Targeting Top level predators
There is nothing quite as spectacular as catching a large predator from a riverine environment. There power and size intrigues and excites us. These large fish challenge our strength, stamina, and Tackle! Compared to there lake-bound friends, riverine predators tend to be sleek, trim and strong. They spend their life relating to currents and seeking the best compromise between food, current, and the few land animals big enough to threaten them. As they grow bigger they seem to lose much of there fear of predators both from the sky or the shore. They are uniquely less skiddish by tackle and approach than many other fish. This coupled with their extraordinary size creates an insatiable fascination of them from many anglers skilled enough to consistently catch them...
What is a top level predator?
To catch them first we must get an idea what we are fishing for and there general habits. while several different families fish COULD be considered a top level predator (and this might heavily depend on the individual ecology of the waterway), generally we are referring to members of the family . While only one might consider only ONE species to be the "top level predator" we see generally in the entire family a marked similarity in diet, habitat and behavior.
Fish in the genus Esox primarily feed on fish. They are quite aggressive towards other fish and occasionally canabalistic. They will gorge on baitfish that are nearly their own size. A small part of the diet consist on other animals in the riverine environment. Attacks upon animals (even Humans) have happened although this behavior is very rare.
Esox are a relatively low population component of a riverine environment. Large individuals particularly often stalk food far bigger than most fishermen use; up to 20 inches in size. This means that a great percentage of the time, esox espacially lunkers are not actively seeking prey. These resting fish seek water with low current that approaches there desired temperature. Resting Esox are difficult to catch. Actively feeding esox will commonly slow patrol an area for prey. There are not easy general rules about WHERE an essox goes because there are not general guideline where there prey will be. Keeping in mind that potential prey are often bigger than most anglers realize you might be tempted to fish a little deeper than some anglers. Often the shoreline produces plenty of minnows but lacks 12-20" gamefish, that are themselves trying to stay safe from birds and land based threats. Rather than concentrate So much about depth, an angler ought to pay very close attention, instead, on currents. Given a choice between a place with 20" gamefish in heavy current and one in slight current; it will always be a better deal to be in the slack currents. In rivers the 'slack currents' are usually connected to eddies and often at confluences and the heads of river pools.
From a fishing point of view it is important to keep in mind that Esox are often ambush predators lying in the wait for suitable prey and they quickly attacking it at impressive speeds. Like all fish eating predators; Esox like to attack fish that are weaker and easier to catch; maximizing calories for the amount of energy used to catch the prey. This means that fish generally look for the exaggerated motions of dying fish. An acoustic wobble of an erratic swimming patterns, Frequent flashing of light from a wounded fish struggling to stay upright, as well scents; like blood. These patterns interest the predators and they will position themselves to look closer at the prey.
Individual species are important at this point. Large Muskies (which are some of the biggest predators in North American waters commonly slowly approach the bait to better determine if it is worth the attack) while Northern Pike are known as one of the most willing biters in the fish world and sometimes unequivocally attack a bait or lure that simulates these patterns.
Targeting Individual species
To maximize our chance at catching a given species, it is customize our approach to the water and to the fish. While altering our approach for the river is difficult, we Can learn more about the fish and adopt approaches that have proven useful to other people. While one could break down Esox to quite a wide variety of predators. Given a practical approach in Eastern North America we see three different clear divisions;