General information on northern pike spearing
Many Fish and Game regulations require the participant to determine whether the target is legal before trying to harvest it. Deer hunters must be certain a deer has antlers exceeding 3 inches, if they do not have an antlerless permit. Waterfowl hunters have many species and sex specific limits and regulations requiring that species and sex be determined before pulling the trigger. Even pike spearers must be able to differentiate between legal northern pike and illegal muskellunge before throwing the spear. If you are in doubt about the size of the pike attracted to your decoy, remember you do not have to spear it. Consider taking a photograph, or recording a video of the pike coming to the decoy.
Lake of the Woods has a very high quality northern pike size structure. Spring sampling in 2005 found about 16% of the adult population exceeds 35 inches, and 4% exceeds 40 inches. Only one or two other lakes in Minnesota have similar size structures. Lake of the Woods is likely the last place in Minnesota that anglers can go and have a realistic expectation of encountering a twenty pound, or larger, northern pike. The 30-40 inch protected slot limit regulation adopted in 1996 is designed to keep the trophy northern pike in Lake of the Woods, so that our children and grandchildren will have the same opportunity to fish for these trophies that we enjoy today.
Special Regulation for taking northern pike on Lake of the Woods and Rainy River.
All northern pike from 30 inches through 40 inches in length must be released immediately. One northern pike longer than 40 inches may be possessed. Possession limit is three northern pike. The season is continuously open.
Life Under the Special Regulation
The protected slot regulation requires that you have a good idea of how long a northern pike is before you attempt to spear it. We realize that judging the length of a pike can be difficult without some type of guide. While tagging pike in the spring of 1996, personnel from the Baudette Area Fisheries Office measured head width, length from the tip of the snout to the eyes, and length from the tip of the snout to the start of the gills. We were trying to determine if any of these estimates could provide an estimate of the total length of the fish. We found that the tip of the snout to where the gill covers attach to the head provided the most useful guide. If the distance from a pike’s snout to the start of the gills is 6.2 inches, you can be about 98% sure that the northern pike is shorter than 30 inches. Of course, if this distance is less than 6.2 inches, you can be quite certain that the pike does not exceed 30 inches. If the distance from the tip of the snout to the start of the gills is 6.9 inches, you can only be 50% sure that the pike does not exceed 30 inches. To be 98% sure that the northern pike is larger than 40 inches, the estimated snout to the start of the gill openings must be at least 10.5 inches.
Measurement used to help estimate the length of a northern pike
The trick now is to have some means of estimating the length. If you choose to use the snout to gill distance, you can use a decoy, or marks on your decoy, to help you estimate the length you need.
An alternative to using the head length to estimate the pikes total length, is to use a large decoy, of known length, and base your estimate of the fish’s total length on the length of your decoy. For instance, if your decoy is 15 inches long, the pike is legal to spear if it is less than twice the length of your decoy. You can also estimate the length of a pike longer than 40 inches by using a 40-inch marker, such as a piece of PVC pipe, and compare the length of the fish to the marker. These suggestions have been prepared with the assistance of the Minnesota Darkhouse Association.
For more information Lake of the Woods or Rainy River northern pike, please contact:
Assistant Area Fisheries Supervisor
204 Main Street East
Baudette, MN 56623
email: Assistant Area Fisheries Supervisor