The Best Method to Catch Northern Pike

The Best Method to Catch Northern Pike
The northern pike is a highly aggressive game fish found in the Northern hemisphere around the globe. In the United States, you will find this species of fish, which can exceed 40 inches and weigh over 20 lbs., in cold-water venues in the northern states. With a rod and reel, you have the potential to hook into this fish using assorted lures, but landing it will require great skill. The best method to catch northern pike is through the ice, using devices called tip-ups. With these tip-ups, you'll increase your chances to land a trophy pike.


Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Things You’ll Need:
  • Ice fishing equipment, including tip-ups
  • Shiners
  • Lip grip tool
Step 1
Rig your tip-ups with 40 lb. test ice fishing line. Use Number 4 hooks and attach them to a wire leader, as pike have sharp rows of teeth that can easily chew through normal line.

Set up your tip-ups in the shallows near points of land jutting into the water. Spread your tip-ups out over a large area, but not so large a space that you cannot walk to them comfortably and keep the other tip-ups in sight. Try to find weed beds beneath the ice as pike are ambush predators and prowl those weeds looking for small baitfish.
Step 2
Bait your tip-ups with large shiners with hooks behind their dorsal fins. This allows the shiners to swim actively for a long period. While pike will hit anything that moves in the water, including smaller shiners, most pike fishermen will use larger bait, including river chubs and suckers.
Step 3
Watch your tip-ups carefully for the telltale flag to go off. Once a pike hits your bait, it will swim away with it, causing the tip-up to alert you with its rising flag. Hustle to the tip-up but be cognizant of the possibility of falling on the ice. Avoid being loud around the tip-up so you don't frighten the fish.
Step 4
Look down into the hole in the ice over which the tip-up sits. A rapidly spinning reel is a good omen, as a pike typically will try to swim away quickly after grabbing the shiner, especially if the hook is in its lip. Remove the tip-up slowly and take the line in your hand. Feel for the weight of the fish on the line and determine if the pike has stopped or is still trying to swim away.
Step 5
Set the hook hard by pulling forcefully up on the line. If you hooked the fish, you will feel it struggling on the other end of the line. Pull the line in hand over hand, giving the pike no slack. The pike will likely make several strong runs; play the line out as it does. Never try to overpower the fish, as it has the size and strength to escape.
Step 6
Bring the head of the pike up through the hole in the ice when you have worn it out. The pike will still thrash about and resist this attempt. Pull the line straight up and guide the rest of the pike's body up and onto the ice after its head clears the top of the hole. Stay wary of the sharp teeth of the pike, which can do damage to your hands and fingers if you allow it to. If you have a partner, have her kneel by the hole with gloves on to grab the fish in case it gets off the hook at the last second. If you have a lip-grip tool, grasp the lower jaw of the pike when it comes through the hole with it and pull your pike onto the ice.

Tips & Warnings

In the winter, the pike prefers shallow lakes and the inlets and coves of rivers. Talk to the staff at a local bait shop about where northern pike are if you are not sure. That person should have this information and can outfit you with the proper equipment.

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