Best Time to Fish for Northern Pike – Essential Guide to Seasonal Pike Fishing


When it comes to fishing for Northern Pike, it’s just slightly different. Unlike most species, Northern Pike stay pretty active during the cold periods, and as a result, you can fish for them all year round.

Looking for the optimum? When is the best time to fish for pike? Well, you are in luck, my friends, here’s a detailed guide, telling you everything you’ll need to know.

While you can fish all day, the best time to catch pike is around the mid-morning and early evening. Pike are predatory and suited to cold water, whereas the fish they eat often are not. As a result, you’ll find that northern pike feed most actively when other fish are up and about.

Water temperature and lighting conditions also play a big part. Here’s a rundown of all of the factors you need to consider when deciding on the best time of day to catch Northern Pike.

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Complete Guide to the Best Times to Fish for Northern Pike

To catch pike consistently, you must understand their behavior and feeding patterns.

This is influenced by many factors, including:

  • The water temperature
  • The weather
  • Daylight
  • The season
  • Spawning behavior
  • The activity of the fish they eat

Let’s take a look at all of the above factors.

Northern pike caught with yellow twister bait

What is the Best Weather for Pike Fishing?

As I said at the start, pike are unique in that they actively thrive and feed in cold water.

In fact, they are trophy fish for ice fishermen.

This should give you a clue about the best weather for pike fishing.

In a word.

Cold.

Any time there are clear skies and a decent frost, you should be reaching for the rods. Because pike are still very active in cold weather, they can take advantage of fish that slow down in colder water.

And when you think about it…

Dead baits and static baits are both super effective for pike for exactly this reason.

You can catch pike all year round in most weathers. Ideally, you will want the water to be a little warmer as this will encourage other fish to move, meaning the pike will be out in force searching for them!

What’s the Best Time of Year to Catch Northern Pike? (Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall)

The best time of year for pike fishing tends to be in the colder months. From November through to mid-March, conditions tend to be perfect.

However.

You can catch Northern Pike all year round. Here’s a breakdown by each season detailing the best times to fish for a pike or two…

Summer

While the water is slightly warmer than you’d normally consider optimal, summer still represents a great time to fish for pike.

Why?

Because the water will be absolutely teeming with small baitfish, which just so happen to be a Northern Pike’s favorite snack. The pike will also have recently finished spawning, and during this spawning period, they tend not to eat too much, so they will be hungry.

The best times to fish for pike in summer are in the lower light periods in the morning and late into the evening.

Pike are extremely predatory and love nothing more than to sit nestled in weeds and grasses ready to ambush passing shoals. Low light conditions give them the best opportunity to do this.

Conversely, when the sun is high, you’ll find bites more scarce. Most other freshwater species will take shelter in the midday sun precisely to avoid being seen by creatures such as pike. During this period, pike will often hunker down in deeper water, waiting for better conditions.

Fall

Fall is a great time to fish for Northern Pike. The water is beginning to cool down, meaning that baitfish are slower, yet pike still maintain their sprightly edge.

Generally speaking, you can expect fall pike to resemble their summer behavior. There are a few exceptions, however.

In the fall, you tend to get fewer bright blue sky days. As a result, you may see that, particularly on overcast days, the optimal feeding times of morning and dusk extend out slightly as a result.

pike ice fishing on frozen lake

Winter

Winter is perhaps the ‘golden’ time for Northern Pike fishing.

Why?

If you like early mornings and big fish, this is the time for you. Food is scarce in winter, and there are far fewer baitfish. But, as a cold water species, pike are still really active, meaning they will actively gobble up anything coming their way.

Pike do slow down a little when the water cools, so you may want to change your tactics from fast retrieved lures to dead baits and static offerings. Live baiting can also be a really deadly method!

Because they are slightly slower and trying to conserve energy, pike won’t travel too far searching for food, so it is important to keep casting and trying different spots.

And here’s a hint.

If the weather is particularly cold, make your way to deep water. These locations tend to be slightly warmer and have the highest fish activity.

Pike fishing in winter is good all day long.

Still, you’ll find the most productive times are early in the morning as pike emerge ravenous from their slumber and just after midday when the water has warmed sufficiently to ‘activate’ a few baitfish.

