Those who wish to catch big pike better come prepared. Contrary to popular opinion, a mere “Good Fishing!” won’t do the trick. Success hinges on many variables. Across forums, opinions on the best time of day to catch pike range from “morning” to “evening,” “always” to “in autumn, only between 11-15 o’clock.” Of course, we all know that these answers have their origin in subjectivity and fish tales. So let’s approach this matter from a scientific perspective. A few studies have explored this subject.
Anglers consult science - These are the best days to fish for pike
Kuparinen, Klefoth, and Arlinghaus explored to what degree the environment impacts the catch rate of pike—which effects increase or lesson our chances? Variables such as time of day, length of day, water temperature, moon phase, wind speed, and more, were tracked in relation to the catch rate. The study was conducted at “Kleiner Döllnsee” in Germany, a mesotrophic lake, 68 ac (25 ha) in size, with a maximum depth of 25,6 ft (7.8 m).
Those of us who watch environmental factors can increase their catch rate dramatically. Sadly, in the recreational fishing space, hardly any of us do. To a large degree, this is caused by the fact that no reliable data sets and analyses are available on the subject. Actually, the study at “Kleiner Dölnsee” of the year 2005 is the first time reliable data was recorded and analyzed. The study was commisioned by the Finnish University of Helsinki, the German institutes “Leibniz Institute for Aquatic Ecology and Freshwater Fishery,” and the “Department of Crop and Animal Sciences.” One of the most intriguing results of the study is the finding of a strong correlation between moon phases and the biting behavior of pike.
The pike catches of 25 anglers across 94 fishing days were included and evaluated as part of the study.
- A population of 544 pike lives in lake “Kleinen Dölnsee”
- Use of artificial baits
- Free choice of fishing spots
Here are the results
What's the best time of day to fish for pike?
Most pike were caught during the new and full moon phases and at dusk (morning and evening). Scientists suspect that at dusk, prey fish enter the open water, affording pike a higher chance of success. The high rate of pike catches at dusk could also be explained by the fact that pike, as visual predators, have a hard time distinguishing bait from fish in the dark.
One surprising finding of the study is that pike bite extremely well during full moon phases, much better than during half moon phases. This might be due to the altered illumination of the environment, which could cause a change in the activity of prey fish and zooplankton, prompting pike to adapt their behavior as well.
What temperature offers the highest chance of success?
The weather impacts the temperature of the water, which in turn influences the catch rate. A likely cause is that pike are hematocryal animals without a constant body temperature—a change in weather temperature affects the animal’s speed of movement and metabolism. Researchers observed that outside the spawning season, the catch rate for pike is highest between water temperatures of 59 and 63 °F (15 and 17 °C). At temperatures of 66 to 68 °F (19 to 20 °C), the activity of pike decreased sharply. Researchers did not rule out that in warmers waters, baits have to compete with natural prey, the excessive food supply thus causing a decrease in pike catches.
Shortly after the spawning season in spring, the optimal water temperature for pike fishing was around 57 °F (14 °C), as pike were hunting more frequently to replenish strained reserves.
Many anglers on the lake
The catch rate decreases when waters are heavily fished. This is caused by a general reduction in the fish population. In principle, the catch rate depends on whether the pike are overfed—how much prey is available? If the fish stock is abundant, the pike are overfed and bite less. Therefore, the best days for pike fishing are when there is little food.
Wind and weather
The catch rate for pike fishing increased starting at a wind speed of 6 mph (10 km/h). The stronger the breeze, the higher the chance of success. Wind causes turbidity, affecting the prey’s vision.
Anglers may use these findings to their advantage, only heading out to fish under optimal weather conditions. Cloudy and windy days promise the most success for pike fishing. On sunny and calm days, plenty of alternative activities to pike fishing are available. But let us say this: “If you catch pike on beautiful sunny days, you are a true master of your trade!”
Now, you know when it pays to fish for pike. Here is a short summary of the study. These seven tips should increase your odds when fishing for pike:
- Fish at new moon and full moon
- Fish at dawn
- It pays to fish in cloudy weathers with wind speeds above 6 mph (10 km/h)
- Pike feel most comfortable at water temperatures between 59 and 63 °F (15 and 17 °C)
- Pike replenish their reserves after the spawning season
- In July, pike are overfed—lowest catch rates
- End of May and September promise the highest catch rates
If you want to fish for a pike, follow these guidelines. Stack the odds in your favor.