I put in about noon. The wide hoop, short handle net is held in a custom cut hole in the back deck, reachable with either hand and is secured to the back of the seat with a bungee cord leash. All this is completely out of the way when paddling or fishing.
The first phragmite grass edge that offered some protection from the wind offered up the first pike on the 8th cast with the flashy 1/0 Chartreuse & Red Great Lakes Jiggy . She was extremely plump and appeared to be full of eggs. As happens with many speculative conclusions, a likely contrary explanation appears later.
I couldn't get another fish on the next 80 casts to similar grass edges. I changed flies to the White & Chartreuse version. About 20 cast later the second pike took.
This fish had a 6 inch bluegill in his stomach held horizontally to stretch out his ribs about as wide as possible. That eased my doubts that my fly might be too large for the fish to want to digest in this very cold water. Warmer water species like Musky or Large Mouth bass prefer smaller lures in the cold water of winter and early spring, but pike are truly a cold water species.
Action was slow and the sluggish fish were not providing any clues. I was counting down 4 second then making sharp 10 inch strips and pausing 2 second to let the long flashy flies turn and fall slowly. The two previous fish had hit softly mid retrieve on the pause and fall. The next strip they were there and made a few head shakes a few seconds after I tightened up. They came to the net quickly without much fight. Frequently the fish will tip you off if they are following or they want some different retrieve. I had to change something. I took off the ugly cross lock snap and retied the same White and Chartreuse Jiggy with a loop knot in the 40 lb bite leader.
An hour later, I had not seen any sign of the increased pike activity I expected as the afternoon wore on and the water warmed up a bit. On a cast tight to the phragmite grass edge, after the second strip out, I saw the leader tighten on the fall. The 3rd Pike had hit close to the cover and higher in the water column.
He fought OK but not with the blazing speed and power pike usually show.
I released two 17 inch Pike easily because I could just grab the fly shank outside their mouths and shake them off the broken barb hooks beside the kayak. I continued in apparently fishless water. The wind became very difficult and I headed back to the spots I had started out at. On a deep slow retrieve something was on after a strip, then a few feeble head shakes and then a 16 inch bass was on the surface thrashing sluggishly, he got off. Too little resistance to get the hook set. At 7:30, at half dark, a hard hit shallow, close to the cover, some silver blur slashed through the surface and a long powerful fight from the last Pike.
Patterns for targeting Early Pike. The Zonkers and Estaz Bunny Leeches will also take a few Bass or Walleye.
It seems unlikely the small rise in water temperature in the late afternoon can fully explain the Pike's increased strength and activity. They must just dial up the adrenaline when it suits them. Then we should pity the warm water species that will be no match for them. All the larger pike I caught today were much fatter and better fed than those I caught here in the summer and fall. Pike truly are a cold water species.