I've personally had a productive season this winter and spring with the pickerel bite. They don't seem to be locked on any specific bait. From large jerk baits, swim baits, and lipless crankbaits to 3" wild eye minnows, they aren't picky pickerels. Most productive has been a realistic bait, with a steady retrieve.
The pickerel are close to the shoreline near structure. Hiding in grasses, rocky terrain, fallen trees, and branches. The pickerel I am catching live in a highly pressured area by many anglers. When targeting any area like this I strongly recommend making multiple casts in the same spots in hopes of increasing your chance for a hook up. Most times these fish do not bite the first time a bait runs past them. In the dead of winter it helps to work your bait slow, painfully slow. Working your lure across the bottom. As soon as temps start to rise, is as soon as your retrieve should start to pick up. You need to be careful and respectful when handling egg bearing females in the early spring. Also whenever handling pickerel its essential to have a pair of pliers handy as their teeth can make extracting the lure difficult.
Always keep a close eye on the water’s surface. Any disturbances can be a telltale sign of schooling shad (bait fish) being forced to the surface by ambushing predators. As was the case this past week at our local reservoir. Seeing this we immediately rigged up larger slow sinking presentations to imitate struggling gizzard shad. We managed several good hook ups casting into the commotion. Centered in the pocket of a cove, the bait fish were pinned helplessly against a steep bank wall. There's a feeling of satisfaction you experience when you are able to execute a plan properly, and catch the targeted species. Pickerel are a reliable fish that bites year round, with easy reactions/agitation strikes even when they’re not hungry. I hope this info helps you to get out there and catch some beautiful pickerel, and as always spend more time fishing!
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