When it comes to pike fishing, I have tried out every single month of the year. I have found out that some periods simply do not work for pike at all, while others are absolutely perfect to target this predator.
So I wanted to share my experiences and knowledge in this article on the best time of year to catch pike.
The best time of year for pike is fall, as the water temperature is slowly dropping and the pike feed and hunt very actively and aggressively. More specifically, September and October are, by far, the best months to target pike.
Continue to read this article and find out exactly why pike fishing in the fall can be so rewarding.
What Time of Year Is Best for Pike Fishing?
Come fall, northern pike are suddenly reminded of their hunter’s nature, as they start to feed more and more aggressively. The months of September and October especially are awesome pike fishing months, and many anglers catch the pike of their dreams during this period.
These months are what I call Goldie Locks pike fishing months, as they are between the hot summer months and the cold winter months.
The water temperature, light intensity, and weather conditions are usually just right during September and October, and so these two months simply provide the very best of timings when it comes to pike fishing.
Let’s take a closer look at the underlying factors in order to better understand why pike are more active during fall, and why this period is so great for pike fishing.
Cooler water temperatures
When summer comes to an end, both air and water temperatures are slowly starting to drop, which has a positive effect on the pike’s activity and movement patterns. They will simply become less drowsy and start to increase their daily swimming, hunting, and feeding activity.
More oxygen in the water
While temperatures are dropping, the water’s oxygen level is increasing instead. This will give the pike a much-needed boost and sort of reactivate the fish after the long and warm summer. The fall season’s more frequent rainfalls further aid this awakening.
As the sun slowly loses its strength and the days become shorter, the pike will have an easier time moving around and ambushing prey, as the water will become darker and darker. This allows the pike to hunt even in areas of deeper open water.
Higher level of preyfish activity
It’s not only the predators that become more active. All types of fish are having their prime feeding time during the fall.
The pike’s prey is now also swimming around more freely and actively in search of food, giving the predators plenty of opportunities to hunt them.
The upcoming winter
The perhaps most important factor when it comes to pike fishing in the fall is the upcoming winter season.
The fish sense that coldness, darkness, and scarcity are on their way, as they do each and every year, and they do best to get ready as much as possible before winter arrives.
It is a type of signal telling the pike that now is the time to feast and fatten up. And so, the pike follow suit, much to the anglers’ delight.
What Is the Best Time of Day for Fall Pike Fishing?
When it comes to catching pike in autumn, you should focus on the early hours at first light until midday (sometimes a little later than that, if you continue to get action).
When the water temperature drops, pike seem to be most active when it’s light, which probably has to do with the fact that they partly rely on their eyesight when hunting for prey.
And so, as there is less and less light to rely upon as the year progresses towards fall and winter, northern pike have to take advantage of the sunlight that remains and focus their feeding activity on those hours of the day.
Additionally, as the nights become longer and longer, they just seem to build up an immense appetite during the night and have hence to still their hunger as soon as the first light approaches.
I have had so many brilliant and action-filled (early) morning sessions for autumn pike that I can confidently recommend this time of day!
Make sure to get up early and enjoy those chilly and glorious autumn mornings, they are well worth it and you will most likely catch a lot of pike as well!
How to Fish for Pike in The Fall?
Both lure and bait fishing are extremely effective ways of catching pike in the fall. Let’s take a look at each of these methods individually:
In September, when there is still some warmth in the water, you can confidently fish with all types of lures.
Fast or slow retrieval lures, surface or deep water lures, small or large sizes; it doesn’t really matter now as the pike will be all over the place and hit whatever you cast in front of them.
On the contrary, the colder month of October demands lures that fulfill the following criteria, as the fish are now less active and can most often be found at deeper, warmer water depths:
- larger sizes that can be retrieved more slowly
- deep diving lures for trolling
- lures that can be fished close to or directly on the bottom
- lures that allow for stop-and-go action
Pro Tip: The colder it gets, the larger, deeper, and slower your lures should be, as the pike will become less and less active and rather go for a bigger prey fish in order to save energy.
