How to Catch Northern Pike from Shore: Step by Step Guide

While catching northern pike from shore can be tricky, it’s by no means impossible!

Catching more northern pike from shore involves locating accessible shore areas pike are likely to be at, finding the best angle to cast, and using attention-getting surface lures to pull the pike from the weeds to strike at your bait. Shore fishing pike tends to be most successful in spring and fall but less successful in summer.

The exact best spots for pike are going to depend on location and season. Following these steps will help make sure your pike fishing efforts are much more successful.

Even from shore 🙂

Step 1: Locate Likely Shore Pike Populations

Northern pike are aggressive and territorial, but they are also strangely picky as to which areas they prefer. If you are casting from shore this can be a bit of a disadvantage depending on what your lake looks like. Some great pike spots will be inaccessible from shore.

Forget about those spots. No use spending mental energy on things you can’t change.

Weedy Shore Alaska
Prime example of this. Pike LOVE a spot like this, but the camera is extremely zoomed in – there’s no getting within casting distance of here from solid shoreline.

But there will be spots where pike might like to hangout. Especially if you have a gap around some thick beds of shore weeds or cattails. The ability to cast out from shore surrounded by ideal pike shelter isn’t always available but it offers some pretty powerful potential shorelines in the right situation.

The key is finding a situation and setup where you can make it work.

Step 2: Find the Best Angle for Casting

In the best case scenario you can cast straight out from shore and reel in. If you have tall grass and reeds to the side of you but not right ahead, a rocky shoal or ridge out perfect casting distance from shore, or hit the lotto and have both, then you can cast straight out.

However, much of the time you won’t find yourself so fortunate. This means sometimes your best option is finding a decent spot on shore and casting more or less parallel.

That way from your spot you can move your lure across the weeds and in front of the coverage where big northerns are likely to be at.

In this case it’s all about casting at an angle. Sometimes going a foot or two into the water gives you a better angle to cast away from you. You’ll have to use surface lures or shallow water lures for these types of casts.

Make sure you have boots on, not only for comfort but in the off chance a muskie mistakes your toes for dinner.

If there is a sudden drop into deep water that you can hit from shore, keep those spots in mind during the hottest days of summer. Pike like the shores and the reeds, but when the waters warm up enough in the hottest parts of summer pike might go a little bit deeper.

So those spots are killer in the right time in the hottest season. So make sure to mark those on your fishing GPS 🙂

Step 3: Choose Your Pike Bait Carefully

While pike have a (rightfully earned) reputation as aggressive predatory fish, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to work to find the right lure. Like with any fish they can seem a strangely finnicky fish when you know they’re around but they’re just not biting.

The lures or bait you choose to use depends on style, preference, and area. I grew up fishing for pike with crankbaits, so these tend to be my first go to. But these often aren’t the best choice for shore fishing because you don’t want them bouncing off the bottom.

Live bait isn’t always the worst play here, but once again you need something that is going to be appealing to local northern pike. The earthworm and bobber combination isn’t likely to be that appealing to shoreline pike.

In my experience the best lures casting from shore for pike are often crankbaits. Good control, can cast out from shore or down the side of shore, and they are similar to minnows and small fry found in the area. Try surface ones or smaller crankies that don’t go way below the surface first and you are likely to have more success.

Other Pike Fishing from Shore Bait Options

There are multiple options that can work really well. I have a friend who swears by rubber frogs – though I think that’s his location as that is a less common one (and honestly something I’d expect out of bass in the south as opposed to pike in the north but that’s the thing about pikes – they’re up for eating anything).

Surface spinners, spoons, and other top lures avoid the issue of hooking something while allowing you to work around the reeds of shore and hopefully get a pike interested in an early lunch.

Step 4: Play with the Lure Near Shore

This is ripping a page out of the Figure 8 fishing for muskie playbook, but it can be a big deal. Especially in heavily fished waters or during colder seasons like the end of autumn or early winter prior to ice over.

Sometimes it takes just a little extra movement, a little extra fiddling, a little extra annoyance to get that strike that you’re looking for.

Step 5: Don’t Waste Too Much Time in One Spot

While patience is a virtue for most anglers, northern pike aren’t exactly finnicky eaters. If you can’t get a bite after 30 or 40 minutes then there’s a better than even chance that:

  1. The pike aren’t in that area
  2. You don’t have the right lures for the pike in that area
  3. There’s some other environmental effect that is making that spot a dud

There’s no use wasting more time in that case. These aren’t rainbow trout, bluegill, or other potentially picky eaters. Pike like to eat, they like to hit, and they’re territorial.

