Northern Pike Ice Fishing Tips

Northern Pike Ice Fishing Tips
One of the premier game fish that ice fisherman pursue is the northern pike. The pike is a member of the same family as the smaller pickerel and is a voracious predator of smaller fish in the waters it inhabits. Catching these fish, which can grow larger than 4 feet in some regions of the country and weigh over 20 pounds, is a thrill you won't soon forget.
 

Equipment

It is possible to catch northern pike on jigging rods, but the best way is to use tip-ups. These tip-ups should be rigged for pike to avoid the fish chewing through the line with its multitude of sharp teeth. It is wise to employ 30- to 45-pound test braided Dacron ice line on the tip-ups and have as much as 75 yards spooled onto them to deal with larger pikes, which make one run after another once they are hooked. For a leader, it is a great idea to attach a high-pound (30 at minimum) test monofilament. Wire leaders are even better and will prevent pikes from breaking off a line frayed by their teeth. A large No. 2 or 4 hook with a long shank is advised, with the point having to be sharp to penetrate the fish's tough jaw. Polar thermal tip-ups are a good tip-up for pike; they are disc-shaped, can cover the hole drilled in the ice to keep out sunlight and prevent the hole from freezing over.

 
 

Bait

Pike can be of exceptional girth, so the hole should be at least 8 inches in diameter. These fish will eat anything they encounter that is small enough to ingest, but the top baits for pike include large and medium shiners, golden shiners, chubs and small suckers. Big pike are capable of swallowing large baitfish whole and being hooked with minimum skill involved, but the smaller ones will have a harder time, cruising away with the shiner but not eating it until they have chewed it up. This causes many anglers to downgrade to medium-sized baits to increase the percentage of fish they can hook. Pike will grab a dead baitfish, so even if a shiner perishes after being hooked and placed down the hole on a tip-up, it can still attract pike. Hooking bait behind the top fin will let it remain alive and swimming vigorously longer than hooking it through the nose or mouth.

Location tips

Pike frequent the shallower areas of a lake or river bay during the winter, especially late in the season when they are preparing to spawn. It is all right to set up in water that is as shallow as 3 to 5 feet. Locating weed beds will be helpful to the ice fisherman, who can then set up his tip-ups over them or along the edges. Pike will swim in and around these spots looking for fish. By setting up tip-ups as far apart as feasible, more ground can be covered, with the fisherman able to pick up ones that aren't producing results and moving them in closer proximity to those that are. Fishing with a companion will increase the number of tip-ups that can be deployed legally and allow those after pike to cover a much larger area in search of the fish. However, the angler must be careful not to have her tip-ups so far apart that it is too long a trek from the furthest ones apart, in case multiple flags go off at once.

 

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