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Northern pike are rarely as predictable as they are in April when the ice first comes off the lake. They won’t spawn until the water reaches the upper 40s, and during that short window between ice-out and breeding, the biggest fish feed hard. The trick is figuring out which ­areas to target, and that search can start right at home. All you need is a contour map of the lake and a keen eye.

1 | Get the Skinny

● First and foremost, identify all shallow parts of the lake that have depths no greater than 5 feet. If your map has symbols that designate weed and cabbage beds, even better. The skinny water will warm quicker and attract the forage species pike love. A mix of shallow, warmer water with a bait supply and weeds makes a prime spawning area.

2 | Stake Your Ground

● Of the shallows you’ve identified, pick the ones that are most protected. Bays of any size are ideal locations for spawning. If your body of water doesn’t have bays, look for large coves or even slow-moving creeks feeding into the lake. The best spots will be adjacent to deeper water and are often situated on the northern end of the lake. Bays and coves on the north side will get more sunlight and therefore warm faster.

3 | Fish the Transition

● Knowing the water temperature is of utmost importance once you get on the lake. In the upper 30s to lower 40s, concentrate on the 5- to 10-foot-deep transition areas adjacent to the spawning locations. When water temperatures start pushing closer to the mid 40s, fish the 5-foot shallows and get ready to rumble. Just be aware that pike usually begin to spawn when the water climbs between 46 and 49 degrees, and once it hits those numbers, fishing will get tougher.

Photograph by Brian Grossenbacher