pa pike, pickerel



May 11, 2008
I know this is random and irrelevant to the current season/conditions, but I was daydreaming about next summers warm water fishing when I realized that I've never caught pike or pickerel on the fly. So thats my plan next year when the trout fishing slows down. Anyone have any experience with this. Patterns, stream locations, tips of any kind.
From what I've been able to gather...spring and fall, just like trout is the best time...
I have also had an interest in catching pike and walleye on the fly but just haven't gotten around to it. I've heard of people using wire leaders, but would assume that a 1x or 0x would be sufficient. Also check out Orvis or Cabela's to see the size of flies that are used for pike. It's a whole new ball game. I've seen some in the magazines that are 10-12 inches... bigger than most of the trout I catch lol. I'm sure more guys (and ladies, as to adhere to the recent posting) will put in their 2 cents to help you out. Good luck!
I use a braded nylon leader with a 12" bite tippet.

As far as patterns -- large, and pike like chartruse, white/red, and black.
I don't know where you are in the state and how long of a drive it would be for you, but from a size/quantity perspective for the fly angler, Presque Isle Bay is the best pike water in the state by a considerable margin. The fishing while wading can be really good from shortly after the ice goes out and the fish begin thinking about spawning (usually by late March) until the smallmouth start cutting redds in mid-May. Fish in the 5-6 lb. range are pretty common and actually about average. Then I'd imagine (but do not know) that the fishing picks up again in the Fall for Pike in the bay.

I would imagine that the Allegheny Reservoir has similar fishing if you can find it. It's a big piece of water. But I don't know that either although I do know it has surrendered some of the largest pike taken in PA.

A lot of cool/warm water streams like the Allegheny and French Creek (NW) and others have decent numbers of Pike. The problem with a lot of these places is that the fish are spotty and the best times of the year to target them are also times when flows are considerably higher and fly fishing more difficult. I grew up on French Creek and don't ever remember it being pleasantly fly fishable until close to Memorial Day.

So, I think a lake is the best bet unless you want to catch most of your pike later in the year incidental to catching bass.

When I've targeted them in the Bay or on Lake LeBoeuf or some other small lake, I've done best on big bunny buggers (like 6-7 inches long) in loud colors stripped right along the edges of the weed lines and usually fairly deep. Big Clousers, a Lefty Kreh hackle fly called the Red and White and big salt water streamers like the SeaDucer have also worked for me. Particularly with the bunny bugger which gets waterlogged, you need a pretty powerful rod to cast these flies all day, like a 9' 8wgt or so. Which is another part of the problem with river pike. A lot of them are about the length and girth of an axe handle and don't put much of a bend in an 8 wgt.

But like some of the other guys have said, the best pike times actually overlap some of the best trout time
While I've never caught a pike/pickerel or musky on the fly, I have caught many pickerel with spinning/casting gear.

The spring and fall are the best times to target these fish, think bass while you are fishing for them. I tend to catch many on surface lures in thick weed mats while giving them a fast retrieve. I would imagine a frog type imitation fly would work well. I've also had success catching them in the summer with a tube, or rubber worm bounced on the bottom - so maybe a craw or worm fly (are there any good worm fly patterns?) would work well.

I think many if not most PA waters hold pickerel, which are fast becoming my favorite fish to catch.
I've caught sublegal musky 26-29 inches on streamers without a wire leader.
>>I think many if not most PA waters hold pickerel, which are fast becoming my favorite fish to catch.>>

They are a neat fish, but being from the NW originally, I have little experience with them.

They don't occur, if I recall correctly, anywhere in the Ohio drainage in PA
I think PA is a marginal state for these esocids (better for muskies) but they do have a fairly broad distribution, just not a lot of really hot waters. The Pocono ponds, I believe, have some good pickeral fishing. Here in the central part of the state they are spotty. Some of the smaller lakes in Cumberland Co have a lot of pickerel. Colorful bass flies with some flash and a weed guard will get them. Pike have a FFing cult following but this is mostly a Canada game. Again, here in central PA northerns are usually a by-catch - although the ice fishing guys get some big ones. The upper Susky River has pike and Shawnee Lake has a lot too. Probably the best pike water in my neck of the woods is Lake Marburg. Some fish over 36" come out of here every year. Best time is very early spring, right after ice-out till about mid-April when they can be found in shallow, weedy bays. By mid-April they move out to deep water. Studies have revealed large pike to be very much a coldwater fish with comfort ranges in the sub 60 degree mark. It's worth a try going after these fish but there doesn't seem to be a lot of fly fishermen who specifically target them.
Dear bushwhacker,

The North Branch of the Susquehanna has plenty of pike from Tunkhannock north, and they get big. I never really deliberately fished for them with flies but I lost plenty of big flies and more than a few Zara Spooks to them while fishing for smallmouth. My brother caught one on a Clouser Minnow in May of 1996 that was 47" long, but that was caught in Johnson City, NY.

Pickerel are all over the Poconos, but to me they are not worth the effort of fly fishing. They are really easy to catch and they ruin flies faster than bluefish. You get about 2 pickerel per fly before you have nothing but a few strands of hair and crystal flash left.

Tim Murphy :)
I've caught and hooked a few pike while fishing for bass and hybrid stripers in other streams and lakes in Western PA including Lake Arthur, Slippery Rock Creek, Neshannock Creek and The Yough River. I always hook them by accident, so have lost many more than I've actually caught. Without a shock tippet or wire leader, they usually break off. I've hooked them on Clousers, Lefty's Deceivers (while fishing for hybrids), surface poppers and larger wooly buggers. The biggest I landed was probably around 40". Lost bigger ones. Thinking back, the time of year I hooked most was early spring -- March and April. I've caught only one muskie in over 25 years of fly fishing -- a 32 " at Lake Arthur in September on a pencil popper.

I've heard that High Point Lake in Somerset County(?) is a real hot spot for pike and might be worth exploring for fly fishing opportunities.

rising fish always
hey thanks for the feedback guys. Didn't know they fished well in the spring. Now i have to rethink my plans. Not sure I'm ready to sacrifice spring trout fishing for them. I may sneak in a trip or two for pike/pickerel just for variety.
I have done well year round catching pike at High Point Lake in Somerset. But they have significantly lowered the water level. I think I read to kill weeds so im not sure how it will fish now. I use my 8wt and work big bass flies around lanes and holes in the weeds. Im still trying to find a good weed less fly. Is there such a thing? Cranberry Glade is another good lake I have had success catching pike. Good Luck!
I've seen several flies specific for pike in catelogs before, such as Cabela's. The "weedless" ones have a weedguard just like a bass lure. I'm sure you can get the weedless hooks and just tie a streamer pattern onto it. I've done it before for big bass flies.