Tips for Catching Northern Pikeminnow

Pikeminnow is an invasive species that spread really quickly. Their voracious appetite is a threat to native fish and other aquatic animals. The adults even eat the small pikeminnows and consume tons of salmon every year. In many places, the fishery owners pay the anglers to catch them to save the salmon and steelhead population.

A few sports programs also declare special rewards for hunting pikeminnows down. However, catching them is not so easy. These fish are pretty fast swimmers and escape before the fisherman even realizes. Plus, they are experts in camouflaging. Being aware of the following information will help you in the fishing trips.

Fish description

Pikeminnows have a narrow body that can be as long as 25 inches. They are usually silver in color along with a silver-bronze, round belly. Their backs look gold-green or dark-green, or navy blue. Forked tails, long heads (above 20% of the whole body), small eyes, long snouts, toothless mouths, and dark barbels are some of their distinct features.

There is only one clear dorsal fin. Besides, golden lower fins are visible in male fish’s bodies when they prepare for spawning. The average weight varies between two to five lbs. but can cross 20 lbs. as well.


They inhabit freshwater lakes, rivers, open water, ponds, dams, and falls. The monster fish generally prefer interior lakes where the small ones live in small to medium streams. They are mainly available in British Columbian river systems and beach drainages of Washington. Since a water source contains various fish, you should understand where to look for particular ones. Eddies, sand bars, overhanging trees, rocks, underwater covers, drop-offs are top spots to find pikeminnows. As they eat plants, try to check all regions with sufficient aquatic vegetation. Another ideal location can be spring holes.

pikeminnow fishing
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Don’t miss the downstream of small islands, outcroppings, and entrances of the rivers or lakes. Also, the hotspots will be different according to the water bodies. For example, areas around the ferry docks are the perfect locations of the Dalles Dam. If you are next to the Bonneville Dam, target the drop-off, creek mouths, and under the dam. Fraser estuary’s pikeminnows don’t like the fast-flowing section of the main channel. So, the anglers should prioritize shallow areas having structures like submerged trees, eelgrass, etc.

Northern Pikeminnow Fishing techniques

Here are five primary methods of pikeminnow fishing:

  1. Plunking: It is one of the most popular ways to get northern pikeminnows. You have to make a simple rig using a three-way clip swivel, leaders, bumper beads, weights, etc. The weights should be heavy enough to go to 15 to 25 feet depth of water. Add baits such as worms, salmon eggs, small fish, chicken liver, or shrimps. You can also use homemade or commercial dough balls. Find a suitable spot with maximum bite possibilities. Cast your bait into the river. The weights will sink the lure and keep it floating on the migration paths of pikeminnows, especially the lower sections. You can chill for a while. As soon as the fish encounter the spinning lures, they will definitely bite.
  2. Drift fishing: Drift fishing is similar to the first method except that the bait does not stay in the same place. Basically, the anglers set traps from a moving boat. They use weights to lead the baits close to the bottom. Natural baits seem more effective compared to commercial varieties. We have already mentioned some in the previous segment. Apart from those, nightcrawlers, corns, grasshoppers, squid pieces, and red wigglers perform well. Bobbers and floats are used to change the water distance. The boat moves very slowly across numerous pikeminnow habitats and drags the baits as well. Many use nets instead of traditional rods and reels. They hang the net vertically at the desired level. There is no need to use any lures. As the boat goes ahead, it starts collecting different types of fish. If you mainly target the pikeminnow zones, you can catch multiple fish without much effort. No matter which one you like the most, make sure to drift at a decent speed. Do not move too slow or too fast.
  3. Fly-fishing: It is conventional rod-reel fishing with artificial flies. Therefore, you have to buy flies, which act like the terrestrial or aquatic flies pikeminnows eat. Stone Nymphs, woolly buggers, Chip’s Northern Magic, Barry’s bait fish 2.0, pike bunny, and banger flies have a great success rate. They typically consist of hair, thread, feathers, and a couple of synthetic materials. They mimic the movements of real flies after being released into the water, which tricks the pikeminnow. Use a lightweight 10 to 14 lbs. fly rod, compatible fly reels, and sink tip or full sink fly line for big catches.
  4. Spinning: It is the most common sport fishing technique for pikeminnows. If you are a beginner, it will be beneficial for you. Spinning lures is its key requirement. These metallic blade-shaped inline spinners generate vibration in the water, copying the behaviors of pikeminnow’s prey. They are easy to cast and highly efficient because pikes can hardly resist their temptation. Pick orange, red, and darker ones while hunting pikes on a cloudy day. Bright spinners are awesome for sunny environments. Silver and other bright spinning lures catch the fish’s eyes quickly in the clean water. Be sure to match the dimension of these lure to the fish you want to capture. You have to bring heavy spin rods, a closed-face spinning reel, and monofilament or braided lines too.
  5. Still fishing: It is the simplest one by far. As the name implies, anglers have to throw the lures either from a deck or a stationary boat or bank. You can go for pikeminnows from shallow water, mid-water or bottom. Light tackles are best, according to anglers. A six to seven feet long rod will work amazingly. Pair it with small spinning reels, lower than six-pound test line, and a fine drag. You can add sinkers for deep water fishing. Using bobbers is optional. The main difference between regular still fishing and plunking is that the former is much simpler.

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