By: Kyle Quine
I have spent many long days out in the ice in search of trophy pike. Since they’re a cold water species, Winter is a popular time to target them and with the season fast approaching, it is time to prepare. Preparation leads me to the hard work of trial and error, which eventually lead me to finding success. In this article I am going to go over some very important pieces of information as well as some tips and secrets. I have discovered and used this valuable intel to achieve great results while tracking down these toothy fish.
Out of all the time that I have put in fishing for pike through the ice, first light has been the most productive for me. It may be difficult to wake up early for work but it proves to be quite easy when it is time to fish. I like to get out while it is still dark and drill my main holes before the sun is up to minimize that kind of noise during prime feeding hours. Getting in on that early morning bite when the sun is rising is important. It seems that as light penetrates the holes, fish begin to wake up and it is breakfast time. When targeting northern pike through the ice there are standards that most everyone goes by. With bait, anglers lean towards large presentations such as shiners or suckers set below a tip up. When we think artificials, it is mostly spoons and good sized lipless cranks being aggressively ripped up and down.
Eurotackle may be known for Micro Finesse, but they’ve also developed some baits that are great for targeting giant pike. As discussed, baits that make a lot of flash and/or vibration are ideal for jigging for pike. Eurotackle’s 3/8 ounce and brand new 5/8 ounce Z-Vibers are a perfect choice for targeting large pike. The internal tungsten rattles and wide range of color schemes are sure to call fish in from a distance. The 3/8 & 5/8 Z-Vibers are offered in 8 colors and 6 colors, respectively.
In addition to lures that create vibration, flashy baits are very effective for large pike. The all new 5/8 T-Flasher fits the bill. The tungsten body is sure to sink quick and get down to the fish quickly. The unique paint jobs, including glow and UV, provide a lot of attraction. The T-Flashers are also finished off with a feathered treble hook which aids in attracting fish.
Don’t be alarmed if you find big pike when fishing with smaller baits as well. You’d be surprised how many large pike are put on the ice with small jigs and rattle baits, like the 1/8 Z-Viber.
As the season starts off fish will be more active than anything so finding them and hooking up may not be terribly difficult. However, as the season progresses and we enter the dreaded Winter doldrums, fish will slow down and this is when you must implement different tools and tactics to stimulate all of their senses. One thing that i feel is overlooked by many anglers is the use of sound. Sound and vibration can lure pike from quite a ways in search of a meal. Fish have lateral lines down their side that they use to detect movement and sound in the water. They utilize this system to sense fleeing and/or injured prey. So when the bite is slow, don’t be afraid to make a little noise.
When you are setting up you will want to find the most favorable areas for pike. Backwater coves and the edge of weed lines in the coves or even out on the main lake are good places to be. Having still green vegetation is good because the water around it will be the most oxygen rich. I like to find where a weed line meets some flats with some varying depths. Being in a place where two different areas meet gives you options and variance. To cover such an area I like to set a spread of tip ups. Depending on where you live, a set number of lines are allowed for fishing through the ice. I typically will run one jigging rod with something aggressive, and tip ups for the remaining number of lines. In CT six lines are allowed in total, while most Midwestern states allow between two and four lines total.
Tip ups will be spread out in a baseball diamond pattern. It is easy to watch and I am able to cover a wide area across flats and weed lines to find where the fish are. I never fish alone for safety concerns and it works out well for other reasons. More people means more tip ups to cover an even larger area. When the action slows in mid Winter it is important to cover a lot of water. This is because fish are a bit lethargic and it may be difficult (but not impossible) to get them to move far from their holding places.
While I have my tip ups busy, I will have pre-drilled holes on the outside edge where I can jig. A lot of times it is just for the noise to draw fish in. Pike can be enticed to travel quite a ways over flats to check out what the commotion is all about. I may pick up a fish here and there but the main objective is to get them into this field of both live and dead baits. Once they roam into that buffet they usually can’t help themselves and take one of the offerings. So jigging something loud and flashy is often just a tool that I use to get fish on the field to play ball as I hope to not strike out. Another good thing to note is that later in the season pike will start to transition to shallow water. Pre-spawn for pike starts in March usually. So looking to even shallower water near marshy areas or ones that are fed by rivers is key. The action will pick up then too as we enter that late ice period and the fish’s metabolism and appetite speed up once again. Sound and vibration should always be taken into consideration in order to get more bites. This time of year is when the jigging stick is hot and flags are flying, though. Something else to keep in mind is that when you do get a flag, you should always walk and not run to it. Aside from safety reasons, it is important because the sound of you running across the ice may spook the fish and it can result in a bait being dropped. Sound is an important factor for many reasons. It can help to attract and catch more fish, but make too much noise on top of the ice and it can greatly hurt your chances of catching fish or even just setting the hook.
Kyle Quine Quine's Fins 1-(203)-788-2109