They’ll eat something just because it bugs them.

So if the pike aren’t biting in your area – they’re probably not there.

Special Considerations for Shore Pike Fishing

As any experienced angler knows, fishing for pike from shore can be a bit of a challenge. The weedy areas that pike love often make it easy to point out where they’re at from a boat, but having clear ways of casting at those spots from shore is often challenging at best.

This is one of the major potential trip ups. Scouting out the area you want to fish ahead of time can definitely help, as does finding docks where there are reeds or cattails relatively close by.

This is an area that lets you get out a bit in the water and cast towards the types of areas that northern pike are known to adore.

If you’re going to be casting by areas where an ambush predator you’re likely to get some hits. If nothing seems to work and the dock is empty, try going back to shore and casting so the lure goes by the docks.

You never know when a decent sized northern might be lurking just waiting for a chance to break out and strike.

Make sure you have the right, gear, too. If you’re going to be wading in some shallow reeds for the right angle to hit that outcropping or stomping through some wild woods to find the right pike spot from shore.

13 Tips for Pike Fishing from Shore

Hey, sometimes you need a little extra help. No shame there. Even when fishing for something as aggressive as your average pike, there can be hiccups.

These are some of our top pike fishing tips, and if you want to go even more in-depth take a look at our best pike fishing tips deep dive.

Otherwise, making sure to apply these tips while pike fishing from shore!

Tip #1: Learn the local best fishing times for pike

In many places anglers swear that the best time for fishing is from dawn until two hours after sunrise and then in the evening once things started cooling from 5pm on. And in some places I’ve fished, this was true.

However, the best pike fishing for years out of the section of Lac De Mille Lacs that our family fished at in Canada for years was consistently from 10/10:30 a.m. to 1 pm. when it died. That was many hours past sunrise and according to conventional advice, during the “dead zone” of pike fishing.

I have many, many experiences of full stringers of 10+ lb pike that stand as evidence to the contrary.

Make sure to learn the local best fishing times whether traveling to a new place or trying some off-times from around your area to make sure things haven’t changed since the local old timers became set in their ways.

Tip #2: Cover the area with casts

Pike are aggressive and territorial, but they are also ambush predators which means they are opportunists. Don’t cast to the same area ten times, cast around and at every angle and every direction.

The pike might love the rock shelf you know is out there or it might be in one area of the weeds and too lazy to move six feet left or right.

Pepper the area and you’ll eventually draw them out.

Tip #3: Set that hook hard!

Whether using a simple hook or a treble hook, this isn’t trout fishing or pulling on a hesitant walleye. The pike will hit hard and look to get out of there when things feel funny. Set the hook hard and start reeling – keep that rod tip up while doing it.

Pike will fight so just a little bit of bad form could cause you to lose the fish. So start off with that hard hook set and go from there!

Tip #4: Use a wire leader

There are times where we didn’t use wire leaders – and there would be bite-offs but we were willing to take that trade-off based on what we were aiming for with fishing at the time. But if you’re going for decent sized pike you need a wire leader.

If you’re going hunting for trophy sized pike that are big enough to mount on the wall then you are definitely going to need a wire leader to have any chance of reeling that in.

We already talked about why you need a steel leader for trophy muskie – same applies for pike.

And steel is the best material for leaders so don’t mess with the fluorocarbon leaders. If you’re going to use one, make it steel wire.

Tip #5: Have multiple color options available

Sometimes black and silver is the go-to color that had pikes going nuts. Other days they love the green algae color. Or maybe the orange “tiger musky” as we used to call it. Or bright chartreuse. Or maybe you’re an idiot for going away from classic blue and silver.

You just don’t know what colors are going to work that day and even in places you’ve fished a thousand times before sometimes a cloudy day, a shift in the water temperatures, something random in the environment you don’t even notice – all of these can affect which color lures look appealing to a hungry pike on any given day.

Tip #6: Go from quiet to noisy (or vice-versa)!

I don’t use noisy lures too often when pike fishing – honestly normally I don’t need them. But sometimes nothing seems to be working and I through out that rattler and bow howdy do things go nuts at that point. Sometimes a noisy lure might make jittery pike pass.

