The Northern Pike (Esox lucius) is a very hard fighting aggressive fish that prefers shallow areas of lakes and slow moving rivers like the Passaic. NJ Fish & Wildlife has been stocking Pike on the Passaic for a few years now. I caught up with Ron who was making his way along the river access points and got to see him release a few full nets into the water.
According to Ron, they stock them at this small size because when they get any bigger they’ll start eating each other. I imagine the resources to grow them larger become quite intensive as well. Interestingly, the brood stock collection begins in Budd Lake, NJ. 2017 article by Superintendent Craig Lemon.
Today fisherman walk the muddy shoreline or paddle out to throw heavy braid, line or metal leader toward the toothy critters. Since they aren’t all that bite I sometimes use a 6″ metal leader on my trout rod with 8# mono or braid but if you plan to target them often you’ll want a heavier rod and reel that can support the weight and teeth if you happen to hook into a bigun’.
Some days tossing cheap inline spinners or a kastmaster style lure is all it takes on a lunch break visit. Other days they like to chase and smack spinner baits or jerk baits. The contrast of white or chartreuse in the muddy waters is a popular choice and the weedless design of the spinner bait helps prevent snags on the many fallen trees and branches. There are so many other choices for your terminal tackle but these two will get you started.
Don’t be like me and stick a hand in the gill plate. This can hurt the fish if catching & releasing. Better methods include using a jaw grabber or gripping the tail and around the gill plate. With more experience my handling has improved but always with caution to avoid their teeth.
Winter Tactics: Pike are especially fun to fish for through the ice although in the 15 years I’ve been exploring the upper Passaic I’ve only seen it freeze hard once. Your more likely to visit a local pond or lake. They are caught on tipups with #6 treble hooks with a metal leader or 25# or greater strength leaders. Tactics always vary for location, bait size and size of target catch.
Go support NJ Fish & Wildlife, buy a license and give it a try! And remember that every time you buy fishing gear the manufacturer pays a percentage of the product cost in excise tax that helps match funds from state fish and wildlife agencies! This is known as the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act, also known as the Dingell-Johnson Act and it is the primary funding for fisheries and habitat conservation as well as infrastructure to pay for access points.
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David Alexander is a professional outdoor guide and conservation biologist. He enjoys making nature more accessible to people and wildlife. You can follow him at www.natureintoaction.com