night fishing for pike

Night Fishing for Pike (Most Successful Tactics)

The pike is one of our most popular game fish and millions of anglers all around the world target this apex predator. Most of them do so only during the day and have never even tried night fishing for pike. I have done so many times and decided to write an in-depth article on the topic.

Night fishing for pike can be very successful if you are choosing the right tactics. As pike are somewhat less active at night, you will have to fish lures that are bright and vibrate a lot in order to get their attention. Fishing with both live and dead bait on the bottom is another highly effective tactic for nighttime pike fishing.

Continue to read this article if you want to know how to catch big pike at night.

Do Pike Bite at Night?

Pike actually do feed during the night, even if many anglers believe that they do not. Anglers who do fish for Esox when it’s dark often have very successful sessions.

Even though they generally catch somewhat fewer fish than during the daytime, they tend to catch bigger specimens.

This can perhaps be explained by a scientific study that suggests that the pike’s feeding activity is slightly lower at night, as it commonly digests the food it has captured during the day at night.

This does however not mean that a bigger pike will not get hungry again after digesting its last meal. Or perhaps, it just didn’t manage to catch any fish during the day and instead has to hunt for prey in the dark.

Another fact that many anglers refer to is that pike are visual hunters that rely mostly on their sight.

And while there is truth to that fact as well (pike have rather big eyes), we must not forget that the pike is a highly developed predator that can use several of its senses to hunt and capture its prey.

These senses include the following:

  • Sensory pits and pores along the jaw and in the frontal area of the head that can detect movement
  • Two pairs of nostrils that allow the pike to scan its surroundings by smelling it
  • The lateral line, which is a very sensitive organ that can detect vibration even from a very long distance

And so, as much as you can expect a lot of bites and activity in murky, muddy, or very dark water when fishing for pike, so too can you catch pike at night!

How to Fish for Pike at Night?

how to fish for pike at night
Courtesy of Joe McCarron

The best methods for night pike include fishing with noisy and vibrating lures, as well as fishing with live or dead baitfish.

Regardless of the method you’re going for, make sure to always bring an unhooking mat with you when pike fishing at night, as it makes handling the fish so much easier. Take a closer look at this large and roomy unhooking mat on Amazon here.

Lure Fishing

When lure fishing for pike at night, make sure you know your venue and its surroundings, as it is very easily happened to cast your lure into an overhanging bush or tree in the dark.

This is especially important as you will want to hit the margins first. Pike seem to seek out shallower water to both feed and rest at night, which is why you should be fishing close to the shore.

Try casting along the margins on both sides of your swim and gradually fish your way further out. This way, you are able to scan the entire area for lurking pike in the shallower water near the shore.

Hearing that powerful splash and feeling the fish’s resistance in your rod in complete darkness is simply indescribable; you got to try it yourself!

Pro Tip: ALWAYS take a first aid kit with you when night fishing for pike. Those teeth are just as sharp at night as they are during the day. The only difference is that you do not see them as much when you try to handle the pike at night! You can purchase a complete first aid kit on Amazon here.

Live or Dead Bait

If you want to use live or dead baitfish for nighttime pike fishing, my best advice is to present your bait on the ledger, especially if casting lures doesn’t result in any takes.

Ledgering, meaning bottom fishing, is the number one method when it comes to drowsy pike at night! Here is why:

  • When pike decrease their activity at night, they often stay close to the bottom to rest
  • Dead bait stays on the bottom and can easily be picked up, even by the slowest of pike
  • Ledgered live bait is less mobile and stays in one place, as opposed to presenting it on the float
  • The live bait’s vibrations bounce off the bottom and are hence stronger, which makes it easier for the pike to detect it in the dark

In my opinion, ledgering for pike at night is by far the best way to catch the bigger specimens in any given venue. It just makes sense as they try to preserve as much energy as possible, while still needing to feed.

I have had the best results with the following two methods:

  1. The running rig with a 2-3oz weight, a swivel, a 15-20 inch long soft wire trace, and two size 2-4 treble hooks flat on the bottom (best for dead bait).
  2. The sunken float paternoster with a 20-30g pike float, an anti-tangle beam, a wire trace with two size 2-4 trebles, and a bottom lead of 2-3oz (best for live bait just off the bottom). As you’ll have to handle your treble hooks in the dark, make sure to bring long-nose pliers with you in order to unhook the fish easier. Check out my favorite pliers on Amazon here.

