.

Another biting mood trigger I have discovered over the years is dependent on light conditions: If clouds start to cover up the sun on a – so far – bright day, pikes often start to swim towards open water. They seem to consider low light as an advantage for camouflaging themselves while hunting.
I was also very successful on hazy days, when I could catch even several pikes during short sunny spells. Changing conditions, like with the barometric pressure, seem to produce positive mood.

Based on my notes I set up a list of further weather triggers for you:

  • fog
  • clear changing into cloudy
  • cloudy to rain or snow
  • calm to windy
  • weather front
  • freezing
  • change of wind direction
  • cold and windless
  • thunderstorms
  • water temperature drop
  • wind speed increase
  • quickly dropping water temperature (Fall)

The angler has an impact, too
You can’t change external factors such as moon and weather, but there’s always a few tricks you can try when the pikes get into biting mood. In order not to go beyond the scope of this article, I made a list here as well:

  • Downsizing – for whatever reason, sometimes you can catch really big pikes with perch lures. It works!
    manchmal fängt man auch richtig große Hechte mit Barschködern. Warum auch immer, es funktioniert!
  • Cranking speed mach 4 – reel your lures in as fast as you can. You will never be able to overhaul a pike in biting mood (7 metres per second).
  • Zigzag – pull your rod to the left and to the right and thus obtain abrupt direction changes.
  • Figure 8 – standard procedure with Muskyanglern in the USA, hardly known in Europe. It’s all about not just lifting your lure out of the water after reeling it in, but either continuing by forming an „8“ or a circle. Pikes that followed the bait can be triggered to bite right next to the boat.
  • Hanging on and coming back – if you know a pike location, stick with it. Try different lures. Leave the spot and come back an hour later. At some point it’ll be to much even for most rebellious pike diva!
  • Packs and Pairs – open water pikes often aren’t alone. They even collaborate when they hunt. So if you caught a pike, there might even be a second one around.
  • Head biters – if you caught a pike or had a foul bite, keep an eye on which body part of the lure he attacked. If it was the head, you can assume the pikes are in good biting mood.
  • Running & Gunning – especially when fishing on new waters or when well-known spots don’t pay off: eat up some miles! Focus on lures that don’t run too deep and can be cranked quickly.

In addition to these hints the lures play an important role.

My favourites:

  • Strike Pro Buster Jerk
  • Lucky Lures Esox Junior
  • Lucky Lures Lucky Trout
  • Eumer Spin Tube
  • Storm Wildeye Seeker Shad
  • CT Baits Shad 25cm

Colourwise I can only say that they vary strongly from water to water. Two tipps: black during the night, white in wintertime.

Book recommendations
I engaged in US-Musky-literature a lot over the last few years and could transfer much of that knowledge to my angling for open water pike. I can recommend some books:

  • Moon up – Moon down by John Alden Knight
  • Musky Strategy by Tom Gelb
  • The Complete Guide to Musky Hunting by Jim Saric and Steve Heiting

Keep track and make notes!
At last I would really like to convince you how important it is for a successful angler to take notes about any potential success factors. Almost everything I know and believe in, I get from my notes.
I used to carry little pieces of paper on me at the water to jot down a few lines about every catch, and it became pretty tedious to then register everything in an Excel-sheet at home. For a few months now, I have been using a simple mobile app called tiddlr – ‚cause size matters. It covers all necessary tasks and makes easy to analyze the data at home on their website. Even though there’s only a beta version available right now, I am completely amazed by their precise, but super easy catch register and am looking forward to follow-up versions. But no matter if you like it old- or newschool: take notes of everything that strikes you at the water and try to find patterns that will guide you towards your fish more quickly in the future, and maybe even to the fish of your life.

2016/06, LURE Magazine

Leave a reply

Fields marked with * are required