The very best northern pike waters contain ample numbers of fish along with excellent trophy opportunities. Unfortunately, many waters across the U.S. and Canada have great overall numbers of pike per acre of water, but their average size is small. In some cases, these fish –called “snakes” by some anglers — are even stunted.
High populations of pike over its southernmost ranges have a larger tendency to stunt than their counterparts in far-northern ranges. This is especially true in shallow, fertile waters. By comparison, deep, cold waters rarely have stunted pike.
Canada has huge populations of northern pike in so many waters that they’re simply too many to name. This beauty was caught in Saskatchewan.
The Canadian Connection
Without question, the best northern pike fishing in North America is in Canada. No other country worldwide can compare to Canada’s pike fishing opportunities overall. Canada has huge populations of northern pike in so many waters that they’re simply too many to name. What’s even more impressive is that many of Canada’s best pike waters haven’t even been fished yet. Fly-in explorations to new wilderness lakes keep revealing more and more underutilized pike opportunities.
Most of the well-known big muskie waters in Ontario, such as Lake of the Woods, Eagle, Nipigon, Georgian Bay, Wabigoon and Dinorwic, produce 40-inch class pike on a fairly regular basis. Smaller, inaccessible fly-in lakes throughout Ontario have even more potential.
The provinces of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta and Quebec are loaded with premier pike fishing; so much so, in fact, that these waters are too numerous to name. The northern pike is the king of predators throughout these provinces. Muskies are virtually nonexistent. It’s not uncommon to see pike in the 45- to 50-inch category there. Contests held in each of these provinces reveal several 30-pound pike taken annually.
Even the popular trout waters of the Northwest Territories produce some limited trophy-pike fishing. Interestingly, when pike are found in these far northern regions, their size is sometimes incredible. Stories of lake trout fishermen bagging a 50 inch, 35-pound pike are not always fictitious.
The Wild Wild West
The U.S. does have some quality northern pike fishing along with several good trophy opportunities. Some of the hottest big pike action in the past decade or so has come from western reservoirs throughout North and South Dakota. Lake Sakakawea and Oahe Reservoir, and Montana’s Fort Dodge Reservoir, have all pumped out huge pike. These highland reservoir pike have lots of deep, open water in which to roam, along with a myriad of quality forages such as gizzard shad, smelt, carp and suckers. More U.S. pike over 25 pounds come from these western reservoirs than perhaps anywhere else.
Northern Minnesota has a number of good pike lakes that have both big populations and some possible trophies. A few of the better known ones are Pelican, Mille Lacs, Leech, Cass and Winnibigoshish. The Minnesota side of Lake of the Woods also provides lots of northern pike water, too. The most overlooked big-pike water in Minnesota, however, could be the Mississippi River. Big pike can be caught from its headwaters all the way south to the Iowa border.
Badger State Brutes
The best big-pike waters in Wisconsin flow in the mighty Mississippi River, especially around the LaCrosse area, but other not-so-obvious situations abound. A couple of the busily traveled lakes near Wisconsin’s biggest cities, Madison and Milwaukee, are surprisingly big-pike producers. Most noteworthy are Lake Geneva, Lake Beulah, Lake Mendota and Lake Okauchee. Flowages of the Wisconsin River in central Wisconsin also have big pike. The best bets are Lake DuBay, Lake Wausau, Castlerock and Petenwell Reservoirs, and Lake Wisconsin. Lots of big pike are also taken around Chequamegon Bay, as well as the St. Louis River (where it enters Lake Superior). The Sturgeon Bay section of Lake Michigan gives up more than its share of trophy pike annually, also.
Michigan’s best pike fishing is limited to its bigger waters. Lake St. Clair has tons of pike, but few reach trophy size. However, several bays and backwaters of Lake Huron are worth fishing. Most notable are areas around Saginaw Bay, Sault Ste. Marie and St. Martin’s Bay, and the Les Cheneaux Islands. A 20-pounder is possible from any one of these areas.
The best pike waters in the eastern U.S. are without a doubt connected to Lake Ontario and “The Larry.” The Bay of Quinte/Thousand islands area is hot pike water. It’s doubtful that better pike water exists anywhere in the United States. Weedbeds along much of the St. Lawrence River seem almost infested with pike at times. Still, there are trophies in the river.
The U.S. and Canada have a diversity of good northern pike waters. Big pike can be taken from the flat desert-like reservoirs of the western U.S. all the way up and across to the remote woody wilderness of the Northwest Territories in Canada. If you really want to catch some big pike, plenty of opportunities abound.