Hunting season is over, the salmon and steelhead have run their course, football season is nearing an end, so now what is there to do? Ah, there is always ice fishing on those cold winter days, and the best part about ice fishing; the colder the better (no one wants to fish on 2-3 inches of ice). Almost anywhere the water freezes, you can be sure Northern Pike are under the ice somewhere nearby. Check out these Ice Fishing for Northern Pike tips and techniques so you’re not stuck in your warm house with hot coffee….because who wants that!
Northern Pike are at the top of the food chain in nearly any lake, pond or river that they inhabit. These fish love the cold temperatures, and are really fun to catch! Some of the largest Pike you’ll catch are in the cold, winter months! The first step is finding them. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy to pick up and move while you’re ice fishing unless you have top-notch equipment, so location is extremely important, even more than presentation.
The best way to find Northern Pike under the ice is to talk to local bait shops. No one wants you to sit on the ice all day without catching some fish, and there are all plenty of Pike to go around. Talk to your local bait stores to find some of the best fishing locations. There are also some great communities out there where you can talk to local anglers. For example, Pike Strike has a local community on Google + where anglers from all over show pictures, share stories, and give out our best fishing tips and techniques for Pike (Twitter also). The best time to catch Pike is during the day, because they have very limited night vision (as opposed to walleye, which you can fish at night, but who wants to ice fish at night).
Location – Northern Pike Ice Fishing
Northern Pike location is often similar in winter as it is in late summer to early fall times. The key to finding Pike in winter is structures, like fallen trees, boulder piles, underwater ridges and points. These locations are almost always surrounded by bait fish, and therefore Pike are usually in close proximity. Scouting in late summer and fall months with a good fish finder is a great way to finding these hot spots, but you can also order underwater maps at your local sporting good store or online.
Unlike other fish, during early winter Northern Pike can be found in fairly shallow water accompanied by weed edges and points, combined with other structures. Combined with inside turns or other structure is even better. As the ice gets thicker, Northern Pike follow the food and move further out to deeper water. If you find a quick drop off that goes from shallow to deep quickly, you’ll catch Pike!
I’m a huge fan of old school fishing, but I guess you can find electronic devices called “flashers” to help you find some of these winter structures, but I would rather fish like I hunt; the old fashion way.
As spring nears Northern Pike begin moving towards shallow waters and river mouths because that’s where they spawn. Some of my favorite locations are the mouths of rivers and canals during this time because they Pike are plentiful, aggressive, and hungry.
Presentation – Northern Pike Ice Fishing
So you found them, huh. Well how do we catch em? The most common way to ice fish for Northern Pike is by using Tip-ups. This ice fishing contraption is simple and effective.
More Northern Pike have probably been caught using a plain hook and a sucker minnow on a Tip-up then any other method.
Live bait is the only good option to be used with Tip-Ups. Generally the bigger the Pike you’re after the larger the minnow you’ll want to use. Generally a 3-6 inch minnow is used in NY, but if you’re in Canada or New England a 6-8 inch minnow is more common because the Pike are usually larger. We recommend adding two brightly colored red beads to the line and leader to make it even easier for the Pike to see.
You can catch Northern Pike while ice fishing for any fish, however, because they’re known to eat almost anything. Even small jigs with meal worms may catch a Pike or two.
Jigging – Northern Pike Ice Fishing
Jigging has become a popular method for catching Northern Pike as well. We prefer jigging because you can fight with the fish more than with a tip-up, which to me is the most important part of fishing!
If you’re unfamiliar with jig fishing, you basically either have a jig or lure that you “jig” up and down in the water. You can either use jig heads with bait, swimming lures, or spoons (which we will go into deeper detail because in our experience have been more effective).
Spoons, like the Mepp’s Syclops (we frequently talk about these spoons, but we are not sponsored by them, they really are just awesome) are perfect for Pike fishing. The smaller 1/8 or 1/4 oz are better for ice fishing, and the larger are great for spring and fall pike fishing. A wire leader is always recommended for Northern Pike fishing, especially with the addition of sharp ice.
Jigging with bait is just using any brightly colored jig with a bait attached and moving it up and down, but other than that it’s the same approach to regular ice fishing with live bait.
Vertical swimming lures are another effective way to ice fish for Northern Pike, although it’s not one our favorite methods. If you can’t use either of the two previous methods, than swimming lures will certainly catch you some fish.
Well hopefully your as excited as we are to get out on the ice. Feel free to comment or send us some pics and stories of your ice fishing experience!