For the past few seasons I have been fishing outside of my comfort zone and targeting early season pike. I usually target them from late winter when the ice first melts right up until early spring. I fish for them on the Connecticut river and I like to look for fish hiding in the many coves that are along the river.
Pike like to winter over in a lot of the coves along the river and once the water starts to warm during the spring they start to move out into the main river looking for a nice place to spawn. Many pike fishermen say that fishing is the best during these times. The pike get very aggressive and will attack anything that gets near them. This is also a good time to get a trophy pike because all the big females are in trying to spawn.
When I target pike I use a variety of artificial baits. Spinner baits, topwater spooks, soft plastics and suspending crankbaits all work well. Over the winter I came across a fellow Hobie Fishing Team member Finn Sloth Hansen’s Instagram page and noticed that he was getting into a ton of trophy pike by the looks of the pictures. I also noticed that he was getting a lot of the pike on what looked to be a large soft plastic paddle tail. I was searching for big soft plastic swimbaits to use for striped bass. When I saw these I figured I could kill two birds with one stone.
Long story short I ended up reaching out to Finn and ordered a few baits to see how well they work. It was awesome connecting with a fellow Hobie guy from overseas and having to pay for the baits in pounds. The baits I ordered were the SHAD18s. They are a 1 ¾-ounce 7-inch paddle tail soft plastic. I was really impressed with the looks of the baits when I received them and couldn’t wait to put them to use.
This year winter in New England has been a very mild one and the ice fishing season didn’t last long at all. As a kayak fisherman it was a blessing to be planning a trip with my buddies to fish open water in February with the weather in the low to mid ‘60s. We hit the water late in the morning and started on our quest to get some fish. It was quite a bit windy once we were on the water so we pedaled into an area that was protected from the heavy gusts of wind.
The water was still a bit cold at 40 degrees so I knew I was going to have to present my baits as slow as possible. For the first hour or so I fished with a spinnerbait without even a bump or follow so I decided to give my new paddle tails a try to see how well they swim and more important if they would produce some fish. I was immediately impressed with how well the bait swam. It had a ton of action when slow rolling it; I knew that would be key in this cold water.
Ten minutes into fishing this bait I took a cast into some submerged trees. About three cranks in I get slammed and it was fish on but one big swirl a few seconds later I pulled the hook. I took a few more casts into the same area but had no luck. I decided to leave the area alone for a little while and I went and targeted some perch to pass some time and maybe return to see if the fish would maybe hit again if I gave it time to settle. After about 45 minutes I switched back over to pike fishing. As I made my way back to the submerged tree where I had a little action earlier I readied myself for a bite but nothing happened.
I was starting to feel like I had missed my opportunity to land a pike on this trip. As I made my way down the bank taking cast after cast I ended up approaching another area with some submerged timber. I took a nice long cast and it landed perfectly, right in tight to shore. I started my slow retrieve and as I got closer to the submerged trees I paused the bait and BAM! Fish on again.
I was a little more careful with this fish because I didn’t want to pull the hook. It wasn’t long before I had the fish on the side of the yak and I was looking for my net. It wasn’t a river monster but it was a nice fish and pike are such an amazing looking fish. They remind me of something that’s prehistoric. I quickly got a few pictures of the fish so I could get it back into the water without causing it any harm. I was happy that I had accomplished my mission and landed my “Ice Out” pike. Once the trip was over I immediately contacted my Hobie brother from Denmark and ordered another package of baits.
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