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  • Writer's pictureNew Wave Fishing Academy

Pike Fishing Georgian Bay: Where are all the BIG fish?!

The 2024 pike season on Georgian Bay has been a challenging one. If you've been struggling to find and catch the big fish (40"+) just know so is everyone else. We have extensive contacts throughout the Georgian Bay fishing community from weekend warriors, fishing guides, tournament professionals, and social media presences. EVERYONE is struggling to find and catch the big fish. Sure there are a few 40" class fish being caught but we are talking a FEW between everyone we know. There are lots of 36-39" fish making their way into boats but the trophy (40"+) fish seem to have packed up and left the bay completely.

To put the struggle into perspective:

  • Victoria Day Long Weekend Trip

    • 2023 - 6 x 40"+ in one weekend from 1 boat with multiple 42 and a 43.5

    • 2024 - 2 x 40" caught between 18 guys (7 boats) and both were barely over the mark (40.25 and 40.5)

  • Parry Sound TOP 50 Pike Series Event in

    • 2023 - 4 fish over 40" (101.6 cm) with 50 boats, the big fish was 113.2 cm

    • 2024 -1 fish over 40" (101.6 cm) with 55 boats, the big fish was 102 cm

  • Georgian Bay Big Pike Contest 2024

    • 58 entrants & only 3 submissions over 40" since the start of the season

But why has it been so difficult? Here's our thoughts:

It is important to start this conversation by recognizing that trophy pike (40"+) are not the same as smaller pike! These trophy class fish have gotten to this stage by being picky, lazy, and smart. They don't do anything that can negatively impact their growth and will do what they can to optimize growth and conserve energy. In short this means looking for the best opportunities not just good ones. We aren't ones to make excuses but to solve problems it is necessary to identify causes for the conditions to develop a winning game plan that overcomes them. While there are a number of factors that can lead to the difficult fishing anglers on Georgian Bay have been faced with so far in 2024 we believe the most significant are:

  • Moon Phases - Big pike are finicky. They like to take only the best opportunities to feed and hunt just like musky. Full & new moon are these chances. Unfortunately, this season the majority of these windows fall during the week and not on the weekends so majority of anglers cannot take advantage. In 2024 only 25May was close to a new or full moon but it was on a fringe. In 2023 the new/full moons are on a Friday for 2 of the 4 weekends in May leading to weekends with prime opportunities for the weekend angler. While moon phases are not an end all be all the potential of seeing multiple trophy class fish in a day is much higher!

  • Volatile weather - Most of May and especially on the weekends or days leading up to them have had very volatile weather. Warm days followed by cold nights lead to a lot of fluctuations in water temperature. The shallows are most susceptible to temperature changes and the rapidly changing temperature in either direction can stress fish out. Pike will tend to relocate maintain desirable conditions. This spreads fish out and smaller percentages of the population will move up shallow like we expect. Stable conditions & warm nights concentrate northern pike in the warm shallows as this will help optimize their growth plus has had the time for numbers of fish to move in from wherever they hung out all winter.

  • Lack of West Wind - One of the main reasons for northern pike to move into the shallows is because it is the warmest water which helps optimize their growth. With a lack of wind, and more importantly a lack of west wind to blow in cool water and ensure mixing the surface temps above deep water is as warm as the bays most anglers target! This spreads pike out out as some (mostly the really big ones) will chose to move smallest distance to warm water from feeding zone which could just be the surface instead of the back of bays.

  • Lack of Weed Growth - Despite the water temperature being almost a month ahead of schedule weed growth is dependent on a total amount of sunlight. As such the weeds in deeper water spots northern pike use when temperatures rise have not had sufficient time to grow compared to normal when fish move out (Mid to End of June). This makes it difficult as there is no cover to concentrate pike or forage meaning the pike are roaming a lot more than usual which become much more difficult to target.

To learn our entire northern pike fishing strategy and how you can better understand the factors dictating pike behaviour click the link below:

One of the great parts about fishing is that there is never only one answer! Depending where you go, what you've tried, and what you've seen the information you have to make decisions will differ. This is why we try to discuss with other anglers in the community to get the best and most complete information possible to make decisions. It also gives the chance to learn something new and improve our angling game. Here's what some other experts had to say about the lack of big pike this season:

Clint Hurd, Tournament Angler & Top 50 Pike Series Parry Sound Event Champion

top 50 pike series champion clint hurd georgian bay pike fishing

"Timing is a big aspect that can be overlooked; in my opinion the first 3 weeks after opener is when I would consider being prime time to catch bigger fish concentrated in shallow back bays. So the timing (weather/overnight temp/sun/rain) has to be great leading into your fishing day to stack the odds of catching a big one in your favor. I still think those trophy sized fish are around and they will get active at some point but it may only be for a short period. If you were able to be on the water every day you'd be able to encounter the trophy pike and have those exceptional days of multiple trophy fish but with only a few trips on weekends and with volatile weather the chances of being in the right spot when they get active is a lot lower. Sometimes the push shallow is after a few warm days in a row, sometimes it's only the late afternoon/evening if the previous night was cold, and sometimes it is when a warm rain heats things up momentarily. This is why I like to hit the same locations again when conditions change to see if activity has improved. This season most of the weekends have had cold nights and it didn't warm up much throughout the day which pretty much the opposite of what you want to see."

JR Tudhope, Fishing Guide on Georgian Bay & owner of Island Fishing Charters

spring pike fishing georgian bay island fishing charters

"This year we had a very early spring and ice out (some spots didn't even freeze) which caused those big (40”+) females to spawn earlier than normal. Typically when they are done spawning they move out to deeper water until the shallow water warms up enough for them to make it worthwhile to come back in. With this season, our spring dragged out and I honestly think they may have only been a week where those big girls came in shallow. Since it was such a prolonged period I think that they basically adjusted and skipped this typical movement, obviously there was still lots of fish shallow but not as many as normal and not the big ones. We basically went from a dragged out cold spring to hot instead of a gradual warm up. The week of the 13th to 17th was prime time in my opinion and then by the end of that week the deeper water was warm enough for big fish to abandon the shallows"

Jesse Hutchinson, Georgian Bay Resident & Angler

"This season I have only one or two over 40", and barely. I know of a 42 and a 44 my buddy caught, but there does seem to be a lack of them compared to normal. I always say that real big pike and small pike may as well be different species but the pike in general have been a bit goofy lately. I caught a 38.5" suspended at 30 feet in 65 ish feet of water while Lake Trout fishing within minutes of catching a 37" in two feet. We did get a 44 and a 45" this winter two days apart fishing deep for lakers but this was through the ice. Big pike are just so different in their temperament that they will be the first ones to adjust to conditions which can make them seem to do weird things and be in weird places. A surprising number of 43" class fish are usually caught from now through June, but it's more like musky fishing in that there are not many patterns to where they will be. Water temps are similar everywhere and the big pike just go wherever the hell they want. We jumped right into that behaviour this season with similar temperatures everywhere.

While it isn't really related, I've been curious lately of the impact of tournaments in general on big fish in big waters. Do big pike spawn in the same areas each year? If so, does a fish caught in one area of the bay and released in another ever get to spawn again? It would seem crazy for the fish to swim 30-40 miles to get back to where it was caught but these are the distances some anglers are travelling in tournaments on Georgian Bay. This may have an impact on traditionally productive areas that have had a number of big fish relocated not producing or it might not but it's something to think about."


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pike fishing georgian bay spring big pike northern pike


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