Northern pike are fast becoming New England's top trophy game species, with specimens in the 40-inch range being taken annually. Here's a sampling of top-rated lakes and ponds to consider this season. (February 2008).
Photo by Tim Lesmeister
Northern pike are not native to any New England water other than Lake Champlain. Yet these toothy predators now exist in all six states. While some states struggle to limit or reduce their pike numbers, other states gladly stock them -- to control panfish populations and to provide additional fishing opportunities.
Here's a roundup of some of the best hardwater destinations for hot winter pike action near you:
Mansfield Hollow Reservoir
This reservoir, in the town of Mansfield, is one of three lakes in eastern Connecticut that the state stocks with pike.
"We have three pike-spawning marshes in the eastern portion of the state," said Chris McDowell, a Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection Fisheries Division biologist.
When there is adequate production, in addition to stocking portions of the Connecticut River from these three eastern marshes the DEP also stocks three other lakes in eastern Connecticut, including Mansfield Hollow, which "has been stocked with as many as 2,700 pike each year," McDowell said.
"Over the next few seasons, we'll be seeing what type of natural recruitment is going on. It won't be stocked with juvenile pike for the next few years. However, because of the massive flooding as we were going to draw the lake down last year, we think a large majority of pike escaped into Mansfield Hollow.
"According to our angler surveys, a lot of people are catching pike here early in the season and again just before ice out," McDowell continued, advising anglers to "fish with live shiners near the weed edges."
High-action areas include the boat launch side of the reservoir and around the lake's several islands.
For information on bait and currents, try Ryan's Bait Shop on the North Windham Road Extension off Route 6.
"Another good place that's kind of a sleeper is Lake Lillinonah," biologist Tim Barry offered. "It's one of the larger impoundments on the Housatonic River, so anglers need to be cautious about ice conditions. Fish the coves early, because the river doesn't freeze as early as other lakes in the region.
"The hotspot for pike is what we call the Shepaug Arm, where the Shepaug River comes in," Barry continued. (Continued)
He noted that access could be tough at the Arm. The Lake Lillinonah State Boat Launch area off Route 133 provides access to the main stem of the lake, but would be a very long hike to the Shepaug Arm.
A second site, Pond Brook State Boat Launch, also offers good lake access. For access closer to the Shepaug Arm, anglers will need to obtain landowner permission.
"The lake seems to be producing more pike in the last several years," Barry noted. "And very large pike, as well. Our current state record is out of Lillinonah, and most of the pike we see in there are from the Bantam Lake river system."
Visit Valley Angler in Danbury for bait, access information and "where to fish today" tips, or call them at (203) 792-8324.
In the Nutmeg State, the daily creel limit on pike is two fish, with a minimum length of 26 inches.
Pike aren't particularly welcome in the Pine Tree State, where trout and salmon have dominated the scene for decades. However, they do thrive in many waters here, following illegal introductions.
Bobby Van Riper, a Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Region B fisheries biologist suggested this great hardwater destination. There are no regulations on pike in his region, so anglers can catch and keep as many of these toothy critters as they can hook!
This 2,036-acre pond, which is bordered by the towns of Sabattus, Wales and Greene, gives up catches of pike in the 4- to 6-pound range.
"This fishery is dominated by a large number of smaller pike," Van Riper said. "Smaller pike are good eating, and you don't need a huge fish to get a nice strip of meat. I hope anglers will take their pike home and make fish burgers out of them."
Van Riper said that pike are caught on shiners fished anywhere from two to 20 feet down. Access is off Route 9. For bait and current angling tips, stop by Stone's Bait and Tackle on Cedar Street in Lewiston, or call (207) 784-8014. Also try Dag's Bait Shop on Minot Avenue in Auburn, or call (207) 783-0388.
This 177-acre lake in Westboro has been stocked with pike since 1988. Lake Chauncy was stocked with northern pike in 2002, 2003 and 2005. Pike grow to a challenging size here and most are taken through the ice.
Lake Chauncy is a moderately large natural pond with a 14-foot average depth and a maximum depth of 20 feet. Aquatic vegetation is thicker in the shallow coves along the western and northern shores. There's an access area with a gravel ramp off Lyman Street. Shore access along the south, east and northern shorelines may be had via the Westboro Wildlife Management Area.
For bait and current information, stop by Barry's Bait and Tackle, 218 Milk Street in Westboro, or call (508) 616-7977.
The best pike fishing in
the Granite State is in the
Connecticut River and its
setbacks, according to
Gabe Gries, a New Hampshire Fish and Game Department
Pike season is open year-round in the Bay State. The daily creel limit is one fish longer than 28 inches.
For a complete listing of those waters where pike are stocked, visit www.mass.gov/dfwele/dfw/dfwpike.htm
The best pike fishing in the Granite State is in the Connecticut River and its setbacks, according to Gabe Gries, a New Hampshire Fish and Game Department fisheries biologist.
Rivers are open for the taking of pike from Jan. 1 to Oct. 15. Pike may
be fished from lakes and ponds year 'round. The daily creel limit is one fish longer than 28 inches.
Gries recommended Moore Reservoir, which is off Interstate Route 93 on the Vermont-New Hampshire state border.
This 104-acre lake in Littleton offers ice anglers an excellent destination for winter pike, chain pickerel and largemouth and smallmouth bass. From I-93, turn right off Exit 44 onto Old Partridge Road. Travel about one mile, and then turn right onto Partridge Lake Road. Turn left onto the dirt road about a mile ahead.
Corey's Sport Shop, 35 Meadow Street in Littleton, is the place to go for bait and information.
Hundred Acre Pond
This 83-acre pond in South Kingston is privately owned, but public access is negotiated between the owners and the state Department of Environmental Management.
Be sure to check the status of current access rules before heading out. But Hundred Acre Pond is well worth the trip (and any begging for landowner permission that may be required) because it gives up state-champion pike.
State access is available on a walk-in basis off Plains Road.
This 659-acre pond, also known as the Flat River Reservoir in Coventry, is stocked with northern pike. The growth rate for fish over four years of age is above the state average.
The lower growth rate at earlier stages indicates "excessive survival," which translates to too many fish -- just the kind of problem an angler likes to have!
Access may be had at Zeke's Bridge on Harkney Hill Road.
Anglers everywhere know about pike fishing in Lake Champlain -- one of many great hardwater destinations for exciting pike action. Lake Bomoseen, Lake St. Catherine and Lake Hortonia all offer anglers the chance to do battle with big pike.
For a complete listing of where ice- anglers have been landing big pike, visit www.vtfishandwildlife.com.
Regulations vary by location, so be sure to check the law book before heading out.
This 400-acre lake in Hubberton is close to the New York border. Access to the lake is off Lake Hortonia Road by turning left onto Fishing Access Road. The access area is on the right.
Get bait and bite updates at Ed's Bait Center, 2060 Route 22A in Fair Haven, or call (802) 265-3388.
Also try Tom's Bait and Tackle Shop, 456 Route 4 in Bomoseen at (802) 265-8654.