Biologist and expert angler Jeff Matity reveals pike secrets that will help you catch more walleye, lakers, bass and perch

Originally Published by Outdoor Canada, November 23, 2016

Talk to almost any angler who catches a northern pike while fishing for walleye, lake trout, yellow perch, black crappie or bass and they’ll tell you to carefully wash your hands and lure in soapy water to remove the negative scent of the big toothy predator.

Jeff Matity isn’t your typical angler.

“If I could bottle the stuff I would,” says Matity, who is the biologist in charge of Saskatchewan’s Fort Qu’Appelle Fish Hatchery. In fact, are you ready for this: Matity says he favours tipping his jigs and spoons with a thin strip of pike meat that he carefully carves from the belly of a small fish he has eaten at shore lunch.

I know what you’re thinking: what about all the noise we’ve heard for years about the scent of pike deterring fish from biting?

“The planet would be overrun with pike,” Matity chuckles, “if it wasn’t for the fact that everything loves to eat them. Fish never become conditioned or turned off to the flavour of pike. If a walleye, perch or bass is eating pike fry and fingerlings from the time they’re five or six inches long, why wouldn’t they keep eating them forever?”

But doesn’t a big pike cruising along the edge of a weedline put other fish on guard?

“When a big pike is moving around, flexing his jaws and giving everybody the evil eye,” says Matity, “Yah, that is when the hair goes up on the backs of their necks and they probably hunker down.

“But I’ve studied them in the aquarium at the Fish Behavioural Lab at the University of Saskatchewan and there are many times when the fathead minnows are lying right beside the pike. When the pike are laying on the bottom, in a non-assuming position, just sitting there breathing, probably dreaming, the minnows are lying beside them and eating. But when that same pike wakes up and starts cruising the mid-depth, flexing his jaws, the minnows go on alert.”

So, it is as much or more of a visual clue, I suggest to Matity, as it is a scent-related one.

“As soon as that northern pike eats any of the minnows,” Matity says, “he breaks the alarm system cells on the minnow’s mucus layer. He doesn’t even have to break the skin or remove a scale and every minnow in the tank knows that something is going down.

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