How to Catch Northern Pike and Musky Part 1 – The Basics

Fishing Tackle / Fishing Tips / Lures / Uncategorized / September 4, 2017

The Big Freshwater Fish – How to Catch Northern Pike and Muskie – The Basics


We’re going to teach you How to Catch Northern Pike and Musky, but first you have to learn the basics. There is nothing that can get an anglers heart racing like seeing a huge pike or musky stalking just behind your lure. However, you have to learn the basics of Musky and Northern Pike before you can really target the world record fish.

Whenever that fish takes your lure, you best hope you chose your tackle wisely. You’re going to need some of the strongest rod, reel, and line that you can manage. We’ve got some suggestions for you to ensure you’ll never be without a trophy picture to show off to your friends.


Make sure to check out How to Catch Northern Pike and Musky Part 2 for more exact lures and tips

The Pike Family


Most of the fish on the right are in the same family. That includes:

  • Grass Pickerel
  • Redfin Pickerel
  • Chain Pickerel
  • Northern Pike
  • Muskellunge (or Musky for short)
  • Tiger Musky (Hybrids of Pike and Musky)

Chain pickerel and Redfin pickerel are much smaller members of this family. Chain pickerel rarely exceed 6 or 7 pounds while Redfin rarely exceed 2. Hybrids, called Tiger Muskie, do occur in nature but are rare given the differences in spawning times.

Finding Pike and Musky in the Water

Pike and Musky have an interesting relationship. Pike and Muskie are found in similar types of water, waters that are weedy and slow moving. They are rarely found in the same bodies of water thriving with each other. Because Pike hatch much earlier in the season and they are larger in general, Pike are in a great position to feed on newly hatched Musky fry.

Both fish prefer cool water temperatures, anywhere around 60 degrees or so. Once pike reach a larger size, they tend to prefer even cooler waters, around 50 degrees or so. Pike spawn in the early spring with Muskies spawning mid spring.

Spawning sites include tributary streams, marshes, and weedy bays. Neither species attempts to guard their young like bass or crappie so attempting to catch them by prodding spawning beds, like you can with bass, isn’t a successful technique.

The Figure 8 Technique

The figure 8 technique is a secret fish slaying technique that will help you catch northern pike and musky all day long

…Okay, so its not that secret but it will dramatically increase your hook-up rate by 10 fold when learning how to catch northern pike and muskie.

The figure 8 technique is extremely simple.

Because Northern Pike and Muskie often stalk lures, once you are finished with your lure retrieve, don’t pull the lure out of the water. Swirl the lure around in a figure 8 motion for 5 to 6 seconds.

If a northern pike or muskie is trailing your lure, that should give them enough time to get closer and take a bite out of whatever lure you’re using.

Its that simple. Make sure to do that after every cast and you’ll end up catching a lot more fish.

Northern Pike and Musky Figure 8 technique
Northern Pike and Musky Figure 8 technique

What Do Pike and Muskie Eat?

The diet of Muskie and Pike consists of a variety of different things. They mostly eat fish but these fish are equal opportunity predators. They will happily seek out and attack:

  • Rats
  • Frogs
  • Small Ducks
  • Small Muskrats

While both fish are aggressive feeders, Pike will attack most anything that comes into view while Muskies size up and stalk their prey before attacking.

Lures to Catch Pike and Muskie

The best lures to catch depends on your style. Many will troll for pike or muskie in lakes and those lures will be different than lures you might use in a river.

Part 2 of How to Catch Northern Pike and Musky details how to use different lure types to target these freshwater predators.


We’ve added a couple of our favorites here for you to checkout:

Where to fish for Pike and Muskie?

In Lakes:

Look for these fish in marshes connected to main bodies of water where they would likely spawn. Shallow weedy bays are a good place to search. Both areas, where they prefer to spawn in the early spring, are great places to find them.

In the late spring and early summer look for shallow gravel or rock bars. Weed lines just outside the spawning regions will hold Pike and Muskie as well. Later into summer and fall, lilly pad beds or floating vegetation keep large fish slightly cooler than open water. Bars, points, and flats with vegetation that provide shade will hold fish.

Pike will also prefer to sit around inflowing springs as the water movement normally provides cooler oxygen filled water.

During the colder months and winter, look the Pike and Muskie in deep rocky humps and deep holes surrounded by shallow water.

In Rivers:

Shallow back waters and sloughs are great places for Pike and Muskie in the spring when they begin to spawn. Dam tail-waters and deep backwaters are the best places to search once water warms and summer beings. Springs and cold water tributaries flowing into larger rivers are great places to search for Pike and Muskie.

Throughout the year, deep pools with light currents  and oxbow lakes off main rivers have the possibility of holding fish.

Final Thought

When you being fishing for pike and muskie, be ready. Being large freshwater fish, they will test your line, your rod and your patience as you fight to get them in the boat. Once you get them landed, be sure to take a picture and send it over to us and we want to brag we helped you reel in a trophy.

Check out Part 2 of How to Fish With Northern Pike and Musky


Matthew Gallagher

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