Among New England's hardwater anglers, northern pike are fast becoming the cold-weather species of choice. Here's where to find them near you this season. (February 2009)
Nothing can make a day on a frozen lake quite as exciting as pulling a fat northern pike up through an 8-inch hole in the ice. These voracious ambush predators take a multitude of different baits and they fight hard!
Northerns are not native to New England, aside from Lake Champlain, arguably the best pike water in the region. Through stockings (both legal and otherwise), these fish now inhabit waters throughout the Northeast.
Pike grow fast. They can survive and even breed in saline environments and regularly find their way into new bodies of water.
Hungry pike will eat smaller fish, frogs, tadpoles, crayfish, leeches and insects. Large pike will even dine on rodents, snakes and birds! They hunt by sight, which makes them easy to target during daylight hours.
And because they keep feeding throughout the winter, ice-fishing is productive too. Here are some best-bet waters to get you started.
At this 467-acre reservoir in Thompson, pike are most active early in the season, just after safe ice has formed. Later in the year, be sure to check for safe ice before you venture out. Pike action heats up again late in the season as waters warm up.
Hardwater anglers here report good catches when fishing live shiners off a wire leader around weed edges.
Quaddick Reservoir is stocked with thousands of fingerling pike annually.
The reservoir is comprised of three basins -- lower, middle and upper. The middle, located partially within Quaddick State Park, has good public access. The lower basin is dammed; the upper basin is shallow and weedy.
Ice-anglers at Quaddick focus on the weedlines and transition zones from shallow to deeper waters. That's according to Chris McDowell, a biologist with the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection Fisheries Division.
McDowell said that at Quaddick, pike tend to congregate in the middle basin, but that to find fish, visiting anglers should simply locate other anglers!
To reach access on the eastern shore within the state park, take Exit 99 off Interstate Route 395 onto Route 200 east (Quaddick Road).
Then travel 2.8 miles and turn left onto Quaddick Town Farm Road. The park entrance is 1.5 miles in, on the left.
For more information, check out DeLorme's Connecticut/ Rhode Island Atlas and Gazetteer, Map 57. For more fishing information, call 1-860-424-3474, or visit www.ct.gov/dep. (Cont'd)
Pike are a fairly recent arrival at this Penobscot Region lake in Orono. There aren't yet high numbers of big fish there, but the population is firmly established and may eventually spread into the Greater Pushaw watershed, including Mud Pond and Little Pushaw Lake.
Pike taken from Pushaw Lake often measure 20 inches or more.
"The northern end is the place to fish," said Nels Kramer, a fisheries biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
"In the deeper part of the lake, there is a ledge island. About 80 percent of the pike are taken there. The largest pike taken through the ice there weighed 8 pounds."
Kramer added that there's plenty of access around the lake. One of the better sites is off Lakeside, about midway down the western shore in Glenburn. There's also access at the southern end at Goulds Landing in Orono.
"Northern pike will forever change the ecology of Pushaw Lake and quite possibly, a large portion of the Penobscot and Piscataquis drainages," said Kramer. "Pike are voracious feeders and will consume all manner of forage including trout, salmon, perch, bass and pickerel, even ducklings, young loons and waterfowl in the system."
Anglers are asked to keep and report any pike they catch at Pushaw Lake, Mud Pond, Pushaw Stream, Penobscot or Stillwater rivers by calling (207) 732-4131 or (207) 287-8000. Anglers new may want to visit www.state.me.us/ifw/fishing to learn how to tell native pickerel from northern pike.
For more winter fishing information, call the Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife at (207) 287-8000 or visit www.maine.gov/ifw.
This shallow, 360-acre lake in Amesbury and Merrimac is one of the best pike waters in the northeastern part of the state. Pike have been stocked off and on since 1979, and big fish tipping the scales at more than 20 pounds have been taken here.
Lake Attitash has a maximum depth of 30 feet, with an average depth of 12 feet. The most significant weed cover may be found at the inlet and outlet coves of the lake. The shoreline is heavily developed, but there's good access at the southern end of the lake. See DeLorme's Massachusetts Atlas and Gazetteer, Map 19, for access and area details.
East Brimfield Reservoir
This 420-acre reservoir in Sturbridge is comprised of three bodies of water -- Holland Pond, the Quinebaug River and Long Pond.
The reservoir, especially the old river channel, is known for giving up massive pike. Pike have been stocked here for well over a decade, and because it takes these fish about five years to reach the minimum length, there are plenty of mature fish here.
Access may be had on the southern end of Long Pond off Sturbridge Road. For Holland Pond access, use Morse Road off East Brimfield Road.
For fishing information, you can visit www.mass.gov/dfwele/dfw, or call (508) 389-6300.
This relatively small 72-acre pond in Swanzey is somewhat shallow, with a maximum depth of only 12 feet along the old river channel.
Hungry pike will eat smaller fish, frogs, tadpoles, crayfish, leeches and insects. Large pike will even dine on rodents, snakes and birds!
The best spot to fish for pike is in the small cove along the far eastern shore. To reach the lake, take Rou
te 12 to Old Homestead Highway.
For access and area details, check DeLorme's New Hampshire Atlas and Gazetteer, Map 19.
With several marshy inlets and a number of islands, this 328-acre Meridith-area lake contains prime pike habitat. Wickwas also has an excellent largemouth bass population.
For access, take Meredith Center Road to Chemung Road.
For area information, check out DeLorme's NHAG, Map 35.
For more ice-fishing information, call the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department at (603) 271-2501, or go to www.wildlife.state.nh.us.
This 304-acre lake in Smithfield has been stocked with northern pike in years past, so these toothy critters have had some time to grow large.
Stump Pond, also known as Stillwater Reservoir or Woonasquatucket Reservoir, is a relatively shallow manmade basin. Average depth is 11 feet, and maximum depth is 15 feet.
Access is off routes 5 and 116.
For access and area details, check DeLorme's Connecticut/Rhode Island Atlas and Gazetteer, Map 65.
At this 164-acre lake in Westerly, Pike have been stocked off and on since 1971. Fishing holes don't get much shallower than at Chapman, which has an average depth of three feet with a maximum of four feet. A state-owned access area lies off the Westerly-Bradford Road (Route 91).
For access and area details, check DeLorme's CT/RIAG, Map 74.
For more Rhode Island ice-fishing information, call (401) 789-7481, or visit www.dem.ri.gov.
This 206-acre lake in Castleton, Fairhaven and Benson is one of the better pike waters in the region.
That's saying a lot, considering that the prime pike waters of Lake Champlain and Lake Bomoseen are nearby. For access and area details, check DeLorme's Vermont Atlas and Gazetteer, Map 28.
Lake St. Catherine
This 904-acre lake in Wells and Poultney offers hardwater anglers all kinds of room to experiment.
Multiple access areas are available, including Lake St. Catherine State Park and two sites on the lake's southeastern and southwestern shores.
For access and area details, check DeLorme's VAG, Map 28.
In the Green Mountain State, most lakes open to ice-fishing from the third Saturday in January through March 15. Be sure to check the 2009 Vermont Guide to Hunting, Fishing and Trapping for special regulations.
For more ice-fishing information, call the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department at (802) 241-3700, or visit www.vtfishandwildlife.com.