Alaska Northern Pike
Northern pike, with their rows of sharp teeth and deadly stealth, are regarded as being the most ferocious predators in Alaska’s rivers and lakes. They are known to eat animals such as ducks, muskrats and other creatures that carelessly swim into their domain. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, their range extends from Alaska’s Interior to the Arctic coast, from the Canadian border to the Seward Peninsula, and southwest to the Bristol Bay drainage.
Illegal stocking of northern pike, where eggs or live pike are transported and introduced into other waters, are threatening the quality of fisheries in South-central Alaska due to the predatory nature of this fish. These fish are voracious eaters that are quite disruptive to other fish in waters where they do not naturally occur. Not only do they serve as competition for food sources, but they are also predators of other fish. Illegally stocked pike occur in streams of the Susitna River drainage and the Kenai Peninsula.
Alaska northern pike spend the winter months in the deep, slow waters of large rivers, because shallow lakes are usually covered in ice. They spawn in the spring once the ice has thawed. Eggs are deposited in the grassy margins of a lake shore, slough, or stream, where incubation can take up to 30 days. Once hatched, they move to summer feeding areas that are usually localized and not too far from their spawning grounds. These fish can live to be more than 20 years old.
The body of the Alaska northern pike is elongated, with a single soft-rayed dorsal fin towards their back. Their skin varies in color; pike from clear bodies of water are light green, whereas those from a dark slough or river are much darker. They have a broad, flat snout similar to a duck bill, and many rows of sharp teeth. Males and females have similar shapes and coloring, though females are usually larger and live longer. Northern pike can weigh up to 40 pounds and can grow to be four feet in length. By the time they are two or three years old, they can be up to 12 inches, and between the ages of six to eight can grow up to 25 inches. Beyond their first 10 years, pike can weigh upwards of 15 pounds or more.
Fly Fishing for Alaska Northern Pike
Pike are ambush feeders, they will lie motionless until something swims by and then aggressively attack. Most people love the “take” more than anything else, explosive and unexpected. Once hooked, Pike will have an initial strong run but do not have the stamina of a trout or salmon. No See Um Lodge typically uses mice patterns for Pike. The state sport fishing record is 38 pounds caught on the Innoko River, a tributary of the Yukon River.
Fly fishing season for Alaska northern pike begins in April and goes through October. Peak season occurs around June, when pike are spawning in the shallow waters of lake shores and streams. October is also a great time, because their feeding season has ended, and they are hungry—eager to devour any food source they come across.
Alaska Northern Pike Fishing Flies
As some of the most predatory fish in Alaska, northern pike have a diverse diet that ranges from fishes and invertebrates to small mammals and waterfowl (ducks, among others). Remember, Northern pike are capable of eating fish up to half their size! Larger, more colorful flies that move easily with the motion of the water to simulate organic movement are necessary to hooking these beasts. Frogs, pike poppers, deceivers, streamers, and leeches are some of the best.
Alaska Northern Pike Fly Fishing Tips
If these fish can disrupt entire ecosystems in a lake just by existing there, imagine the kind of fight they’ll put up when they’re caught. No See Um Lodge recommends a 5 through 7 wt rod, floating line and a wire leader due to the fierce dentition of the pike and its effects upon even the heaviest of mono-filaments.
Remembering that pike are attracted to motion, cast your fly so that it sinks for a moment, and then retrieves it with a quick snapping motion to create a fluid up-and-down movement Surface flies are great for the summer when the pike linger towards the surface, but as the season progresses, you may want to use large streamers that help you reach lower depths. Orvis also provides some excellent pro-tips for fishing northern pike.
Do you think you have what it takes to grapple with the mighty Alaska Northern pike? If you’re feeling brave, give us a call at No See Um Lodge to schedule your next fly fishing excursion!