Deep Summer Pike: Fishing the Comfort Zone
Finding and catching the lesser known deep summer pike.
Once early-summer water temperatures in the shallows reach about 70 F, big pike seem to disappear. In effect, they head to deeper, cooler water, suspending above or inside summer thermoclines, lying across basins, or shifting toward areas where cool-water springs enter a lake. Warmer temperatures just plain stress them out, and fish exceeding 10 pounds or so hightail it for cooler options, in areas where most pike anglers don’t fish. Thus, when you fish classic weedbeds, deep weedlines and shallow structures during midsummer, the biggest pike simply may not be around.
Yet they are occasionally caught around deep midlake rock humps, or by anglers trolling crankbaits in 25 to 30 feet of water. Freak accidents? No. Simply the results of anglers fishing where the big pike are at that time of the year. If a lake has sufficient oxygen in deep water to support suspended baitfish like ciscoes, chances are big pike are right down there with them, chowing down on abundant silvery forage.
During the heat of midsummer, tactics akin to fishing lake trout catch big pike in, say, 30 to 50 feet of water, typically around the tips of rock points extending into the deep main basin, or around the perimeters of deep midlake humps. Begin by scouting potential areas with your electronics, and when they reveal schools of baitfish and big fish at these extreme depths, chances are that many of them are pike.
The easiest way to catch these fish is to simply jig for them, using a 1-ounce or heavier jig tipped with a large soft plastic tail, such as a Storm Wildeye Swim Shad or Curl Tail. Add a wire leader to prevent bite-offs. If deep summer pike won’t strike an aggressively jigged lure, simply hold the jig off bottom, suspending it at or just above the fish’s level, teasing them into biting. Use flippin’ sticks spooled with no-stretch superline like Sufix 832 to enhance feel and control in deep water, and to deliver solid hooksets despite the extreme depths.
You can also troll three-way rigs weighted with about 3- to 4-ounce bell sinkers, using a 5-foot leader to troll long minnowbaits like size 14 Husky Jerks or 8” Storm Giant ThunderSticks. Troll fast enough to make the baits wiggle, lifting the weight on and off bottom to minimize snags. Once again, add a wire leader, and hang on tight. When you get a bite, it’ll be a big one.
In some cases, longline trolling a mega deep-diving crankbait like an X-Rap Magnum 30 will reach sufficient depths, particularly if you’re using superline, and pike are no deeper than about 30 feet. This allows a swift trolling speed of perhaps 2½ to 3½ mph to trigger strikes, as opposed to a slower leadcore trolling tactic often used for deep-water walleyes.
The point is, fishing such deep water may be out of your comfort zone—but during the dog days of August, it may be right in the pike comfort zone! If you put a large bait in front of a big fish, chances are that good things will happen.