Devils Lake Northern Pike
If you love pike; hate ‘em; never heard of ‘em; or desperately want to hook one, when fishing Devils Lake, they will find you. Most are unintentional collisions, because your walleye or perch bait or lure happened to be in the water. Some fishermen chase them all day, every day.
Pike thrive in solid numbers in Devils Lake. Some grow huge, but most are 4 pounds or so. All fight, dash around boats, zing the reel’s drag, thrash and pull. Even small pike tussle above their weight class. Tie a 4-pound walleye’s tail to a 4-pound pike, and the pike will win that tug-of-war every time.
A Devils Lake pike caught a few seasons ago would have been the new North Dakota record. The 51.5 inch pike with a 22-inch girth was landed by Devils Lake fly fisherman Nathan LaFleur. Officials estimate that lunker far exceeded the current state record (48 inches and 37.5 pounds). But, LaFleur released it, as most Devils Lake fishermen do with trophies.
Northern pike are one of the most widely distributed freshwater fish in the world. If a person would spin a globe while concentrating on the Canada south to Nebraska region, pike live throughout that section of the world. Pike have many names: Waterwolf, snake, snot rocket, slimer, gator, and freshwater croc. They’re jack, pickerel and jackfish in Canada. The French call them Grand Brochet. The Cree Indians name is Cinosa. In Alaska, it’s Ihok according to the Inaklitut. Swedes call it Gadda; to Germans, it’s Hecht or Schnock. Poland – Szczupak. Russia – Shchuka. China – Baiban gouya.
What the names say or don’t say, hook one and all the words in the book are quickly defined by this word, “Fun.” Smiles grace the faces of young and old alike when a “gator” is on the end of the line. Pike feed on anything that moves. That’s why a lure being trolled or retrieved on a cast is so tempting for “slimers.” A jig with a minnow is too tempting for a pike to resist. A spinner and crawler pulled behind a bottom bouncer (a favorite method for catching walleyes) attracts the “waterwolf.”
According to summer angler surveys, about one percent of all Devils Lake fishermen target only northern pike. Biologist Todd Caspers said, “There doesn’t seem to be any more pike fishing pressure year to year.” He chuckled, “Fishing here is walleyes in summer months and perch in winter. Pike are mostly incidental catches.”
Devils Lake anglers who intend to connect with a “snot rocket” utilize heavier tackle. Line testing 12 to 20 pounds is recommended, with 14-pound FireLine one of the best. A wire leader is mandatory. Lures for casting or trolling include spoons, jig heads with 4 to 6 inch paddletail plastics, and lures that are 4 to 8 inches long. If casting near trees, shorelines or weeds, shallow runners are best, like Rapala X-Raps or Husky Jerks. Deeper runners are required when fishing open water, over mid-lake humps and old road beds.
Sometimes, the do-nothing method works. Soak a minnow below a bobber. Or, at first-ice out, fish from shore and cast a dead smelt out and let it rest on bottom. Seasons are open 12 months per year on Devils Lake. Ice fishing is a fine time to connect with pike. They provide lots of excitement while fishing with tip-ups. In fact, pike may be one of the only game fish that can be caught on hot dogs. Yes, hot dogs hooked and dangling below a tip-up. If it’s a slow fishing day, fishermen can enjoy eating the “bait,” also. Pike fillets are as tasty as any fish. Most people cannot tell a forkful of walleye from a bite of pike.
When netting a pike or removing hooks, be careful. Their teeth are sharp and plentiful. A finger in the wrong place can be quickly shredded. That’s why the amazing and talented Devils Lake fishing guides will provide a great day on the water and handle all fish. See guide listing on this website.
Devils Lake may be known far and wide for walleyes and perch, but give the “waterwolf” a shot. Make your next trip here a multi-species fishing excursion, and include a few hours of pike fishing. You will be able to make your own fish stories and fish smiles with pike.