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Who does not know this situation? You are at the water, the bait box is in front of you, the pike fishing should finally go off and then questions upon questions arise. Each of us has a more or less big lure selection for pike fishing at hand.

But which bait is the best one for the northern pike? In our first tip on lure selection we answer the question at what depth the pike lures should best be used. Thankfully, scientists have answered the question of the depth at which big pike prefer to fish.

This time we refer to a study from the Canada (Toronto). Between 2010 and 2013, 74 pike were tagged with a transponder and tracked over this period.

It was important for the researchers to find out which depth the pike prefer and when. For this endeavor, temperatures were measured at 200 points throughout the area and at various depths.

Over 400 pieces of data (depth and temperature) were collected per pike. So we get a very detailed insight into the depths preferred by the pike.

The pike in the study

The 74 pike in the study ranged in length from 32.5 cm to 100.3 cm (or 12,8 in 39,5 in).

The group of the biggest pike (number 18) included specimens with a body length of 85.7 cm (33,8 in) or more.

– 12 male (length average: 65.5 cm / 36 in)
– 22 female (average length: 79,8 cm / 31,4 in)
– 40 undetermined (average length: 72.9 cm / 28,7 in)

Seasonal temperature differences and their impact on pike fishing

If you want to catch a pike fast, you need to pay attention to seasonal characteristics – to know: Which is the best time to fish for pike?

Pike live in a wide variety of bodies of water and adjust their behavior according to seasonal temperature differences, regardless of the size and depth of the body of water in question.

Pike fishing in spring is very different from pike fishing in summer or autumn. Just as we humans do, pike adapt to the particular circumstances in a body of water.

The water temperature has an enormous influence on the depth of the pike. After all, it is not for nothing that the pike is known as the “coolest of the coolest” of all freshwater predators in the Northern Hemisphere.

If you know the basic basics about water temperatures and the associated change in behavior of the pike, you will always know where to go to find the predator.

There are elementary principles and rules that allow productive pike fishing – regardless of the individual body of water.

When fishing for pike, the basic needs of the predatory fish should be taken into account: The pike likes it cold.

A cool predator – temperatures and their effects on pike fishing locations

As temperatures rise or fall, the pike adapts to its environment. A pike grows best at a water temperature of 19 °C to 20 °C (66 – 68 °F). Nevertheless, a distinction must be made here between big and smaller pike. Water temperature has a major impact on the location of the biggest pike.

Pike fishing on the shore or in open water. Where are the differences?

Pike can inhabit bodies of water with a temperature of 1 °C (33,8 °F) or bodies of water up to over 20 °C (68 °F) and can be found on the surface of the water or at depths sometimes below 12 meters (40 ft).

They live in a variety of habitats depending on body size. The study with the 74 tagged pike took place in deep Toronto Harbor, which is subject to very big temperature fluctuations during the year.
The results would have been different in a shallow lake, if it was not deeper than 5 meters or 16 ft.

We have summarized the data of the prevailing water temperatures in a table.

It is remarkable that the maximum temperature is also very high in winter. This is due to the harbor area, which also houses power plants with an outlet.

So the pike have a free choice of really warm locations all year round.

Tem. minTemp. maxTemp. average
March - May0.7°C25.5°C6.9°C
June - August4.8°C30.1°17.9°C
September - November1°C27,6°C11.6°C
December - February0°C24.7°C2.7°C

Pike fishing on the shore

If you want to fish for a pike, you should know that younger pike are tied to distinctive vegetation, while bigger pike are much freer in their choice of location – so that big pike are more difficult to catch.

Vegetation is abundant in the shore area in many bodies of water, so it is teeming with prey fish for smaller and bigger pike.

The shore area provides an optimal feeding ground for all pike. On the other hand, the shore heats up very much in summer and the water temperatures, depending on the region, quickly rise to values that especially bigger pike avoid.

The characteristics for the best possible location of the pike near the shore, are based on the above study:

– average depth up to 4 m
– rich underwater vegetation

Average, however, is only average. The principle is that pike move to deeper water layers as their length increases.

This conclusion was also reached by other studies that closely observed well over 100 pike.

Small, medium and a few big pike over 85 cm felt comfortable in the shore area. Cooler areas on the shore are preferable to warmer areas. This is especially true in the summer!

A castable sonar like the Deeper can not only display water temperature, but also show the depth of the big fish on your smartphone. We have tested the Deeper smart sonar extensively.

Big pike fishing in open water

Open water is the home of big pike, and really big ones!!!!.

Predators with a length of over 85 cm (33,4 in) were found in the middle to deep regions of the open water (3 m to under 12 m / 10 to under 40 ft).

Smaller individuals always stood higher than their bigger counterparts.

In midsummer, the big pike moved in the open water in immense depths, sometimes below 12 m (40 ft).

A hotspot for big pike in summer is the thermocline. This is where the bigger predators of the open water stay to escape the warm temperatures of the water surface and use the thermocline as a hiding place to hunt.

How to find the thermocline?

Click here first

Plankton is held in the thermocline due to the difference in density of the different warm water layers and can no longer rise to the surface.

2.

Forage fish are feeding on the plankton at the thermocline, bigger predators are below.

3.

Individuals or small groups of predatory fish stay in the thermocline. Here they cool off and can chase smaller fish.

Image: School of baits feeding on plankton in thermocline – powered by Deeper

You can visually see the thermocline with the sonar. On the depth sounder screen, this would be the area that is shown as a murky area.

