French River Spring Pike Fishing

Spring is a lively and a prime fishing time for northern pike on the French River. In Northern Ontario, after the spawn is a period that offers excellent odds for catching trophies; as well as catching copious amounts of energetic young-lings. Depending on weather and water temperatures, a variety of fishing patterns and baits are effective to reel in the new season.

Joe Barefoot, M.B. with a 38 inch French River spring northern pike.

Habitats and Areas of Interest Early Spring

In the early spring, pike migrate into warmer waters of tributaries, bays and sloughs when water temps are above 40°F (4.5°C).  Targeting pike in funneled areas boosts your odds for catching. Structures like channel edges, points, old weed lines to rock piles are prime areas to fish first in the spring.

When the water temperatures on the French River reach 55 – 60°F (12.8 –  15.6°C), pike begin feeding heavily. Fresh green vegetation is your best friend when on the hunt for trophy pike; especially in depths of 5 – 8 feet (1.5 – 2.5 metres) or more. Developing bulrushes in shallower waters hold their fair share of pike as well. 


Imitation Baits

For post spawn spring pike, subsurface jerkbaits with a slow and gentle side-to-side action are a great start. Another good tactic is to toss plastic minnows and grubs on 1/4 or 1/2 oz jigs outside weed edges. Unlike summer time fishing, slower retrieves mimic tired and dying bait fish. For a hungry pike, anything that’s an easy meal is worth striking. Also, cast an area thoroughly when the water is cold. Pike do not move as much or as apt to chase as they are in warm waters. A slower retrieve is necessary here.

Example of fishing lures for spring pike fishing in the French River, Northern Ontario.

If waters are high on the French River and vegetation then start knocking-wood. Commonly a bass fishing tactic, in early spring and high water pike like many other game fish will seek cover. Woody tangles of fallen trees and docks bordering drop offs are prime fishing areas. Landing a trophy pike out of heavily wooden structure can be tricky. Therefore, a great tactic is to use floating crankbaits that cast well and swim easily through the woody structure. Pike aren’t particularly fussy in wooden cover but the brighter and flashier the lure, the better.

Live Baits

A simple classic is also one of the most tantalizing meals for pike. This tactic is more commonly used for trophy pike fishing in the early spring. Bait fish like minnows, shiners and sucker are tasty treats for hungry post spawn pike. Normally live bait is used with a bobber and 3 – 4 feet of line to suspended for the bait fish in the turbid waters.  

Some other quick notes with using live bait for French River spring pike are:

  1. Larger bait fish can catch larger pike. While not a firm rule, pike normally target fish that are half their length.
  2. Brighter and livelier bait will be more appealing for pike in cover.
  3. After a fishing trip, unless the bait fish came from the French River, you are not allowed to dump your remaining bait fish into the river. Reuse the bags you originally transported the bait fish and freeze the remaining fish in them when you are home. You can later soak the frozen bait in olive oil and salt to use for bait fish on your next fishing trip. 

The best spring pike tactic is the one you’re comfortable with and happens to be working in the moment. For more information, presentations and lures to experiment with see this article.

Authored by: Joe Barefoot, M.B., Nationally Published Outdoor Writer, Blogger, Guide, Outfitter who enjoys fishing and the outdoors.

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