The Land of Giant Pike – Cree River Lodge, Saskatchewan

Giant Great Northern Pike are the norm for Cree River Lodge anglers.

  • Pike grow to OVER 50 inches here! TRUE GIANTS.
  • Catch 100’s of Fish Each Day of your Stay
  • Lindy Hammered Spoons and Muskie-Size Spinnerbaits Work Best for Pike
  • Catch Walleye Casting from the Dock!

By Mark Nelsen

Babe Winkleman and I share in the magical moment of catching a truly large Great Northern Pike. There are much larger pike here too. Ryan Schiller photo.

I’ve led a blessed life. As the former host (now retired) of Cabela’s Ultimate Adventures Television Show, I have fished and hunted around the globe, including a great number of fantastic fishing lodges in Canada.  My most recent fishing trip to Canada for a different TV show, has been by far, the most productive in terms of quantity and quality of fish.

When my phone rang recently and Fishing Hall of Fame legend Babe Winkleman was on the line, it didn’t take long to answer – the phone or his question. Would I accompany him to Saskatchewan to fish at the acclaimed Cree River Lodge with owner Pat Babcock? Cree River Lodge is noted for being the land of giant pike. In addition to monster pike, the lakes and rivers of this fishery are teeming with walleye and you can even find trophy grayling in a few spots. But Babe’s invite was to target big pike, and I was soon headed north to extreme northern Saskatchewan.

Cree River Lodge is unique in that there is virtually zero fishing pressure on this incredible water. It’s the only fishing operation in the area and there are hundreds of miles of water at your disposal.

It’s hard to sleep at night at Cree River Lodge, even after a hard day of catching giant fish, because the nighttime sky show of the Northern Lights is so amazing. Ryan Schiller Photo.

If you like adventure travel combined with great fishing, this is a place that should be on your must-go list. Babe Winkleman has been here several times with TV cameras in tow to film his show Good Fishing, and I was honored to be his guest for a few days at Cree River Lodge.

The lodge itself is a comfortable hub, with an elevated boardwalk leading to each cabin. Cabins have electricity, running water, private baths and heaters if needed. The generous and delicious meals are served in the main lodge. Anglers can bring their own tackle or the lodge can provide everything you need. There’s even a tackle shop in the lodge with all the proven artificial baits for sale on the spot should you run out or need backup. Great boats, gear and guides round out this ideal location.

Pike fishing for giants is so much fun among good friends, from L to R: Joe Marshall, Mark Nelsen, Pat Babcock (owner of Cree River Lodge) and Babe Winkleman. Ryan Schiller Photo

Medium-light spinning outfits are the popular choice to target walleyes, while heavier baitcasting outfits are the perfect option for pike. We used both braid and mono for pike and both worked equally well. Jigheads with plastics worked perfectly for catching more shore-lunch sized walleyes than you could ever eat (you can literally catch a walleye every cast and catch enough for lunch in five minutes from the lodge dock). If you want to target large walleye, a lot of anglers opt to troll for them pulling Hot’N’Tots. For pike, we stuck mostly with Lindy Hammered spoons or muskie-size spinnerbaits, which worked great, but you will pick up pike while jigging for walleye as well, so be prepared to lose some rigs when that happens. I call it getting “zing-powed.” It happens.

The giant pike up here are noted for their sheer vicious power and indescribably coloration. We released all the pike that we caught. Ryan Schiller Photo.

The other thing that will happen to you is that a big pike will hit your hooked-up walleye as you bring them in. It occurs every day here, so be prepared when it happens boatside and you get the surprise of your life!

On our trip, I had a goal to beat my best-ever pike (which was 40”). I did that the first afternoon, shortly after arriving at the lodge. We were jigging for walleye when a 41.5” pike hammered my jig and I had an awesome 10-minute battle with that fish on my light spinning outfit. A quick measurement and we released her back to the water, as they do with all the big pike at Cree River Lodge.

Also known for Grayling fishing, this is a must-go-to destination if your ever wanted to catch giant Northern Pike. Mark Nelson Photo

I broke that new record over and over each day, finally ending with a 46.5” monster pike for my best of the week. They get bigger here – well over 50”, but neither Babe nor I never hooked up with a true giant on this trip.

I couldn’t begin to tell you the number of fish we caught, and the number of big pike we caught. As I said earlier, you can catch a walleye on every cast, even from the dock, and the pike catch rate is not far behind that. Catching hundreds of fish a day here is not an exaggeration, it’s the norm.

Cree River Lodge offers several options for length-of-trip, and owner Pat Babcock and his staff are easy to work with to customize whatever trip you have in mind.

There are a couple options to get here – you can fly commercial to Saskatoon, then continue on Transwest (a regional air carrier in Canada), to Stony Rapids. Cree River Lodge staff will meet you at Stony Rapids, transport you by van for about an hour to a river landing, then it’s a short boat ride to the lodge. Another option is a weekly charter out of Edmonton, with a floatplane connection directly to the lodge. The Saskatoon route demands an overnight each way in Saskatoon, while the Edmonton option should only require an overnight on the inbound trip.

