10 Destinations for Giant Pike
By: Steve Ryan
What better excuse for a road trip than the chance to chase giant pike. North America is blessed with a bounty of fine pike waters, and winter is an excellent time to sample some of these fisheries. Buckle-up and leave the driving to us.
Madison Chain, WI
The Madison Chain, consisting of five distinct lakes, is one of Wisconsin’s best managed pike fisheries. Each basin offers different options. Lakes Monona and Mendota are big pike powerhouses. They have every type of structure, from shallow weedflats to deep cabbage, rock reefs, extended points, and fast breaks into deep basins. Plus, with a one-fish, 40-inch minimum-length limit on Mendota, big fish abound.
Here I connect with Kevin Yeska, a University of Wisconsin alumnus and Madison resident, who pursues trophy pike on the Madison Chain. He focuses on transition areas between vegetated bays and main-lake structure. His advice is to find healthy deep cabbage beds adjacent to rockpiles and ledges. Pike use these areas as corridors while moving between shallow flats and the basin, especially early and late in the season.
Yeska says it’s critical to beat the sunrise and have gear set up by first light. “It’s easy to sacrifice some sleep for early-morning trophy pike. That’s when I tend to get my biggest bites. Since we’re permitted three lines per angler, I invite my college buddies along to supplement our spread. Then we can cover expansive flats and edges with a combination of large golden shiners suspended under Automatic Fishermans and lures like a #7 Jigging Rap or PK Flutterfish jigged actively. I favor the 13 Fishing 31-inch MH Wicked Ice combo for pike fishing for its power and balance. Spooled with 20-pound-test Sufix 832 braid and a 30-inch leader of 25-pound fluorocarbon, baits can be aggressively ripped six or seven times, then paused 5 to 10 seconds. Pike charge out of the thick vegetation to attack these lures, while others can be coaxed out with the livebait suspended under the Automatic Fishermans.”
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