If there is one thing I have been very bad about that would be documenting the pike fishing here. There are several reasons behind this short coming; one is that I have never been a rabid pike fisherman and secondly they are viewed as a problem in my area not a sport fish. Never the less the lake where our cabin is at has more pike than we or the department of fish & Game would prefer to see there. The Ideal number would be zero or as close to it as we could get.

In Hewitt Lake Alaska the pike are an invasive and they have taken a heavy toll on the trout & salmon. However, there is perhaps an upside to this for the time being, if you enjoy feeling or seeing a fish grab hold of a fly this is the perfect venue for you during June & July. Those 2 months the fish are easy to locate and access to their hideouts is still an easy thing. As the summer goes into August the weed growth in the slough’s and creeks will make navigating difficult at the least. The creeks in the immediate area of the lake are flowing at……….well, lake level and therefore they are slow moving and prone to vegetation.

This is the place for a 9 or 10 foot single hand rod in 7 – 9 weight. All you need are a floating line and I’ll bring the Whitlock Sculpin’s . If you are familiar with shock tippets and have them bring them with. If not, I’ll have some on hand. Although the bite wires are the very best I don’t like the way they can get kinks in them. I get by almost all the time with a 14″ length of 30 – 40 pound mono as a tippet. while there are all sort of good pike fly and I have those too, the Sculpin in size 2 is extremely effective and so are bunny leeches of about 4″.

I have had action with a couple large pike and what seems to be an ongoing theme is holding true with this species also, the big ones got away. I’m talking about the kind of pike that eat ducks when I say ‘big’, there are plenty of 27 – 30″ fish caught and now and then a 36 or larger but there are a few around that are truly large. I don’t insist that there are a whole bunch of 44 – 50″ pike out there but I’ve seen enough to know they have the unicorns outnumbered in a big way.

Because I am fishing flies, and not concentrating on the pike I am not taking as many and perhaps not as large of fish as the gear guys but On a good day there can be pretty much non stop action with fish between 18 – 30″ in size. The down side of these days is that this is what we call ‘A Terminal Fishery’. This is an invasive species that is threatening our salmon stocks and every fish caught is killed immediately. For many, myself included this is a tough game to play but if you choose to do a little pike fishing here, that is how it ends for the fish. Of course the killing of a dozen or 2 pike is not the end all for the plight of our salmon & trout, but you and I can rest assured that those killed will not fill their stomach with juvenile salmon when dispatched.

These are a trio of small fish taken on one of the creeks flowing from the wetlands adjacent to the lake.

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This group (below) were taken right in front of the cabin along the lake shore. I took the picture because these fish were cleaned and filleted because they were a good size for that. I neglected to place the rod into the picture for reference but the fish were sized between 27 and 30 inches. I keep track of sizes for the research team from Cook Inlet Aquaculture who are conducting a 4 year pike assessment and advisory study for the state on Hewitt & Whiskey lakes.

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So what do you do with all those pike? That’s what I meant when I said I did a poor job of documenting all of this! You feed the fish to the two pair of Bald Eagles who raise young out there on alternate years. There’s always a nest with a couple hungry babies in it nearby. We have many fox who patrol the lake shore daily and their finding a meal of fish every so often does its part to spare the Spruce grouse and Snowshoe Hares who call the land around the cabin home. When there is a pile of fish to be disposed of they are transported to the back 40 where brown bears will find and eat them. No fish are discarded near the cabin and to date I have no bear problems there at all.

2014 will be a season when I will be much more careful about photographing pike as they are taken and posting the results of fishing here. I already know that I have a couple people coming in late June – July1st to fish for pike as a targeted species so there will be fish. I will return to this post and add any more pertinent information as I think of it but this is a start.

Ard

 

  1. December 3, 2013
    Chris

    … and so it continues. I grew up fishing for large pickerel (20 – 36″+); blasphemous as this may sound to some, fishing for Esocids is my favorite thing to do, with Salmonids taking a close #2. They do make great fish cakes, by the way.
    Enjoyed the article, as usual, Ard!

  2. December 3, 2013
    Ard Stetts

    Hi Chris,

    it seems that I have more than one ‘Chris’ now so……. could you give an initial with your name so I can keep this sorted, that would be cool so I don’t leave messages for someone who ends up wondering what the heck I’m talking about :)

    The fish that are large enough to provide good filets are good canned or baked and then made into fish cake sandwiches. I haven’t experimented beyond that for the table. It is unfortunate that they must be killed but a choice needs to be made. Last year over in the Cove area where there is a big one I witnessed something that sort of diminished my sympathy for the pike.

