Northern Pike in Ontario—The Gear You Need

Learn what tools you need to have on board to effectively catch and release Northern Pike

Fishing for large toothy critters is addictively fun, for many a dedicated passion, and can turn all-encompassing to many an angler. Well, targeting big fish of any kind bears with it a responsibility one should never take lightly. Big fish get big for a couple of reasons. They could be genetically superior, they could be long-lived, and maybe, just maybe, they might even be smart. These are all legitimate reasons to keep them in the water, allowing them to pass on their big fish traits to their future offspring. 

Ontario is well known worldwide for its fantastic big-pike fisheries! From lakes and rivers in the province’s south to the never-pressured water wolves in remote Northern Ontario, pike anglers come from far and wide to lay eyes on a giant!  If you choose to target trophy-sized northern pike in Ontario, what tools do you need to have on board to effectively be able to release them back to the depths?

Net – What’s in a Net?

Your net is the most important piece of equipment. Consider them portable aquariums. They function as a safe keeper for large fish—keeping them wet and allowing anglers to get them ready for release. Many nets also don’t remove any of the fish’s protective slime from their skin. The most important thing a net offers an angler is time. When a giant northern is resting comfortably in a big net, you don’t have to work quickly for fear of injuring the fish. You can take your time, get that camera ready, remove that hook, enjoy the experience, and not worry about having a fragile fish flopping around on the floor of the boat.

Jaw spreaders

Pike have teeth, nay razorblades in their mouths. They can injure an angler with a quick turn of their head. They are arguably the most dangerous when anglers are trying to remove the hook from their mouths. This is where jaw spreaders come in handy. They are spring-loaded and designed to keep a fish from closing its jaws around your fingers. They allow you to get your hand deep into the fish’s mouth without fear of injuring you. 


Another way to protect yourself from those gnashing pike teeth is to wear a tooth-proof glove. Gloves do exist that won’t allow pike teeth to penetrate their material, keeping your fingers safe and your blood where it belongs—inside your body. Avoid touching the fish with the glove, and restrict use to personal protection when removing hooks from their mouth.


A good set of needle-nose pliers is a great tool to keep your fingers out of the business end of big pike. With their extended shafts, they’ll keep your hands right out of harm’s way, allowing you to remove the lure from a fish’s mouth.

Bolt cutters

So what happens if you get a lure stuck way down inside a pike’s mouth, maybe even swallowed it? Cut it out! Cut the hooks as close to the point of contact and get your lure out of there! Chances are the fish will lose its new jewelry in a shorter period of time without a lure attached to it.

It goes without saying that having this equipment with you when targeting trophy Ontario northern pike is vital. It will protect you and also protect the pike, allowing that fish of a lifetime to swim away and maybe be caught again—even bigger! 

All fish pictured here were caught and released at Striker’s Point Lodge.

About Mark Melnyk

Currently, Mark is the host and producer of The New Fly Show. With a passion of fly fishing, the shows goal is to help both novice and veteran fly fishers everywhere by giving them a top-quality fly fishing series that will make them better anglers. 

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