Christmas Pike Fest

By John Andrew - December 1, 2012
This time of year is always fun for the family to get out on the ice and do a little fishing," be careful to check ice depth" before taking mom and the kids out. In this article we will discuss 3 locations and 3 techniques for catching Northern Pike thru the ice although there are several others. Pike are great eating, from the frying pan to pickling them but they are under rated due to the "Y" bones and the outside skin is a little slimy when cleaning the fish, although the meat is very tasty.

Most of us know that Pike relate to the weeds most of the year, suspend over deeper water and will sit on the bottom away from the weed's, all these locations have specific techniques for catching them. Yes, we all can simply put a golden shiner down to the area we think there are pike and probably catch a couple, these 3 locations and 3 techniques will help you catch a lot more. We are only using Tip Ups for the fishing described in this article, yes, you can use rod and reel but we are not.

Location # 1
In this area we are fishing very shallow, from 3 feet to 5 feet deep to the bottom and we are in an area that has very thick and dense weed growth 2 feet off the bottom. We rarely ever see pike swimming above the weed growth (with the underwater camera) in this location instead we see pike swimming right thru the dense weeds, yes, right thru the weeds.

We are fishing close by to a swampy area or an area with cattails along the shore line. This puts out slightly warmer water than the rest of the lake. This area may be slushy on top of the ice when the rest of the lake is not slushy, the young of the year pan fish are relating to this area and are inside the shallow weeds. These are not tall weeds, in some lakes this weed growth looks like and 2 foot thick carpet growing along the bottom of the lake.

Technique # 1
Here we want our Golden Shiner directly above the weeds, not 1 or 2 feet above the weeds, we need the fish to come out of the weeds to our bait. Most bait fish will go motionless when a game fish appears from cover, including your Shiner, so too far above the weeds in this location is bad. A very thin 7 strand wire leader that is tied straight to the hook is very important for maximum results. When this leader material becomes bent or curly from striking or caught fish, retying back to the hook so the leader hangs straight to the hook is also a critical concept for continued success. Also a colored hook and a colored split shot absolutely make's a very big difference, remember we need to get them up and out of the dense vegetation that they are down inside of.

Location # 2
In this location we are fishing next to or slightly away from rock bars, sandy points with a drop off, long sloping shallow bays that go into deep water, extended under water shallow shelves off the shore line and out from current areas. These are Northern Pike that are suspended out in the water column. Once in a while they are suspended away from a weed bed but normally when they are near weeds they are in the weeds or very close to the weeds.

Technique # 2
When fishing suspended Pike they can be several feet off the bottom not just 1 or 2 feet off the bottom like Walleye, let's say its 30 feet deep, the pike could be 10 or 15 feet off the bottom. Now when we put our bait down to the fish we are still going to put our baits above the depth we believe they are suspended at. So, we may only have the bait 10 feet below the hole and sometimes even less. Using a larger Golden Shiner is what works for us and a colored hook along with 3 or 4 colored split shot for added attraction. This works for us in all the above described locations, remember we are using Tip Ups for all the fishing described in this article.

Location # 3
Pike that are sitting on the bottom, many, many of us have seen this in the spring time when the Pike are in the shallows on Canadian lakes, we simply toss over a jig, rubber bait, small spoon or Pike sized fly and we get the Pike to react to our bait or lure. Well we have that happen in the winter time under the ice also but they are deeper and less aggressive and more apt to hit our Golden Shiner or Sucker minnow, yes, they will take artificial baits but we are using live bait in this description. The locations we are fishing for these bottom related Pike are soft bottom areas of the lake, this could be large extensive mud flats we catch Walleye on during the summer months, in the middle of large or small bays far from any weed growth, outside a current area in the slack water, at the bottom of a deep ledge off the side of a rock bar or off a long under water point extending off of shore. These are bottom hugging fish.

Technique # 3
These Pike are usually always the biggest Pike we catch each winter. We do not get dozens of them but they are the biggest. In this application I like to use a large Sucker minnow from 4 to 6 inch's, these bait fish when hooked always are moving and never slow down. This is good for what we are doing, in this situation. Also, a good trick to use is, the fly fisher mans spike that inserts into the fly line and the leader ties to the round end of the spike. Now, we put a tiny 0 sized colored Colorado blade up the shaft of this also tiny spike (which is barbed) and poke it into the meet above the tail of the large Sucker minnow just far enough so the blade can still freely move and flash around. In conjunction with a colored hook, colored split shot and a fine 7 strand wire leader tied directly to the hook and the final and most important critical concept to our success is, only hooking the bait on one side, do not go thru the bait from one side to the other side.

Poke the hook gently thru the skin and come back out a small distance from where you started, this way the Pike can't turn the hook into the Sucker minnow when the strike happens, treble hook or straight hook this technique works. Keep your presentation about 1 ½ feet off the bottom.

Author John Andrew
John Andrew
Captain John Andrew is the owner and operator of The Angler's Choice Guide Service. John began fishing on Wisconsin's Big St. Germain Lake in 1964 at this grandfather's lakefront cabin. As John's passion for fishing grew he apprenticed under legendary Wisconsin Northwoods guide Jules Novak before he began his own guiding career. John holds two World Records in the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall Of Fame as well as two Outstanding Angling Achievement awards. Click here for more information on John Andrew and The Angler's Choice Guide Service.