Pike fishing tips and techniques to catch more fish


March 11, 2022


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Pike fishing

Pike is quite common and found in most rivers and lakes in Quebec and Ontario. However, this doesn’t make pike fishing boring, or easy! Catching this freshwater predator can be a challenge, and reeling it back in an even bigger one. Claude Bissonnette, buyer at SAIL and fishing expert, has all the best tips and techniques to make your pike fishing expedition a successful one.

The article below highlights Bissonnette’s advice on:

  1. Where to fish for pike
  2. The ideal time of year for pike fishing
  3. The ideal time of day for pike fishing
  4. The best gear to take with you
  5. The main techniques to use
  6. Fishing pike in the winter
  7. A few pro tips

Where to fish for pike

Anglers can try pike fishing in both lakes and rivers. The olive to dark green fish, which sports pale spots on its back and an impressive set of teeth, is a natural hunter and generally always hungry. This makes shallow, weedy areas ideal fishing spots as pike will hide there waiting for smaller fish to come by. Try your luck close to vegetation such as reeds, long weeds or grass, or just underneath overhanging trees.

For more background on the characteristics of northern pike (the most common species of pike in Quebec and Ontario), have a look at our previous blog on the best gear for pike fishing.

The ideal time of year for pike fishing

With the exception of spawning season, it’s possible to fish for pike throughout the year, including winter time. The pike fishing season generally runs from May to the end of March.

The dates differ from one area to another, so check out the provincial regulations.

The ideal time of day for pike fishing

Pike are more active around both dusk and dawn. Grab a strong coffee and aim to be on the water early in the morning, or watch the sun go down from the riverbank. Avoid evenings and nights as there isn’t much activity when the light is gone.

The best gear to take with you

The gear you’ll need for pike fishing depends on the fishing technique you choose, although most people tend to stick to their usual spinning kit to avoid purchasing new equipment. Pike can be a challenge to reel in, so have a look at our previous blog on the best pike fishing equipment to take with you to ensure you are adequately prepared. You’ll need a fairly sturdy rod and reel, as well as long nose pliers and a strong landing net to handle bigger specimens.

The main techniques to use

Getting a bite can be fairly easy as pike are always willing to jump at the chance of a free meal. This means that most fishing techniques can be used, from spinning to baitcasting, trolling and fly fishing. The challenge lies in knowing when to use which. Bissonnette has a few tips to help make it you select the right technique based on your location.


Spin casting is great for pike fishing as it doesn’t require special equipment and can be done just as well from the riverbank, or from a boat.

Once you get a bite, reeling in your catch will require a bit of finesse. A pike may let you drag it back fairly easily for a while as it might not feel the hook or realize that it has been caught, but once it does (often near the boat), it will fight fairly aggressively to get away. Bissonnette recommends reducing the drag on your reel as your catch nears the boat to avoid breaking your line, or even your rod, as it tries to turn back sharply.


More experienced anglers may wish for added precision and a greater casting distance, in which case baitcasting will yield better results. It is also the technique of choice when using heavier lures, which can work well for pike fishing.


Trolling can be particularly effective for those fishing on bigger or deeper lakes. Larger pike specimens will sometimes be confident enough to hunt in open water without the cover of vegetation, so try trolling with crankbait for a chance at a sizable catch.

“When trolling, it’s easy to relax your hands a little while waiting for a bite. Many people I know have lost a rod that way, so make sure you keep a tight grip on your rod at all times, so you don’t let go once you get a strong, sudden bite” says Claude Bissonnette.

Fly fishing

Fly fishing is ideal for wading into shallow water near vegetation. Look for visible fish hiding in the grass or weeds, move slowly and cast your line nearby. Get a good pair of waders and use flies in size six to eight so they are easy to spot by hungry fish. Have a look at Neptune’s and MFC’s pike fishing selection.

Catch and release

Pike is not easy to fillet. It contains a lot of bones, and many people prefer to release it back into the water after catching it rather than trying their hands at filleting. Your catch, should you release it, will have a good chance of survival, but avoid manipulating it too much as you could damage the gills or the eyes, both of which equate to a death sentence. Once caught, leave it in your landing net, don a thick pair of fishing gloves and remove the hook using long nose pliers.

Fishing pike in the winter

Winter fishing can be a bit more passive as anglers often set a few tip-up lines and wait for fish to bite with a hot thermos. But for those hoping for more of a challenge, ice fishing can be quite fun as pike remain active and move around a lot even in the cold. Set yourself up with a good winter fishing kit (including a medium to heavy ice fishing rod), grab a rod holder and choose attractive bait for a good chance at a sizable specimen.

You can go for live bait, dead bait, or artificial bait, but be careful as the use of live or dead bait is not always permitted. Here, Bissonnette’s main bit of advice is to check local regulations before heading out as some areas (including Ontario) allow the use of live bait, while others (including Quebec) don’t. The use of dead fish bait is also restricted in Quebec and only allowed during the wintertime.

A few pro tips

Claude Bissonnette has a few additional nuggets to share for a successful pike fishing expedition:

  • Wear polarised sunglasses. This will reduce glare from the water and let you see where fish are hiding, so you can slowly get close and cast near them.
  • Pike is a slimy and smelly fish. If you’re not going to eat it, Claude Bissonnette recommends not bringing it into the boat at all and unhooking it directly in the landing net.
  • Read up about northern pike before heading out! Understanding the behaviour patterns and characteristics of your prey will give you a better chance of catching it.

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