Other times that might be all you need to get somewhat sluggish morning pike fired up and deciding out of pure annoyance that it is now time to eat. If one set of lures isn’t working try switching it to another style and see what happens.

You never know when a small change like that can make all the difference.

Tip #7: Change up the speed

I’m a huge fan of the smooth steady retrieval. I think most of the time that’s what works best, the many, many times the family caught a big stringer of pike from trolling also confirms that the steady speed can really make it work and make it work well.

However, sometimes when it’s not working that slightly slower speed or slightly faster pace causing more ripples might just be what the fishing doctors called for in order to get the pike hitting.

If that steady pace just doesn’t seem to be doing it try a couple fast and slow casts and see if that doesn’t get the party started.

Tip #8: Make sure your test line isn’t too heavy

Story Time: My dad was very excited to try out Kevlar fishing line. After all, how could there be any more bite-offs that year if we had fishing line made from the same material as bullet proof vests? And true enough, there were no bite-offs.

There were also almost no bites.

While Dad was trying to figure out why all the fish were suddenly so finicky, I looked over the side of the boat and realized I could see the fishing line clearly 10 feet or more underwater, leading all the way back to where the crankbait no doubt was.

After pointing that out we switched out rods and started getting more fish. Make sure the fishing line isn’t too bright, too thick, or too heavy.

If you stay in the 8-16 lb test line you are probably in the sweet spot with most anglers liking 10-12 lb test.

Tip #9: Switch up lure sizes

Even if one size of lure usually works, sometimes it’s good to change things up. Go a little bit longer. If you’re used to going after trophy sized fish in the middle of the lake and use big lures, maybe you need to go smaller to better imitate the bait fish and small food they are likely to find nearer to shore.

You never known when even a relatively small change in lure size can make a huge difference in the number of hungry pike that you are pulling into shore!

Tip #10: Switch up lure types

All of us anglers have our favorite lures. I’m a crankbait man through and through. Dad loved Rapalas and little bombers, and even the big magnum crankbaits to go after those trophy northern pike and muskies. Needless to say, since that’s what I grew up with, that’s the setup that are my personal favorite.

While jigging and worm rigs are fine for walleye fishing, when it comes to fishing for pike I want my crankbaits. But sometimes the crankbaits just don’t work as well as I’d like. Spoons, spinners, and rubber frogs absolutely have their place, and you need to be prepared to cycle through the lures to see what works when your favorite just isn’t popping that day.

Tip #11: Hit up spots during different times of day

Especially when exploring a new area, it’s important not to write off one shore spot if you have a bad morning or evening. This doesn’t mean stick at the same spot for an entire 12 hour day of shore fishing. But keep records of where you go.

A place that’s a loser in the early morning or morning might be good at noon, early evening, or even those often dead mid-afternoon times. Take a shot at all these spots during different parts of the days and given enough time you’ll know what parts of shore are most likely to pay off in pike…and when.

Tip #12: Try the “Muskie Tease”

While playing with the lure in the water by the boat, by the dock, relatively close to the surface is a common technique when fishing for those pesky muskies. This isn’t as common a strategy for reeling in northern pike, especially from a boat.

However, in heavily fished waters this isn’t the worse thing. If you see the lure coming in close to shore, slow down, maybe use the rod to spin it around a bit. This might attract a pike who caught a glimpse of your lure from a distance and is curious, but isn’t quite there yet.

This gives them another chance to make a decision, close in, and strike before you retrieve your lure. Especially in heavily fished waters this is worth a shot.

Treat those pike like muskies with the classic musky tease and see what happens.

Tip #13: Switch up techniques when seasons change

What works with shore pike fishing in spring versus what techniques pull in northern pike from shore in autumn could be two completely different things. Ice fishing for pike is a beast all its own, but that also shows to those of us who tend to use crankbaits that other techniques must work.

Switch up the techniques in different seasons and see what works. You may find in some bodies of water that the exact same techniques work best during all four seasons or at other times you might see that each season has a different technique.

Now Go Get Those Trophy Pike!

While the ideal situation might involve the mobility of a good boat, giving you the ability to shore cast in front of large beds of cattails, or troll by areas that aren’t reachable from shore, if you follow the tips and steps in this guide you’ll find your shore pike fishing experience will explode by leaps and bounds!

With these great tips, the right equipment, and your ideal array of lures for pike fishing it is only a matter of time until you get a shot at those trophy pike and can actually reel them in from shore!

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