Best Lures for Night Fishing for Pike

Use lures that are both bright and vibrate a lot when night fishing for pike. They will have to stick out in the dark in order to lure the fish.

Any types of lures that make noise underwater or on the surface and that push aside a lot of water while being retrieved can be considered winners when it comes to night pike fishing.

When it comes to colors, go for the following:

  • neon green
  • neon yellow
  • white
  • chartreuse

If their brightness doesn’t catch the pike’s attention, its vibration, movement, and noise will certainly get the fish interested!

Some very successful night lures for pike include the following:

Best Natural Baits for Night Pike

best baits for pike at night
Courtesy of Jeremy Rose

Best dead bait

Fish with the smelliest baits you can find! You will want to take advantage of your dead bait’s scent, as the pike will have an easier time finding it in the dark.

Some people like to use really old and badly smelling dead baits, in order to really stink up the swim and attract the pike into it.

I must say that I much prefer fresh dead bait. Perhaps it’s more psychological, but I think even a scavenger like the pike does enjoy a fresh dead fish more than an old and rotten one. They also give off a very nice scent.

Some of my favorite deadbait for nighttime pike fishing include:

  • mackerel
  • sardine
  • smelt
  • herringe
  • sprats (these are my secret weapons when bigger baits fail. Small-sized baitfish are sometimes very underrated when it comes to big pike!)

RELATED ARTICLE: Check out this article if you want to know all about night fishing for zander!

Best live bait

When it comes to live baitfish, you will want to use fish that stay alive over a longer period of time while being hooked to your trebles.

You do not want to disturb the swim and any possible pike in it by recasting every hour due to baitfish that have died on you.

So, die-hard baits are the way to go! These can include:

  • roach
  • perch
  • rudd
  • shiners
  • shad

Pro Tip: Check your local regulations on fishing with live bait before heading out to the bank! Certain waters and regions prohibit the use of live baitfish!

Just make sure you use the appropriate gear that can handle the respective bait size and strength!

RELATED ARTICLE: Is Fishing With Live Bait Illegal? (A State-By-State Guide)

Essentials to Bring When Fishing for Pike at Night

Pike fishing under normal conditions and in bright daylight can be somewhat challenging, especially for beginners. You can easily double that level of challenge when it comes to night fishing for pike.

This is why you have to be well prepared and geared up when fishing in the dark. It will make your night fishing experience so much better. Here are a few must-haves for the nighttime pike angler:

Headlamp

Without proper light, you will be absolutely lost in the dark. Not only when fishing, but also when handling and unhooking a fish.

Make sure to always have a proper head torch with you when you head out for a night session.

I used to always forget to bring spare batteries for my torch, which is why I now use a USB-chargeable version instead. Just charge it up when you come home and it’s ready to go for your next night session!

I also much prefer a waterproof headlamp, as it’s easily happened that you take it off and drop it in the mud or water when it’s dark. You can find a qualitative and decently priced headlamp on Amazon here.

Bite Alarms

If you are ledgering for pike, then you will need to use some form of audible bite detection.

I much prefer electronic bite alarms, as they not only sound when there is a take, but they also have LED bite indicator lights, giving you a clear visual when it’s pitch black.

Now, I could suggest you a set of really expensive carp alarms, but the truth is that you won’t really need any expensive gear for this type of fishing.

A couple of very basic and rather inexpensive bite alarms will totally do. The most important thing is that they actually detect your bites properly and that they will last for a long time.

Hence, the good old NGT VX1 Bite Alarm will totally suffice! They come at a very decent price and do a really decent job. They are also very durable, which is important when it comes to bite alarms and fishing at night.

Bite alarms do not have to cost a fortune! So, no matter if you are a total beginner or if you have a limited budget, you will still be able to pay next month’s rent after having bought these alarms. Check out the NGT VX1 Alarms on Amazon here.

Bobbins

For extra bite indication, e.g. when a pike picks up your bait but doesn’t really run off with it, using a bobbin with your bite alarm is be a smart and simple way to ensure that you will not miss any takes.

The bobbin’s weight will pull down your mainline if it gets slack and hence trigger the bite alarm into sounding.

The same principle as for the bite alarms applies; cheap will do just fine! Find a set of basic and effective bobbins on Amazon here.

Recommended Pike Fishing Gear

If you want to get more valuable gear and tackle tips that can help improve your pike fishing, head over to my recommended pike gear page:

Featured image courtesy of James Mcintyre

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