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Now is the time to catch a big pike at Navajo Lake


May 29, 2003

Toothy catches surprising Navajo Lake anglers

By Darren Marcy, Daily Times Outdoor Editor

The 16-pound northern, was caught by Paul Nee of Edgewood. The fish was 39 1/2 inches long.

This 23-pound northern pike was caught May 11 up the Pine arm of Navajo Lake. Brian Beaudoin of Tijeras, was fly-fishing for bass when he caught the 45-inch long fish.

Now is the time to catch a big pike at Navajo Lake.

Some big northerns have been showing up at the courtesy docks lately.

Some anglers go out looking for the big toothy critters, while others have simply proven lucky. One big pike was boated recently by an angler who was fishing for crappie.

The 16-pound northern, caught by Paul Nee of Edgewood, came to the boat at the end of 6-pound test monofilament.

The fish measured 39 1/2 inches long and hit a crappie jig.

Another big pike came nearly two weeks ago up the Pine arm of the lake. The 23-pounder was caught by Brian Beaudoin of Tijeras, who was fly-rodding for bass when the northern took his Woolly Bugger.

Those two fish are just a sample of the big pike caught recently.

Rob Degner, owner of Mountain States Guide Service, said this is the time of the year a lot of pike are caught and with numbers come some big fish.

"This is the time of the year to catch pike up shallow," Degner said. "They're following the food source up."

That food source is primarily crappie, bluegill and panfish.

"I've seen a lot of fish have marks on them from pike hitting them," Degner said. "The pike have been in those areas where you're finding the crappie. They're after those shallow crappie."

While the end of May and first of June provide numbers of pike, the bigger fish sometimes are caught in July, Degner said.

"Some of the best pike I've ever caught are in July," he said. "It's just numbers right now. It's easy to find pike. When everything moves up in the month of May, that's when the pike will follow the bluegill and crappie."

Plus this is the time of the year the pike are spawning themselves and will not only chase prey species into shallower water, but are also moving up for the spawn.

Degner said some fish caught have had bloody tails from fanning beds as part of the spawning process.

Several pike have been caught by anglers fishing for crappie and bass.

"You have to get real lucky in the way you hook them," Degner said. "We loose a lot of pike while bass fishing. When a pike hits, you'll feel that tick as it knocks the bait toward you. It'll unload your rod. Most of the time if you don't have a steel leader on, they'll cut right through it because of their razor teeth."

While Navajo has been showing off big pike lately, even the 23-pounder is well off the state's best.

The state record is 37 pounds, a mark that has been hit twice in the 70s.

The first 37-pounder was caught in 1974 at Miami Lake, followed by a nearly identical fish caught in 1978 at Springer Lake.

The state record had a length of 53 inches and a girth of 29 inches.

For an angler specifically looking for pike, crappie are the key Degner said. He said to try fishing the area where the muddy water from runoff turns clear.

"That's where the pike are going to be," Degner said.

Rigging for pike doesn't require many changes for the bass angler.

A rod and reel capable of casting spinnerbaits or crankbaits on 10- to 20-pound line works well.

A steel leader is the key.

Pike have long, very sharp teeth and a big mouth.

"You need a steel leader on or you'll lose pike," Degner said. "You can buy leaders already made up or you can buy steel leader material that you can tie just like mono line."

Heavier line is better for pike, just in case you connect with a big one, but not so heavy that it bothers the action of the lure.

White spinnerbaits with gold blades and chartreuse and black crankbaits work well.

"What's nice about those is you can cover a lot of water with a spinnerbait and crankbait and really go down the bank," Degner said.

A crappie jig is likely to work well also, but the best are lures that imitate a crappie, Degner said.

"I use those kinds of lures imitating your crappie patterns," Degner said.

Other pike anglers take big northerns trolling and with a fly-rod.

Trolling a large, jointed Rapala can attract a pike. Anglers trolling for big browns with a size J-13 Rapala in perch colors (black and green) often find success.

Fly-anglers can take pike when their in the shallows as they are now.

Large streamer patterns imitating bait fish works. Colors include chartreuse and white as well as chartreuse and black are popular and clouser patterns or a large Bunny Leech also take pike.

Large flies are the trick, with four or five inches worth of material on a strong No. 2 hook are required.

Beaudoin caught his big pike, which he thought was a carp or catfish. He had already landed a 15-pound carp and an 8-pound channel cat, but the pike surprised him.

"I've hooked them fairly consistent by accident in the past," Beaudoin said. "But most of the time they end up biting through. I was lucky, it was right in the corner of its mouth. He was actually biting on the hook shank rather than on the line."

Beaudoin released the 45-inch fish after taking some photos and getting its weight and measure.

The bag limit for pike is 10 fish per day, with a possession limit of 20.

Information: Degner (505) 320-2602.

Darren Marcy: [email protected]

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