24 Hours: Pike or Bust

June 6, 2015

24 Hours: Pike or Bust

With business picking up at the fly shop and schedules getting tight, Justin King and I decided to plan one last pike trip before we were totally swamped with work.  Our window was tight, we only had Thursday to fish and had six hours of driving each way to get there and back.  The mission: catch as many pike as we could in one day on Fort Peck Reservoir.

We packed everything the night before and left directly from work on Wednesday at 4 pm.  We picked up the boat and hit the road with one stop planned in Billings to pick up some oil for the boat.  Roads were good but plagued with deer, raccoons, and rabbits.  Seven hours and one unfortunate raccoon that ripped out our trailer lights and we were there.  We set up camp on the banks of the reservoir, had a celebratory spirit, and headed to bed with images of pike dancing through our heads. 

Thursday morning dawned with overcast skies and a manageable easterly wind.  We prepped our gear, got the boat setup and launched at 8 am on the dot.  We opted to start in the bay at the boat ramp with the idea that most people probably pass it up for one of the other hundreds of bays Fort Peck offers.  We dropped the trolling motor and began to work the shoreline looking for sunken trees and flooded willows that would hold waiting pike.  We were rewarded right off the bat, Justin stuck a small pike within his first 10 casts and we were feeling good about the day.  We continued to work the bay and Justin hooked and lost a nice bass.  Action slowed down so we pulled the trolling motor and jetted a few miles down the shore to another juicy looking bay.

We decided to focus our efforts on sunken trees instead of drop offs or willows.  Again we were rewarded quickly.  We started working the shoreline from the point into the bay casting at the sunken trees and I quickly landed two smallmouth bass!  The bass in Fort Peck are beautiful and have a different look compared to most smallmouth I’ve caught in the past.  They’re more of a golden green with fiery red eyes and they hit flies with some serious anger. 

We continued working our way down to the back of the bay where a creek ran in, Justin made a cast towards the creek mouth and suddenly his rod was bent in half with a huge catfish flying through the air!  The big ol’ cat hit his six-inch red and white pike fly and went airborne!  The fight was on and Justin had to put the wood to him in order to keep him out of the submerged trees.  After a solid battle we had him in the net with high fives and fist pumps all around.  After a couple of pictures we released him back to his watery home and took a moment to get the boat reorganized and calm ourselves down.  Out of all the fish we caught that day he gave us the best fight and earned our admiration as an extremely fun game fish!  Who doesn’t like a fish that jumps, runs, and gives you big bull dog head shakes?

Once we were back from cloud nine we traded spots and I took over fish catching responsibilities while Justin worked us through the maze of structure with the trolling motor.   A few minutes later I made a cast to a tree, gave a few strips and watched my fly disappear!  The mayhem that ensued would have been extremely comical with the pike weaving in and out of branches, Justin breaking the branches off so that I could fight him and ultimately grabbing him by the tail and breaking off a stick he wrapped himself around.  He was the biggest pike of the day and the chaos of the fight made him extra special.  Again, after a few pictures and some high fives we released the pike to grow bigger. 

After that pike we checked our maps and focused our efforts on bays with creeks dumping into them as we’d had the most action in those areas.  The action didn’t stop and Justin got a smaller pike at the next creek we came to.  That fish would be the last we caught for a while as the fish seemed to get turned off in the afternoon.  We explored more bays, ate lunch, and waited for the fishing to pick back up.  Once 5:30 pm came around we finally had a “little” action, as in a six-inch pike which took my six-inch streamer without thought to size.  These things are vicious from a young age!  After a little longer without any real action we decided to head back to the bay by the boat ramp and explore some of the places we hadn’t hit yet.

We found a stream coming into one of the bay’s fingers and Justin made a cast near the mouth, a flash of green and a pike walloped the fly but in another instance another pike came from the other side and hammered the streamer. Justin ended up landing the second pike that hit his fly and it was his best of the day.  We worked our way back to the boat ramp so that we’d have enough time to get a burger before they closed up shop at the marina and I managed to get another bass in the day’s last few minutes of light.  A great way to end an awesome day of fishing.  We didn’t land anything huge other than the big cat, but we had consistent action throughout the day.  We originally planned to drive back that night but after a full 12 hours on the water we opted to stay the night and wake up early the next day to make the drive home.

Pike fishing on Fort Peck is extremely fun, as is the opportunity to catch a number of species using the same gear.  We fished on May 14th and it seemed a bit early to really get into them with a fly rod.  The fishermen we talked to trolling deep crank baits for walleye picked up Northerns all day in the 15-20’ range.   If you were to head to Peck at this time of year I’d recommend either focusing your efforts on the bays with creeks flowing in as it will have warmer water, or busting out your heaviest sink tip and targeting them off of points in 15-20’ of water.  While talking to the locals they recommended mid-summer to target pike in the bays shallower waters.  Another trip will definitely be in the books for us this summer. 

If you have any questions about pike fishing Fort Peck or where we were fishing on the trip feel free to stop by the shop, I can’t give away some of the spots that friends told me about but I can give you some great places to fish.  Just remember, we’re much better trout fishermen than we are pike fishermen, but it sure is fun to target different species!

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