It's August and all the pike are gone! Why and what to do!
For years I would go pike fishing with my buddy Mike, who could only get holidays in August because of the nature of his company. Mike is a big Northern Pike fanatic. No matter what fly-in / boat-in / canoe-in trip we did, the pike fishing sucked in the first couple of weeks in August.
Back in 2003, we took the Chapleau BUDD Train about 2 hours north of Chapleau and were dropped off at a river where there were boats waiting for us. We had to drive the boat another hour to get to our outpost cabin on what was marketed as a trophy pike lake.
The first three days we caught hardly anything. We did catch a few small hammer-handles, which is not what we went there for. After three days of not catching anything, I said to Mike that we might as well start fishing deep for Lake Trout because we need to eat fish. We are running out of food. We put on our 3-way swivel trout rigs and started trolling deep. We did not catch any Lake Trout but we did catch Whitefish and lots of small Northern Pike.
The Lake Is Turning
Have you ever heard someone say, "the lake is turning". What is happening, especially in northern Ontario, is the hot weather of July and beginning of August is being replaced by cool arctic weather coming down from the north. At this time of year, you can also get some very windy days. What is happening is the warm surface water is being pushed down to the bottom of the lake and cool water being pushed up, thus radically changing the 53 degree thermal layers, which is where the Lake Trout, Whitefish and other baitfish congregate. The warm water, which is heading deep, seems to bring all the shallow baitfish with it and the pike follow these baitfish.
Fishing for deep Northern Pike
We where hitting all our pike 30 to 60-feet deep on a light action Lake Trout rig. We were using small trout lures like Williams Wabblers, Blue Fox Spinners and Cleos. We did not catch any Lake Trout but we where catching tons of small pike and kept losing our lures because we were not using steel leaders.
You can not use steel leaders with a spoon on the 3-way swivel rig because it's too heavy. We put steel leaders on the rig but went to bigger floating lures like Original Floating Rapalas, J-11 Jointer Rapalas, countdowns and Thunder Sticks. These lures where also much bigger then the small trout lures thus we started catch big pike. Blue, Silver, Fire Tiger and Chartreuse seem to be the best colors while fishing down deep. Below is the 3-way swivel rig.
3-Way Swivel Rig:
The best way to fish down deep for Lake Trout is with 6-pound test line and a 3-way swivel rig. This technique is also excellent for big August Northern Pike, which are right on bottom in 30 to 60-feet of water.
You need 6-pound test because thicker line has too much friction with the water and it will be hard to find the bottom. You also need a 1-oz or 2-oz weight, a 3-way swivel, light steel leader and a lure that does not sink. I like to use an original floating Rapala, J-11 Jointed Rapala, Junior Thunderstick or a Countdown Rapala.
With Northern Pike, the rig is similar to a trout rig but the line ratios are different. You need a 3-foot lead line from the 3-way swivel to the sinker. Then you need a 5 or 6-foot lead line to your lure.
Get a strait slow troll going and slowly let out line until your sinker hits the bottom. Then real up a foot and wait. You only want to troll just fast enough that your lure starts working. Any faster and it will be hard to get down to the bottom.
When you set the hook, you have to set the hook hard and start reeling in right away as your line is going directly to the sinker, not the fish, thus there is a little bit of slack line you have to compensate for.
For a more detailed description of the 3-way swivel rig, please view my Deep Water Trout Techniques.