Winter is clearly in our rear view mirror now, and as lakes and reservoirs around the state lose their final coverings of hardwater, northern pike get on the prowl for their spring spawn.
There's no finer time to target pike as live baiting can lay claim to double digit catches on good days. Starting in late March and early April, I'm hitting central and northern NJ reservoirs in search of water wolves. A two rod set up is used from the shore, four rods if casting from a boat with a buddy.
Generally 7-1/2 foot Shimano Teramar rods rated for 8 to 20-pound matched with Shimano Stradic 5000 spooled with 30-pound Power Pro green braid fit the bill. Two rigs work best for pike, both of which are baited with live or dead shiners. A bottom rig consists of a 1-ounce egg sinker slid on the braid line, a 100-pound Spro Barrel swivel, then a 26-inch section of 40-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon leader to which a size #2 Gamakatsu Octopus hook is snelled on.
Dead Shiner or herring baits seem to work better on the bottom rig. The float rig revolves around a slip float bobber which is used to accurately set the bait down at a measurable, consistent depth. Thread the slip float bobber on the braided line then tie on a 50-pound Spro Barrel Swivel from which a 30-inch section of 40-pound Seaguar Fluorocarbon and same #2 Octopus hook is tied on. The key to the bobber's success is in sliding off the fluorescent thread on top of the slip float onto the braided line, say around 4 feet above the bobber, where both tag ends are pulled tight to cinch the knot onto the braided line. Trim the excess tag ends.
Now when casted, the slip float will slide to that preset 4 foot depth, presenting the shiner at the desired depth where you believe pike are staging at. You can slide the knot up and down the line accordingly to change the set depth. Plan your outings during the sunrise hours as the pike bite is usually a morning endeavor up until around 10 AM.
Pike fishing in the spring is an absolute blast on the lighter tackle. Target shallower coves where they tend to congregate to warm up in the sunshine. Release what you catch as pike are really bony and are more of a hassle to cook than they are worth.