    Now you gotta understand that I had a fish on in this area three seasons ago that ran straight to the boat and under it coming out on the west side and diving deep. I never had a chance to set the hook becaust the pike had followed and then appeared just as I was sweeping the rod back to re-cast. This put me in a position where I could do nothing but look at this fish that had just came from the deep green depths of the lake and inhaled my McNally Magnum. The action that followed as he went beneath the boat was frantic at best as I struggled to get the bent rod and line around and under my motor. ‘I was fishing from the stern area of the boat’ It was over as quickly as it started when I finally got the line tight and tried a hand pull hookset……….. The Phantom was gone.

    I understand that these creatures are somewhat territorial and the next year, 2012, I was down working at the lake shore and looked up that direction to see a Green Wing Teal with approximately 11 – 13 babies. I picked that number because I used to have a small poultry operation and got pretty slick at counting birds on the move, anyway I was satisfied that it was an uneven number of ducklings………..

    The very next day I saw that hen Teal but with perhaps 7 babies, and after three days she was back on the little pond to the North of the cabin alone. I went for a boat ride slowly around a large expanse of shore line to look for the duck with the babies but never saw one again, so I resigned myself to believe that a pike had in 2 – 3 days eaten somewhere between 11 & 13 green wing teal. It was at that point I decided that I would prefer ducks, salmon, and trout over pike.

    I realize that nature is often a cruel host for wildlife. I was a hunter for many years and grew up into the outdoors, but this business of a creature entering into a world where it has no real enemies excepting man and other pike seems especially cruel.

    So, let’s get em while the getting’s good! I can guarantee that I’ll be pounding the shores and creeks for them at ice out. Now I know that I have to show the people who visit this site the fish rather than tell you a fish story :)

    Sooner or later someone will get the big boy. I know no one has because a pike like that would be talked about on the Lake. I’m sure I saw it this past August when it lunged at a clients fly just as he was stripping it in about 1 foot jerks. The fish came from left to right at the big fly and just at the point of intersection the fly darted forward a foot! The 2 men fishing were chatting it up and neither were looking into the water at the flies. I howled like a crazy men and startled them both and when I ask in utter shock, “Did you see that” they both ask, ‘What’?…………

    Same place as the original crime scene from 2011 when it went under the boat! Seems this fish only makes one mistake per year and that could be the key to his or her longevity.

    Ard

  3. December 3, 2013
    Chris

    Hi Ard,
    Chris from PA and NJ :)
    I totally agree re: removing a predator running amok. Pike are the most successful of the Esocids where more than one species exists due to their early-season spawning, placing them at an advantage over later spawners (Pike fry will eat Musky and Pickerel fry; the former is larger than either of the latter due to the early hatching). My dad is from eastern MI and used to tell me stories of seeing pike charge into a mass of bait fish and eat until they were gorged, then vomit, and then go back in for more fish. They are all apex predators, for certain, but believe me when I say that I have no problem removing an invasive species, be it a pike, lake trout, brook trout, etc., from a body of water in which it is causing harm to the native species.

    My enjoyment of fishing for Esocids is primarily due to their behavior of charging topwater lures and flies from a great distance, creating a visible wake just beneath the surface as they home in on the angler’s offering. It’s a blast to watch that whole scene play out. Many a time have I been surprised when a large fish hit within inches of the boat; maybe I’ve hooked 5% of those fish. It always seems to be the big ones that do this.

    One other aspect of fishing for Esocids that I like is the ability to dress large baitfish patterns on tubes and actually have a use for them!

    Chris

  4. December 3, 2013
    Ard Stetts

    These fish seem to go for a slow retrieve and when you see one following, which you usually can in the clear water, you just stop the fly. Most of them will then stop dead along with the fly. At that point you move the fly just barely and they are on.

    The above applies to large flies which are easily spotted by you the fisherman. When using the smaller Sculpin patterns they seem to just hit them without hesitation.