Here are some of my all-time favorite lures for the September and October pike fishing:
Mepps Musky Killer
Don’t let the name lure you (pun intended), the Musky Killer is an awesome coldwater spinner for both muskie and pike!
These large and heavy inline spinners are the perfect choice for deepwater fishing in both lakes and rivers. They have a great lure action and at 3/4 of an ounce, are the perfect size for bigger pike!
Rapala Countdown Magnum
Perhaps one of the best deepwater trolling crankbaits of all time!
The sinking Countdown Magnum allows for very slow trolling speed and can attract even the most inactive of pike, as it looks very natural, has a great swimming action, and convinces through both size (5-9”) and a maximum trolling depth of an amazing 25 feet.
This bait will catch you those big cold water pike that are lurking in the depths of your lake!
I prefer the following colors and models:
- Red Head
- Silver Mackerel
Pike Musky Dawg
This popular soft swimbait is perfect for fishing over or zig-zagging along the bottom. It’s a fairly heavy and large bait (1.5 ounces, 7.9 inches) that allows for a fairly slow retrieve to target pike resting on or near the bottom.
Nothing goes over a violent take that you feel in your rod when the bait is on its way down and a pike decides to hit it!
RELATED READING: If you want to get even more tips on how to catch pike in colder water temperatures, make sure to also check out this related article: How to Catch Pike in Cold Water (Best Methods)
Fishing with live bait on the float or bobber, both from shore or slow-trolled behind a boat is another very effective method of catching fall pike.
The somewhat more active nature of float fishing goes hand in hand with the still elevated activity of the pike and it is now that you can experience absolute dream sessions with a big baitfish on the float rig!
Make sure to use bigger baitfish sizes when targeting pike in the fall, as they much prefer bigger prey fish this time of year.
When it comes to live bait, the following fish have produced the best results for me:
- smaller bream
Just make sure to use a big enough float in order to be able to perfectly present your baitfish at the right depth.
Those bigger baits can be quite strong and have the ability to pull your float under, which messes up your bite indication quite severely.
I recommend using a float or bobber of at least 25-30g (7/8-1oz). A float size like that will handle your lively baitfish without a problem!
The E-Sox Zeppler is such a float. Its awesome visibility and buoyancy will make your float fishing for pike an exciting experience.
For pike fishing in the States, I recommend using the Thill Big Fish Slider to get the best possible bait presentation. It comes in two different sizes: 4 inches (1/2 oz) for smaller live bait and 8 inches (2 1/4 oz), which is perfect for using bigger, more lively baitfish.
What Is the Worst Time of Year to Fish for Pike?
In my opinion, the worst time of year for pike fishing is in the middle of summer. As it is usually very warm, both in the air and in the water, the pike are simply not in the mood at all and remain rather inactive throughout the day.
Of course, they will still have to feed occasionally, but those feeding windows are usually extremely small during high summer. Realistically, trying to fish at the right time and in the right spot isn’t easy at all during this time of year.
Additionally, pike do not manage warm water all that well and fatigue rather quickly during a fight. It’s really best to let them rest when it’s baking outside and instead hit them hard once summer is over.
RELATED ARTICLE: What Is the Average and Maximum Size of Pike?
Essential Tackle Tips
If you’re looking for solid and reliable pike fishing equipment, these tips might be useful for you.
The following tackle is of top quality and sells at a very reasonable price on Amazon:
A versatile and beautifully made medium-heavy 7′ baitcasting rod that’s perfect for bigger predators. Casts anything up to 2 ounces extremely well. Has an awesome balance, action, and sensitivity.
An affordable high-performance baitcasting reel with amazing strength. Casts super smoothly and will last you forever! Makes for a great pike combo together with the St. Croix rod.
Mainline: Power Pro Spectra
One of the best braids available today. Zero stretch, great feel, and immense strength make this line the perfect pick for pike in both open and snaggy waters. Put on a 30lb test and you’re good to go.
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- The Absolute Best Way to Ice Fish for Northern Pike
Featured image courtesy of Ian Futcher