As with every fish, in order to consistently catch a pike, you need to know it’s habitat, behavior, and diet. Knowing what pike regularly eats gives us a much better understanding of what to feed it in order to catch it. So what do northern pike eat?
I did some research to find out what pike eats and how to simulate the pray to successfully catch it. Northern pike is a predator fish who mostly feeds on perch, walleyes, bass, chubs, frogs, snakes, bugs etc. As pike sits on the top of the food chain in most cases, it feeds on anything it desires – even smaller pike.
Let’s dig deeper into northern pike diet and think about how you can use that information to your advantage. This way you’ll be more prepared for the next fishing trip.
Northern Pike Diet During its Lifecycle
As mentioned before, the pike is not a particularly picky fish, when it comes to its meals. That being said, its plate does differ a bit during its lifecycle.
As a young fish pike are known to feed on small insects like woodlice. Northern Pike is a predator species and because of that, it will, as it grows, quite soon start to hunt other fish 1/3 or up to half its size.
At that stage, frogs and even smaller waterfowls aren’t safe. Due to its aggressiveness, bird-like baits used in flyfishing become very effective. And in case you haven’t discovered flyfishing for yourself yet, using a frog bait is perfect for a spinning or baitcaster.
The bigger the pike the bigger the prey. As a full-grown pike, the hunting strategies are fully developed. The meal plan still hasn’t changed that much, but the sizes of preys are can be much bigger. Therefore, you can use bigger baits to attract and reel in the big ones. Catching a trophy-sized pike is a rarity though (hence the name trophy pike).
Like I mentioned before at the beginning of the article, the pike is usually at the top of the food chain. Consequently, it gets very competitive when seeing a fish, hunting another fish. This is why a combination of one lure chasing another can sometimes be a perfect trigger for the pike. Whether it’s a Muskie or a Northern, the pike enjoys a challenging hunt.
Can Pike Attack Humans
“Do Pike bite?” Has this thought ever run through your mind? I know it has run through mine. In the last chapter, we went through pike lifecycle and how it’s such a predator that it even goes after fish 1/3 its size, and in rare cases up to half its body length. Seeing that the Northern Pike live up to 13 years, they can grow as big as 59 inches (150 cm) and weigh up to 70 pounds (31,8 kg). This makes you wonder, right?
As this often isn’t the case, pike attacks do happen occasionally. The Pike is known to be a stealthy hunter who likes to hide in waterweeds and strike when the prey swims by. Seeing that pike don’t attack prey more than half its size, they tend to keep away from humans. They may strike people as when they feel intimidated and as a self-defense, but let go after realizing the size of its prey. however, when they do attack, it can get pretty nasty as pike have very sharp spiky teeth that are meant to cut through flesh. All this being said, these pike are usually rather big – smaller ones usually flee in a torpedo-like manner.
Where Do Pike Like to Hide
There is a good reason why the pike is at the top of the food chain. Yes, it grows to be a huge fish. But more importantly, the pike is a very smart predator fish. They like to use their surrounding to strategically hide and corner their prey. This way pike can hide their big bodies from their prey until the attack.
If we think about underwater structures which the pike can use to its advantage, what comes to your mind? – Correct, these structures can be anything from waterweeds, underwater trees, branches or boulders, and even deep ridges that are close to shallow weeds. What can we take from this? These are exactly the best places to start searching for pike in rivers and lakes. Keep that in mind the next time you go pike fishing.
How Do Pike Hunt Their Prey
In the last chapter, we talked about where the pike likes to hide and lurk for its next prey. Well, this also carries over to how the pike hunts. It uses all its surroundings to its favor to hide and strike just at the right time, making it almost impossible for the prey to flee.
There are two distinct characteristic features of how the pike attacks its prey:
- Firstly, when pike find a potential meal swimming along, they bend their bodies like a bow to collect as much momentum as possible. This allows pike to charge to their prey like a torpedo.
- Secondly, for bigger preys, the pike tend to attack the fish from their sides as this allows pike to prevent their preys to swim away. Using its pin-sharp teeth, pike try to drown their prey before eating.
