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How to Catch Pike in Cold Water (Best Baits and Methods)

How to Catch Pike in Cold Water (Best Baits and Methods)

Fishing for pike is a great sport all year round. However, during the colder months of the year, it can be slightly more challenging to catch the apex predator, which is why I wrote this in-depth article on how to catch pike in cold water.

The best ways to catch cold water pike include slower spin fishing with inline spinners, crankbaits, and softbaits close to the bottom, as well as fishing with dead or live baits in deeper water and over drop-offs.

Continue reading this article for the best tips on methods, lures, and tackle for cold-water pike fishing.

PRO TIP: Need to gear up for your next pike adventure? Then check out this quality equipment on Amazon.

It’s very cost-effective, durable, and will land you plenty of trophy pike!

How to Fish for Pike in Cold Water?

a fisherman holding a giant pike that he has caught while cold water fishing

Fishing for pike during late fall and early spring can be very rewarding, and the fish are usually as well-nourished and fat as they can be.

However, fishing for pike in cold water is not the easiest of challenges:

  1. Fish are much less active and mobile now than they are during the warmer months of the year, as their metabolism adapts to the lower water temperature and slows down
  2. A lower metabolism also means that they do not need to feed as much in order to keep their energy levels at a steady level
  3. Finally, colder water temperatures naturally lead to fewer available food sources, as prey fish also reduce their activity and remain within their larger shoals

Luckily, though, pike still have to move around and feed despite decreased water temperatures and less food swimming around.

In fact, there are days when they can crank up their activity quite substantially to refill their energy reserves, and if you happen to hit the water on such a day, you get the opportunity to experience a chilly feeding frenzy.

However, it is crucial to adapt your fishing to the pike’s current state and its surrounding environment. Everything is a little slower and a little more static than usual. And that is exactly how you have to present your bait!

RELATED ARTICLE: This article has even more helpful hacks that will help you improve your pike fishing skills!

Now is not the time for speed or surface spin fishing, nor is it appropriate to troll too fast.

Go slow and go deep in order to both find and catch cold-water northern pike. If you do that, you will have a much better chance of hooking up, especially if you target the following features:

  • the deepest areas of the venue you are fishing in
  • the upper and underside of drop-offs
  • deep and slow-moving backwaters (in rivers)
  • sunken reefs

These areas now have slightly warmer water temperatures and hold a majority of your venue’s prey fish, which, during the cold months of the year, are often found in large quantities.

If you find those, you’ll most likely find your pike as well!

Pro Tip: When fishing from a boat or kayak, a fish finder will make it easier to find such underwater features. Check out this highly accurate and affordable portable fish finder on Amazon.

Now, let’s take a look at the best methods for targeting cold water northern pike.

Spin Fishing for Cold Water Pike

an angler on a boat with a big northern pike that he has caught on a spinner bait
Courtesy of Sam Urey

If you are fishing with lures in cold water, you should go with lures that can be retrieved slowly without losing any of their action.

Coldwater pike will go for lures that run deep and slow while still having a natural action.

Always draw parallels to what’s actually out there, and you will find success.

Think of your lure as a slowly moving baitfish near the bottom.

That’s exactly the way your lure should look to a hungry but lazy pike.

RELATED ARTICLE: Make sure to also read this article to learn about the best time of year to fish for pike!

The following lures can best create such an illusion in cold and deep water:

  • large inline spinners
  • sinking crankbaits
  • big softbaits

Best inline spinners

When it comes to cold water spinners for pike, you want to go big and bulky. The more vibration and water resistance they can create, the slower you can retrieve them. Their increased weight will allow you to fish these lures close to the bottom.

These two inline spinners are my absolute favorites for cold water pike:

Mepps MuskyKiller Bucktail

  • Length: 5”
  • Weight: 3/4 oz
  • Great colors for cold water (red & black)
  • Awesome visibility
  • Can be retrieved really slowly

Check out the Mepps MuskyKiller on Amazon

Mepps Dressed Aglia

  • Weight: 1/2 oz
  • Fully flexible axle
  • Flashy and bite-enticing colors (black and silver)
  • Gives off extra vibrations to lure even the slowest of pike

Take a closer look at the Mepps Dressed Aglia on Amazon

Best crankbaits

I primarily use big crankbaits when trolling for pike. If you decide to use them, they should be of the sinking variety. This feature will naturally keep them in deeper water without you having to retrieve or troll them at a higher speed in order to make them dive.

This is my best pick when it comes to cold water crankbaits for pike:

Rapala Countdown Magnum

To me, the Countdown Magnum is the perfect pike crankbait for deep-water trolling. Here is why:

  • can run as deep as 25 feet
  • has a large size that is similar to that of a well-sized baitfish (5-9”)
  • has really natural-looking design and colors (comes in many different colors)
  • has a tough lip and hooks that will withstand many pike (and muskie) attacks
  • Sinks approx. 1 inch per second, which means that you can reach those greater depths with ease

Check out the classic Rapala Countdown Magnum on Amazon

Best softbaits

Softbaits that you fish zig-zag style over the bottom are definitely the underdogs when it comes to pike fishing, as not many anglers use these lures for pike.

I fish them a lot, and they always yield great results. Shads are especially great for fishing in cold water conditions.

Not only can these lures be fished very slowly and close to the bottom, but they can also literally rest there, allowing even the most passive pike to pick them up directly from the bottom without much effort.

Here are my best softbait tips for pike in cold water:

Mister Twister Shad

  • old-school, underrated shad! (Chartreuse is a killer pike color)
  • a heavy bait that you can cast far
  • appealing length for cold water pike (4”)

Take a closer look at this awesome and super effective shad on Amazon

Westin Shad

  • truly life-like design and colors
  • great action, even when only lightly twitched along the bottom
  • comes in a perfect pike size (5.5 inches)

Find the Westin Shad on Amazon (my favorite is the lively roach design)

Live and Dead Bait Fishing for Pike in Cold Water

Bobber Fishing

Thill’s got a really awesome big fish slip bobber that can do some heavy lifting and allows you to use larger bait sizes for those monster pike!

It comes in three different sizes, has a high visibility yellow or orange top, and can be fished in both running and still water, making it a superb all-around choice for pike anglers.

Check the Thill Big Fish Slider’s price and reviews on Amazon

RELATED ARTICLE: Check out this article I wrote if you need tips for the best pike fishing lines (both braid and mono)

How to Handle Pike in Cold Weather

Cold air and temperatures below the freezing point can seriously impact the fish. Both their eyes and their protective skin coating can be damaged by the cold, which is why it is extra crucial that you handle your pike with care when it’s really cold outside.

Try not to lift them out of the water and unhook them in the net instead. Simply lift the pike’s head out of the water, unhook it with your pliers, and then smoothly release it from your landing net.

RELATED ARTICLE: Check out this helpful article on the best fishing nets for northern pike!

Now that you know how to tackle those big cold-water predators, it’s time to head out to the bank and give it a try! Just don’t forget to bring some warm clothing and a thermos bottle of hot tea or coffee.

Tight lines!

Essential Gear 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:

Rod: 7′ MH St. Croix Premier Casting Rod

A versatile and beautifully made medium-heavy 7′ baitcasting rod that’s perfect for bigger predators. Casts anything up to 2.5 ounces extremely well. Has an awesome balance, action, and sensitivity.

Reel: Abu Garcia Revo Beast 41 Baitcasting Reel

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 Ugly Stick!

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.

Related Pike Fishing Articles

Images courtesy of Sam Kerr, Marc Taylor-Olsson, Sam Urey, and Joe Maguire