Pike - the crocodile of shore waters
Photo: Antti Koli
Pike (Esox lucius).
What is the species that gives every angler on Finnish waters a chance of catching a metre-long fish? There's only one answer – pike.
Pike can be found throughout the country and in almost all waters and it is the second most common game fish after perch. The Baltic Sea coast and the entire lake area offer great pike fishing. It is possible to fish for pike throughout the open-water season and also in winter.
Photo: Jari Salonen
Windward rocky shores are often the most reliable pike spots.
The coast is an area for big pike
On the South Coast, the pike fishing season starts in April when the ice has broken up and continues through to December. Pike are pursued throughout the open-water season and there are good chances of catches. The best season for big pike in the sea area is in the spring, before the spawning period in April and May. This is when you have the best chances of catching a 10-kilo pike. Another good season for big pike in coastal waters falls in late autumn, from September or October through to December. When waters are cold, big pike can be found in shallow bays.
In summer and autumn, the best pike spots in the sea area can be found where bladderwrack grows. Other reliable spots include edges of rushes, sounds and underwater rocks.
Photo: Jani Ollikainen
Real whoppers are swimming around in Lake Rautavesi in Vammala.
Pike prowl in the rushes
In the Lake District of Southern and Central Finland, the pike fishing season lasts from early May through to November. The high season for big pike runs from the end of the spawning period in mid-May to mid-June. In midsummer and autumn, big pike are most likely to be found at the edges of deeps, in mid-lake shoals and in deep sounds.
In autumn, tips of islands and shoals are potential pike sites. Areas with aquatic vegetation are good spots for pursuing pike. We even have a descriptive Finnish expression for someone leaving in a hurry: 'Took off like a pike from the rushes.'
In late autumn, around October and November, you can pursue big pike right at the edges of rushes, where they gather to feed on small fry. Small pike are fairly easy to catch close to shores and in shallow bays throughout the fishing season.
In Northern Finland, the pike season lasts from June to October. In addition to lakes, good sites also include many rivers, where big pike are in good supply.
Anglers generally go after pike on boats, but fishing for pike by casting from the shores of small forest ponds represents Finnish fishing culture in its most traditional form.
Photo: Jari Tuiskunen
Jerkbaits are used to fish for big pike.
Kantele made from a pike's jawbone
Pike has been an important game species throughout history and it is well-known in Finnish folklore. Väinämöinen, the hero of the Finnish national epic, The Kalevala, made a sweet-sounding kantele, a traditional Finnish zither, from a giant pike's jawbone.
The Finnish word for 'pike' occurs commonly in Finnish place names. The significance of pike is also illustrated by the fact that dried pike was once used as a means of paying taxes.
The giant pike caught by Väinämöinen is probably the largest by far. The next largest pike caught in Finland have weighed more than 20 kilos. If you can't catch a pike from Finnish waters, you need to take a long hard look at yourself in the mirror.
Pike are pursued by spinning and trolling during the open-water season. For lures, people use spoons, big plugs, jerkbaits, pike spinners and fish jigs. Big balanced sinking lures and vertical jigging lures are pike lures for winter.
Photo: Jari Tuiskunen
In spring, big pike can be found in shallow inland bays.
Typical spoons found in a spinning angler’s lure box are 18–30-gram models. Pure metal colours and painted lures are commonly used. Popular Finnish pike spoons include Professor, Räsänen and Krokodil.
Plugs, also known as wobblers, are the basic lures used for trolling pike and they are also used a lot for spinning. Big pike are offered 15 to 20 cm plugs. Well-known Finnish brands include Nils Master, Rapala and Sepen Tuuri.
Photo: Jani Ollikainen
Glaring, stimulating colours are effective.
Jerkbaits for big pike
In recent years, jerkbait fishing has become a popular form of fishing. Jerkbaits catch big pike in coastal waters, during the cold-water season in particular. The most popular jerkbait brands include Buster Jerk and Nils Master.
Pike like to strike sizeable fish and grub jigs. You can catch pike with jigs in summer when the fish swim in deep waters. Suspending jigs that retain their swimming depth have become increasingly common for pike fishing.
Baitfishing with a hook and line is a fun form of fishing, but it has been losing popularity. However, baitfish rigs are used for trolling. When pursuing big pike, it’s advisable to use large bait. Big spinners, such as Mepps, Laxman and Piker, also make for good pike lures.
Photo: Erik Herlevi
Fly-fishing for pike is exciting. Pernajanlahti Bay, Gulf of Finland.
Big and handsome pike flies
Pike has been rapidly gaining in popularity as a fly-fishing species. Flies are easy to fish in shallow waters, where it’s difficult to swim other lures. Being bushy and tied to large hooks, pike flies do not resemble traditional salmon or trout flies. One of the most popular fly models is Marabou Deceiver. The key advantage of pike flies is that you can swim them slowly, which is necessary when the waters are cold.
Don’t forget a metal leader
Pike are strong predators, which means that durable tackle is a must. For reels, pike anglers use sturdy multiplying and spinning reels. For spinning purposes, the appropriate rod length is 7–9 feet. A suitable line is a 0.30–0.40 mm monofilament line or a braided 0.15–0.25 mm line. Pike have sharp teeth, so it’s advisable to attach a metal leader to the end of the line.
Photo: Jari Tuiskunen
Äänekoski, the Finnish Lake Distict.
The key to pike fishing is to swim the lure in the right manner and at the right depth. The colouring and model of the lure generally play a secondary role. In cold waters, pike often bite right at the shoreline and an easy swimming style yields catches. In summer, both speed and movement can be faster. When waters are warm, pike prowl deeper and the lure should be sunk close to the bottom.
Ice-fishing for pike
Pike is an interesting species for ice-fishing enthusiasts. A pike weighing several kilos can crash on the end of your ice-fishing line at the edges of rushes or shoals. The bite is such that you’ll remember it for a long time.
When you go ice-fishing for pike, the first thing to do is to bore as many holes on the fishing spot as you can manage. When you’re done, you should take a coffee break and let things calm down before you start ice-fishing.
Photo: Teemu Koski
Hole full of pike.