When Do Pike Feed
Finding the best time of the day to catch a pike may just be crucial to your loot. Although pike are very defensive of their territory and tend to attack fish (or deadbaits for that matter) when they cross too closely, there is a correlation to catching more pike and certain times of the day. As it is with many other species.
Pike is usually the most active twice a day: at sunrise and at sunset. If you do not have a lot of experience in pike fishing I would suggest you plan your fishing trips to those hours. In the midday, the activity is usually lower and pike tend to stay in their hideouts.
- Northern Pike are eager to get their first meal of the day early in the day. To be prepared for that action, you should be all set and ready just before sunrise. At those hours, pike usually comes out of hideouts and deeper water to shallower water and topwater. Therefore, it’s a terrific time to get out your topwater crankbaits or frog baits and see these monsters strike.
- As said, the second great time is just before sunset. This is where pike get more active again and come out of their comfy waterweed-bed. Again, like at sunrise, you will probably have luck in similar sports of the water body. Although, I will say, for me (and reading around, it seems to others as well) sunrise fishing is usually more profitable.
- In midday, pike usually go into deeper waters and aren’t as active as in the morning or evening. You may have luck catching them while in their hideouts. For that, as we talked earlier, frog baits can be a great option. Or if you want to get the lure directly nearby, you should try weedless lures.
I have used the Rapala rattlin’ minnow spoons for such action and they work perfectly. You can check the current price on Amazon. I went for the package deal, you never know what color the pike wants that specific day, and also, while weedless, you can still lose them at times.
When researching the web about the best time for pike fishing, I saw very many people asking do pike eat at night. Well, the answer is yes and no. In a sense, pike don’t have that good of an eye-vision to hunt prey in the night, that’s why they feed right before the sunset. BUT, pike have very advanced sensory organs which allow them to strike their prey even when blind. So, if you find the right spots in the water bodies, you might be able to catch a monster of a pike.
Best Pike Lures to Imitate Prey
In this article, we went deeper into the topic of what do pike eat and how to use this information to our advantage in order to get better at catching pike. I just want to quickly go over a few dead bait options you can use to raise your chances of luring in a pike the next time you go fishing.
- Frog Bait – we talked about how pike like to hide and hunt in the water weeds and lilypads. Frog baits are perfect for topwater pike fishing. Use these during sunrise and sunset and you have a great chance of catching some pike. And it’s just so much fun throwing these. I use them, I love them. You can find different colors and sizes at Amazon – In my opinion, color isn’t as important with frog baits, but size can make a difference (too small may not interest a bigger pike)
- Weedless Lures – There are a ton of them out there and I believe most do the trick they’re meant for. For me, the best weedless lures I have used to date are hands down Rapalas rattlin’ minnow spoons. I don’t know if it’s the built-in rattle, but they just work. And you can through them pretty much everywhere. You can get a set of 6 lures around $70 on Amazon (of course you can get only one if you want to just try them out)
- Spinnerbaits – Hooh. Pike go crazy with spinnerbaits. The reason? We talked earlier how pike are really competitive as they’re at the top of the food chain. Seeing a fish catching another drives the pike crazy – it wants a part of that action. You can find them at a really decent price on Amazon – for example, this 4 spinnerbaits cost around $10 altogether.
- Spinners – These partners in crime fall into the same category as spinnerbaits. The twirling blade causes curiosity in the pike and therefore makes a great lure. The Vibrax spinners are my favorite spinners to use, they have a unique shape and rattle in the water – causing more attention. I have used a bunch of these and really like them. When Pike fishing, I’d go with the number 4 or 5 (10-13g / 0.3-0.45 oz.)
- Crank Baits – If you want to dive deep or stay on topwater, there are so many options with crankbaits. While using crank baits for yourself, try to pick various sizes, and also look at the shape of the front lip. This is how you see, how deep it’s going to dive. Some of the crank baits don’t even have a lip (and that’s fine).
I hope you learned something valuable from this article and use this knowledge to your advantage on your next pike fishing trip.