Top 5 Northern Pike lakes in Minnesota, you say?
Yes, we’re doing it. We’re posting the top 5 lakes for catching big, fat norskies in Minnesota. Will everyone agree with them? Come on, what fun would that be? We know what you’re going to say, “It’s more about knowing how to find them than which lake you pick. Perhaps. Does that mean you don’t want any help in picking a lake? Do you just throw a dart at the map for your big pike busting weekend? We didn’t think so.
How did we pick the lakes? We picked the 50 largest lakes in Minnesota and then analyzed the fish sample sizes that the DNR reported in 2012. For northern pike they use gill nets. From the DNR website:
“Gill net: This is the main piece of equipment used for sampling walleye, northern pike, yellow perch, cisco, whitefish, trout, and salmon. The standard gill net is 6 feet tall by 250 feet long, with 5 different mesh sizes. Gill nets are generally set in off shore areas in water deeper than 9 feet. Nets are fished for a period of 24 hours. Fish are captured by swimming into the net and becoming entangled. Fisheries workers record length and weight data from each fish, determine the sex, look for parasites or disease, and remove several of the fishes scales for determining the fishes age. Most of the fish taken in gill nets are killed, but only a small portion of the lakes fish population is sampled during an individual survey event. The number of gill nets set during a survey is dependant on the lake acreage.”
We then cross-referenced that information with juicy tidbits we pulled out of various forums online. Scientific? Umm…er, no. A good reason to explore another lake in a different part of the state? Absolutely. Without any further ado, here are the Top 5 Northern Pike Lakes in Minnesota!
#5 Birch Lake
Birch lake is a 7,073 acre lake with a max depth of only 25 ft. With plenty of ciscos and suckers for the pike to dine on, they’re able to reach trophy size in solid numbers. After three years of growth due to a slot limit, the average pike has reached 23 inches. Of the 20 fish randomly netted in 2012, 9 of them were 25+ inches. This makes Birch Lake well worth an afternoon of throwing spoons.
#4 Lake of the Woods
If you’re from Minnesota, you’ve heard of Lake of the Woods. At 950,400 acres it’s the second largest lake bordering Minnesota (it’s not really in Minnesota). That’s a LOT of ground to cover in search of big pike, but they’re in there. 34 of the 94 northerns sampled in 2012 were over 25 inches. We like those odds, and you should too.
#3 Big Stone Lake
Big Stone Lake is an interesting lake. It’s 26 miles long, 1 mile wide and only 16 feet deep. It’s also the source of the Minnesota River, which feeds the Mississippi. You don’t hear much about northern pike on Big Stone Lake because it’s one of the best walleye lakes in the state (top 5 walleye lakes is next), but they’re in there! Every other year they dump 7 million walleyes into Big Stone, so there are plenty of fish for big, beastly pike to eat. Bust out the big bucktails and have at it!
#2 Rainy Lake
On Rainy Lake in northern Minnesota you have an excellent chance of landing a huge pike and a small chance of catching a live wolf. We don’t recommend wolf fishing for the faint of heart (or anyone, really) so head down that crazy road on your own. Pike, on the other hand, are abundant in Rainy Lake. It’s the third largest lake connected to Minnesota and is a delight to explore. With 2,500+ islands and 1,500+ miles of lakeshore you’ll be pulling monster pike out of the craziest places you’d never imagine. Local tip – there is a goldmine you can walk about 100 feet into (no, it’s not part of tourist goldmine the park built). The water is knee deep and ice cold but there is a small dirt bank at the end where you can rest before you come back. We could go on and on about Rainy Lake because it’s just amazing. Sorry we got carried away while trying to tell you that there are monster pike lurking there.
#1 Lake Pepin
Sure, Lake Pepin is amazing because a huge scary monster named Pepie lives in it’s depths. But if you could see the number of scary pike down there you’d really have something to worry about when your toes are dangling from your inner tube. The average sized pike netted by the DNR in 2012 was 5 lbs, which is the highest among the 50 largest lakes in Minnesota. This suggests that there are a lot bigger fellas cruising around waiting to snap your line.