Northern pike have been swimming in Lake McConaughy since biologists stocked them around the time the reservoir on the North Platte River began filling in 1941. But judging by fish sampling data, angler reports and the 10 pike that topped 36 inches in length or 10 pounds to qualify for Master Angler there in 2013, the current population may be the best since.
That doesn’t mean there are a lot of the toothy critters in the lake. “[The pike population] is low compared to walleye and other game fish species, but there are still enough that people who want to target them can, at certain times of the year, find them and have success,” said Darrol Eichner, fisheries biologist for the Game and Parks Commission.
The rise, Eichner said, can be attributed to years of declining water levels that led to a new record low lake level in 2004 and thousands of acres of trees, brush, cockleburs and smartweed growing on the exposed lakebed. When the lake began refilling and that structure was inundated, the handful of brood fish in the reservoir took advantage of ideal spawning conditions, especially in 2008 and 2009.
As long as the lake stays high enough to keep bays full and trees flooded, that’s where anglers should start to look for these structure-oriented fish. The best bites Eichner heard of last year were the following: in the heat of summer, when anglers were boating up to 30 pike a day trolling over the tops of submerged trees; a fall bite along the face of Kingsley Dam; and a year-long bite in Otter Creek Bay.