A digital temperature detector, such as the Anaconda GTM, is often better. It can show the thermocline optimally with a temperature drop.

Then there will be no doubts whether the line shown on a sonar is not a huge swarm of plankton after all.

The Anaconda thermometer is lowered into the water. It records the temperature at the respective depth. If you pull the thermometer up, you can look at the recording and see the sharply falling temperature range very well.

You then lower your pike lures to this depth. Fishing methods for open water at big depths are either vertical fishing in combination with a slight drift of the boat or trolling with appropriate trolling equipment.

How deep are the pike now on average (mean values)?

 To present our lures to the pike at the right depth, we need to know what depth they prefer and when.

In the following we look at the preferred depths of the biggest pike of the study (85 cm plus | 33.4 in) in a table.

recorded depth of big pike - (Mean value)

Source: Comparative thermal biology and depth distribution of largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) and northern pike (Esox lucius) in an urban harbour of the Laurentian Great Lakes.

Tyler B. Peat, Lee F.G. Gutowsky, Susan E. Doka, Jonathan D. Midwood, Nicholas W.R. Lapointe, Bogdan Hlevca, Mathew G. Wells, Rick Portiss, and Steven J. Cooke

Published at www.nrcresearchpress.com/cjz on 6 October 2016.

The blue area describes the hot zone where most of the big pike were recorded at that time of year.

However, we want to make it clear once again that these are mean values. The depths also do not distinguish between shore and open water pike. For this reason we have to look at the data with a certain distance.

For example, to interpret the data, we should note that in summer the chart gives us an average depth of about 2 m to 4.5 m / 6,5 – 15 ft (approximate values). This is probably the range where we find the biggest pike for a nice catch.

But: This range applies to pike 85 cm (39 in) and larger over a three-month period (summer = June to August see table above). Additionally, big shore and open water pike are meant.

Big pike stay so shallow in the summer?

Yes or bullshit? Well, we need to see the data for what it is. Data!

Of course, the bigger open water predators retreat to big depths of less than 12 meters (40 ft) in mid-summer when temperatures are hot.

But the data are from a 3 month period from June to August. This means that pike retreat to depths below 12 m (40 ft) during very warm water temperatures only occurred on a few days in midsummer.

This only slightly affects the mean value. In addition, we must not forget the big pike that prefer to stay on the shore despite all the heat!!!

Just the shore is teeming with prey fish, so pike can feed here. They follow their prey. The chart shows us a general tendency of the site depth in the complete 3 month period of all big pike – on the shore and in the open water.

Note

Big pike on the shore are more likely to be found at 2 meters (6.5 ft) depth in summer. Big pike in open water are more likely to be found at 4.5 meters (15 ft) depth or below.

What water temperature do big pike prefer (mean values)?

This diagram also shows average values for the biggest pike (85 cm plus / 39 in) over three-month periods.

It is clear that the pike do not seek out the warmest water available.

The preferred water temperature is between the minimum and maximum values.

With the depth and temperature gauge from Anaconda, you can optimally locate the cool areas for big pike.

Simply lower the depth gauge into the water and it will record the temperature at any depth. As soon as the temperature drops more, you have the hotspot for big pike!

Are the results of the study the same for every lake? No, of course it depends additionally on the individual body of water.

Here you can learn more about pike fishing in rivers.

 

Many questions play an important role. For example, the presence of prey is a decisive criterion. After all, what is the point of the pike finding the optimal temperature for itself if there is no prey present in the area.

The question of the optimal depth for pike is always an interaction of several factors, of which temperature, however, plays a very important role.

If you want to fish for pike, you should be aware that bigger pike behave completely differently than their smaller counterparts.

Smaller pike from 32 to 64 cm (12,6 – 25 in) prefer warmer temperatures than adult pike.

Temperatures of 19 °C (66 °F) or below are preferred by bigger pike, while smaller conspecifics seek out locations with temperatures above 19 °C.

Those targeting big pike must be able to estimate temperature based on experience or knowledge of water flow patterns, or should use technical aids.

The size of the pike also plays a decisive role. The bigger, the deeper you have to fish. This is especially true in the fall and winter.

Note!

Best running depth of pike lures in the respective seasons

– in spring 1-4 m   (3-13 ft)
– in summer 2-5,5 m   (6-18 ft)
– in autumn 5-9 m   (16-30 ft)
– in winter 5-12 m   (16-40 ft)
– Exception is the open water – here you should also find the thermocline in summer

Use the tables to estimate the running depth of pike lures we plugs, crankbaits and jerkbaits. For rubber fish, big jigs from 65 g to 80 g (bigger than 8 in) are best when the wind is a bit rougher.

For open water fishing, from the end of spring to the beginning of fall, the thermocline is crucial for pike fishing (if one is available).

Fishing equipment should be adapted to seasonal temperatures and depths.

In the summer in open water, the biggest pike – because of the warming of the water – especially like to stay in the thermocline. Pike can be found near the shore at depths up to 4 meters (13 ft).

With a running depth of about 2 m this lure is perfect for spring and summer.

Be sure to check out the running behavior. The bait rises slowly and fights with the fringes, which attracts bigger pike.

This brings us to the end of our article about how to catch a pike in a lake. If you have any questions, additions or comments, please let us know – we are looking forward to your feedback. Here you can find more tips on pike fishing. Or have a look at the fish finder reviews in our extensive fish finder test (including the newest models of all important fish finder manufacturers like Garmin, Lowrance, Humminbird or Raymarine). Have fun on your next fishing trip and “Petri Heil”! – Martin and Jens.

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