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SPRING
Northern pike are the first game fish to spawn in the Brainerd lakes area. When most of the lakes are still covered in ice, larger female northern pike can be seen hanging around the mouths of current areas like small creeks and culverts. By ice out each year, most of these pike have long since finished spawning. Which means by Minnesota's May fishing opener, the larger females have recovered and are now ready to eat. Some of the best northern pike fishing in the Brainerd Lakes area can be found in the backwaters of the Mississippi River. Search out bays located off the main river channel. Locations with mud bottoms are usually better than ones with sand. Mud bottom areas warm quickly in the spring. Key water depths are 3 to 6 feet. One of the most effective spring techniques for taking large northern pike was taught to me by one of the older northern pike fishing guides in Brainerd, MN. He'd fish with a 6 to 8 inch sucker minnow suspended below a bobber. I modified his technique by including a quick strike rig. The use of a quick-strike rig will not only help with hooking a trophy fish, but releasing it as well. Anglers can catch good numbers of smaller 2-4 pound pike by trolling in the spring, but the larger fish just seem to prefer a dead bait over all other presentations during these cold water conditions. On lakes like Gull, Pelican, and the Whitefish chain, search out the small bays located near deep water. The cabbage weeds are a key to northern pike location on these lakes. The simple rule is; no cabbage, no pike! The same techniques that worked in the backwaters will work on these lakes as well.

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EARLY SUMMER
Cabbage weeds are an important structural element for northern fishing in the Brainerd Lakes area. If thereís a good stand of cabbage weeds present on a lake, itís a sure bet that thereís a few northern pike close by.  A cabbage weed is easily identified by its long slender stalk and broad, flat leaves. The color of healthy cabbage is vivid green. The leaves are spaced every 14 to 16 inches and attached on alternating sides of the plant's stalk. These leaves are very fragile. They tear almost like lettuce, hence the name cabbage.  But the stalk is tough. The cabbage weed can reach lengths of sixteen feet in the clean waters of the Brainerd Lakes area. † The shape and location of a lakeís cabbage beds can change yearly. Exposure to sunlight has a great deal to do with the plants location. The cabbage plant is very light sensitive. On years when the water levels are down, the extra sunlight entering the water will cause the shallow edges of the cabbage bed to burn. On years when the water levels are up, the reduced sunlight will cause the deeper edges of the cabbage bed to wither. †In some extreme cases, the entire cabbage bed may disappear on a given year. Early each summer, I try and take advantage of the first few calm days to learn the new shapes of the cabbage beds. The top of each cabbage weed contains a small seed pod. Itís slender and only 2 to 3 inches long. This is the only part of the entire cabbage plant that sticks out of the water. A good cabbage bed looks like a bunch of little pencils sticking out of the water, one every 2 to 3 feet, on a calm day.

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LATE SUMMER
Contrary to many anglersí beliefs, northern pike do not lose all their teeth during the middle of the summer. While many anglers feel the mid summer period is the poorest time to catch northern pike, itís actually my favorite. I agree most northern pike stop biting in the shallows during this time of year. But the reason is not because theyíve lost their teeth, but rather theyíve left the shallows. By mid summer, the sunís power has had a chance to warm the lakes to depths of 20 to 25 feet in Brainerd, MN. In most cases, the water temperatures are now too warm for the pike living in the shallows. The larger northern pike will drop out of the weeds this time of year and take up residence on the deep water breaks, rocks, and humps. Key locations are sharp breaks adjacent to large weed flats. While any sharp break is good, the weed flatís points are the best. The biggest pike will often be found living near the base of the break, right on the tip of the point.  Deep water trolling and jigging techniques are very effective this time of year. The is to get your bait down to where the fish are. Big northern pike are use to running down schools of deep water forage in these situations. Any large billed diving lures that reach depths of 25 to 27 feet and mimic deep water forage are excellent choices in these situations.

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FALL
Under construction- come back later!

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