Cree River Lodge also offers spring bear hunting for monster black bears. Check them out at: http://www.creeriverlodge.ca.

TIP-UP LOCATIONS FOR EARLY-ICE PIKE

Northern Pike Through the Ice!

By Dave Csanda, Target Walleye

The Inside Scoop, some fish-catching info for you GATOR-CHASERS:

Bill Lindner Photography
  • Large bays are good early-ice options because they tend to freeze first — well before main lake areas — and offer the safest early ice, often just a short walk from shore.
  • Avoid small weedbeds or areas of sparse cover at first ice. Prominent weedbeds at the mouths of bays, or in the deeper centers of bays, provide big pike with plenty of habitat and room to feed and roam.
  • If you’ve fished open water there…and remember which areas offered the best weed growth, make those your starting points…. If the weeds are still healthy, pike are likely still using them under the ice.
  • If you’re unfamiliar with the lake, note large underwater structures on your map offering broad areas, perhaps 6-18′, bordered by deeper water. Chances are these will have the most weed growth — typically broadleaf cabbage or coontail. More weeds typically equals more pike.
  • Focus along or slightly inside the deep edges of weedbeds, and dangle a dead sucker, cisco, goldeye or other large baitfish below a tip-up, using a wire or fluorocarbon leader rig to prevent bite-offs.
  • Some anglers question the use of dead bait for large pike, assuming that lively minnows would be better. The fact is, large pike are as much scavengers as they are predators, and regularly pick up and eat freshly-killed baitfish off the bottom.
  • 10-12″ dead sucker, cisco, alewife, shad, goldeye or other oily baitfish…you can obtain these baits in advance, keep them in your freezer, and pack up a sufficient amount for your next trip….

Dave breaks down the types of rigs he uses in the full write-up here.

Click below to sign up or Target Walleye and Target Walleye/Ice:

Fall Frenzy – Northern Pike

  • Catch more and bigger autumn pike by following their favorite prey

By Gord Pyzer

The author with a giant northern pike caught during their fall binge feeding period. Gord Pyzer Photo

When school resumes in the fall, have you ever noticed how moms and dads

eagerly wait at street corners for their kids to get off the buses? Northern pike can also be found congregating in specific places during the fall, but they’re certainly not waiting to hug their young. No, they’re waiting to ambush and devour their prey instead, making autumn the best time of the year to find and catch scores of the big toothy critters.

Indeed, unlike pike during late winter and early spring—two other prime periods—gargantuan fall northern’s are not side-tracked by events such as the upcoming spawn. Instead, they have only one thing on their minds: quickly shoveling as much food down their throats as possible. This makes for a great scenario for anglers, especially given how easy it is to locate the bus stops where the action is unfolding.

Location

Fall is the period of consolidation, when northern pike move away from the deep weed edges and main-lake structures they’ve been frequenting all summer. It’s an interesting transition, because different groups of fish are moving to the same gathering spots from multiple directions.

My favorite way to pinpoint the terminals is by noting the location of the best late-summer spots, then identifying the nearest main-lake or large island points that break into deep water. If there’s an associated ledge or feeding flat in 10 to 20 feet of water, so much the better.

It’s worth noting, too, that the migration out of the back bays has nothing to do with withering or decaying vegetation, or a decline in oxygen levels, as so many anglers mistakenly believe. Instead, the pike are merely following prey, including yellow perch and walleye, that are transitioning to their deep-water fall, and eventually winter, locations.

Even more importantly, however, the big toothy critters are setting the stage for a feast as they intercept pelagic ciscoes and whitefish—and in some cases, lake trout—that are shifting toward shallow rocks to spawn. And once you’ve found one of these bus stops, the great thing is, it will remain productive in perpetuity, as the fish will return to it every fall.

Conditions

I should mention, too, that this pattern begins falling into place once the water temperature drops below 15°C (59F). It then peaks at 10°C (50F) and continues until 7°C (44F) or so, especially when we’re blessed with unseasonably warm weather. By late fall, however, the fish will have finally moved to their winter locations.

Meanwhile, a good bus stop becomes a great bus stop when it’s exposed to wind and waves. And by parking your boat over deep water, casting up shallow and retrieving your lure out over the break, you’ll always get better results than you would if you stopped in the shallow water and started casting.

Gear

Few lures have accounted for more King Kong northern pike than 4½- or five-inch paddletail swimbaits sporting embedded jigheads, such as those in the LiveTarget and Storm WildEye swimbait series. Also effective are five- or six-inch Bass Magnet Shift’R Shads, XZone Swammers and …..

To continue to the end of Gord’s great pike story, please click on this link: http://www.outdoorcanada.ca/One-simple-trick-to-catch-more-and-bigger-northern-pike-this-fall.