Don’t worry too much about light levels. Generally, the brightest winter day is still around the same light level as early morning and evening in the summer.

Spring

Spring pike fishing means you’ll have to alter your tactics ever so slightly.

Spring is when pike spawn, and as a result, their behavior isn’t ‘normal’ compared to the rest of the year. Pike tend to spawn in shallow water, but they will only do so when it reaches the correct temperature.

When is that?

You’ll find that from mid-morning to around a couple of hours past midday sees the most pike activity. Pike will emerge from deeper water and slowly begin to make their way to the shallows as the water warms in the sun.

And there’s more.

While they won’t be at their quickest, pike will be positively starving after winter, so they will more readily attack most baits or lures presented to them.

Again, as with winter, you will want to make the most of any available daylight, especially in the early part of the season, so I’d advise fishing from mid-morning onwards and through the day for the best possible chance of success.

fisherman with a northern pike on a frozen lake

What is the Best Time of Day to Catch Pike?

The best time of day to catch pike depends on several factors, but it can be roughly broken down by season.

Here’s my quick at a glance cheat sheet showing you the best time of day to catch Northern Pike:

Season Best Time of Day
Spring Mid-morning through to early evening. Expect bites to drop off in the evening
Summer First two hours after sunrise and two hours before sunset
Fall First hours after sunrise for an extended period into mid-morning. Mid-afternoon to late evening.
Winter Throughout the entire day, the optimum time is between sunrise and midday.

Is it Better to Fishing for Pike in The Morning or Evening?

Again, it depends on the season, but, generally speaking, you will nearly always get results in the morning when northern Pike fishing.

It is typical behavior that pike stay in situ overnight and will move to weeded and covered areas ready to ambush smaller fish that are just waking up.

The evening can produce solid results; however, you’ll find the early sessions are more productive in the winter and spring months.

spinning fishing equipment with backpack and caught Pike

Best Time to Catch Northern Pike | FAQ

Northern pike isn’t particularly difficult to catch, but get it wrong, and it can still be a challenge.

I want to help you out. Here are some of the most common questions I get about Northern Pike fishing…

Can you catch Pike at night?

While you can catch pike at night, this tends to be the least productive time, particularly in the colder months.

Why?

Pike rely primarily on their eyesight to locate their prey. In low light conditions, their hunting efficiency is reduced.

But, Bob… Don’t they have other senses?

Indeed, they do, my friends. Pike can sense vibration and sound.

But…

When fishing in the colder months, you will need to work that lure to produce either of the above. While pike don’t stop entirely in cold water, they do slow down, so the likelihood of them chasing a lure, particularly in the darkness, is lower.

Some lures maximize movement and vibration even when retrieved slowly; here are some great examples. You could give them a go.

What time of day are Pike most active?

Pike are most active in the morning and again in the evening, with morning sneaking ahead slightly. Both of these times offer several things that pike tend to like.

This includes:

  • Colder water
  • Reduced visibility for smaller fish
  • Lower light
  • Better camouflage
  • Calmer conditions

What month is best for Pike fishing?

I find the later fall months are best for pike fishing. Aim for late September onwards if you are after big trophy pike, as they have had all summer to gorge themselves and get nice and fat.

Pike will also be trying to put on as much weight as possible to see them through the winter and will be looking to mop up as many small baitfish as they can…

Make sure your lure is among the shoal.

What’s the worst time to catch Northern Pike?

Regarding the time of day, midday is always quiet when you are fishing for northern pike. Baitfish seek shelter to avoid being spotted by predators, and pike will retreat to deeper areas to wait out the brighter conditions.

Regarding season. Heatwaves in summer always seem to kill bites dead, and night fishing in winter doesn’t often yield any reliable results.

There are a few exceptions to the above. Ice fishing in winter (even at midday) can be particularly deadly. The ice means that there are low light conditions all day. To take advantage of this, you might need a few specialist ice fishing pike lures; here’s a great guide I wrote on the subject.

Conclusion

With winter pike being so utterly ferocious, all you need to do is be in the right place at the right time. Hopefully, my guide to the best time to fish for pike will allow you to make a few plans and get out there fishing.

When the weather cools, you could try other methods if you don’t mind the cold. While you are here, have a quick look at my ice fishing guides, plenty is going on beneath the surface.

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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