    An interesting side note; at the most recent Mat Su Salmon & Conservation Symposium I spent a good while with the man who is in charge of the Pike eradication efforts for AK. F&G in this region. As part of their research determining whether salmon are reestablishing in rivers and creeks which have been overrun with pike they examine stomach contents of many dead pike. Oddly enough this is the very best way to find juvenile King Salmon in a vast expanse of water occupied by pike. What I learned when we were talking about fishing for them (pike) was that the most prolific stomach content in the study fish were Sculpin followed closely by the leech. This was told to me when I had remarked at how well I do using just a simple Whitlock Sculpin as my lure.

    So as a fellows good fortune would have it, I had stumbled upon their primary food source even though most around me are fishing either huge lures or baits.

    A 3″ Sculpin, go figure :)

  5. December 11, 2013
    Dewayne

    Glad I found this blog Ard. I begin this post wondering if I even have a point to make. So I will just throw up some observations from the viewpoint of a Pike fisherman. I have fished for them for 30 years. I have hired guides to chase them. In every case they were considered invasive. In every case the guide was unable to hide his disdain for them for the day I fished with him (and there was no trip scheduled the following year for just that reason). I realize wherever they swim they threaten walleye,trout,salmon, and even Musky (which I found hard to believe until it was explained to me). I appreciate them for their aggressiveness. They are a nearly perfect predator. They are also delicious when caught from clean water. I can not tell them from walleye if the Y bones are properly removed. I have always released the large pike out of respect as I practice selective harvest for any species I harvest.

    Regarding documenting the pike fishing, I respect that you are in a tough spot Ard. As an avid trout and salmon fisherman/guide, I suspect you despise their existence as they will always threaten good fish. At the same time you have a resource that could potentially attract some customers. Most US pike enthusiasts go to Canada, so I guess if they are eradicated from Alaska it isn’t a big deal in the end.

    If I do have a point it would be that walleye, trout and salmon seemed to do pretty well before man ever took notice of any problem species. There just may be other factors having as much or more influence on salmon and trout. I respectectfully submit that man and climate change may be a bigger threat than pike will ever be.

  6. December 12, 2013
    Ard Stetts

    Hi Dewayne,

    No, I don’t have anything personal against the pike. I feel badly that every one should be killed to try saving what very few trout we have left in the lake. I like fishing for them right up until I catch one and then things get gloomy because of what comes next.

    The fact that they do get large enough to eat the young ducks is sort of unattractive too but still I feel bad killing them.

    As far as them providing a fishing opportunity, they do, and I doubt we’ll ever put much of a dent in the population because there isn’t a whole lot of pressure on them at this time.

    The truly hard day will be if and when I would catch the one that I’ve had 2 go rounds with already over a three year period. It’s large enough to eat a mature Green Wing Teal………. I don’t know how I’ll deal with that if the day comes but I imagine I’ll follow the regulations and………..

    Don’t worry, I don’t hate them but I would be happier if they were all rainbow trout :)

    • December 12, 2013
      Dewayne

      Ard,

      As long as angling pressure is low, I agree there will not likely be significant reduction and certainly not eradication. Until the 1940s Northern MN had lakes that sound similar to Hewitt. With enough pressure you can and will eliminate the large pike. That usually leaves you with an even larger population of small pike. They are just as destructive to juvenille trout, salmon, walleye etc.

      The only effective strategy I have ever observed is when you can manage the water level during the pike spawn. Take away their spawning shallows at the right time each year and you can reduce their quantity in a meaningful way. MN has many special regulation waters as harvest of the desired species.

      Most water can’t support so many anglers feeling the need to limit out on the largest fish possible every time they fish. That’s a completely different subject of course. I understand the economic need to not be overly restrictive on desirable species limits. I like slot limits best as they seem somewhat effective in managing the average fish size and protecting the breeding stock.

  7. March 20, 2014

    I gather from your post that Pike are not a fish that humans desire to consume. Do you also catch other fish at the same time for your meals? Alaska travel website says there are 267 species of fish in Alaska. Aside from salmon, trout, and pike, what other fish are sought through tourist excursions, do you know?

  8. March 21, 2014
    Ard Stetts

    Hi Grace,
    We do eat some pike but not a lot of it, if they were a commercially desirable fish things would be looking better for them. They are however invasive to this area and threaten to eliminate salmon and other native fish completely.

    In this part of Alaska we fish for 5 species of salmon – rainbow trout – char – grayling and shefish. Most fishing is concentrated on those species in fresh water with pike being an option where they exist either as a native or invasive specie.

    Ard

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