There’s one thing particular about ice fishing for large pike—recognizing a tip-up flag because it springs from the discharge, seeing the spool spinning wildly. You snub the road, really feel the fish, and set the hook. Then there’s the second whenever you see the fish’s nice inexperienced snout because it’s pulled up by way of the opening after which its tooth-filled head the scale of a crocodile comes into sight. You slip your hand behind its gill plate, slide the fish onto the ice, and time stands nonetheless.

An important consideration for catching large winter pike is fishing at the most effective areas. The best spots change relying on the kind of lake and when in the course of the Coldwater Interval that you just’re fishing. What doesn’t change, nevertheless, are the most effective methods to seek out them, which regularly begins earlier than you place the boat to mattress within the fall.

Bus Stops

Autumn will not be solely a fabulous time to focus on trophy pike, it’s the proper event to pinpoint prime winter areas, particularly on Protect-type waters at first ice. Within the fall, pike feed closely to achieve nourishment to assist within the egg maturation course of (bear in mind pike spawn so early within the spring that ice usually nonetheless covers the lake) and carry them by way of the upcoming frozen-water interval.

Fall can be a interval of consolidation, when huge pike transfer away from deep weededges the place they spent the summer time and collect round what I name bus stops. I discover these stops by noting the situation of the most effective summer time weedlines after which the closest major main-lake factors that break into deep water. Even higher if there’s a big ledge or feeding flat within the 10- to 20-foot depth vary related to the purpose.

You discover these bus stops swarming with pike which are following yellow perch, white suckers, and walleyes which are transitioning to their deep-water fall and winter areas. Even higher nonetheless, huge pike are mendacity in wait to intercept the hordes of ciscoes, whitefish, and lake trout which are transferring shallow to spawn.

Mark bus stops fastidiously in your GPS chartplotter that you just use in winter. I preserve a hand-held unit within the boat for this goal, utilizing it to revisit marked spots when ice arrives.

Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese

“Pike win the calorie lotto and thrive,” says biologist and Fort Qu’Appelle Saskatchewan Fish Hatchery Supervisor Jeff Matity. “At first ice, the most important pike are feeding on ciscoes and whitefish which are spawning on main-lake factors. It’s the best high-protein, soft-finned fish of the 12 months to feed on. The rafts of ciscoes, from fingerling dimension to as huge as two kilos, present the caloric content material to show lean, summer time heat-stressed pike into rotund tankers. What’s particular about ciscoes is that one pound of their flesh has the identical caloric content material as a McDonald’s Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese. It’s astounding how Mom Nature super-sizes her most beneficial predators in preparation for winter.”

In line with Matity, as quickly because the pike/cisco connection is over, pike do one in every of two issues at first ice: both comply with their prey out into open water and hunt for them in a suspended setting, or return to prime constructions and canopy the place they will use weedlines and breaklines.

“That is the place I goal pike after ciscoes spawn,” he says. “A weedline is a high-percentage space to set tip-ups. My greatest spot is a slender weedbed that stops at 8 toes earlier than breaking sharply into 20 toes. The quick break and adjoining clear backside permit pike to patrol the sting, so irrespective of the place you arrange alongside the one-mile stretch, huge fish finally come calling.”

Bait Up or Bait Down


Jeff Matity has some recommendation on whether or not it is best to dangle deadbaits horizontally or vertically. Each strategies could be productive, however he says you have to think about the situation and winter sub-season. At first ice, when ciscoes are spawning and once more in midwinter after they’re stealing burbot eggs, pike are used to looking and seeing their prey in a horizontal swimming-like place, he says. Finally ice, however, a nose-down perspective resembles a winterkilled fish and thus, a deadbait offered vertically outfishes one offered horizontally on most days. The place you possibly can fish a number of holes, it pays to experiment.

Run-And-Gun Candy Spots

Few anglers get to spend as a lot time in pike paradise as Bryan Bogdan, proprietor of Wekusko Falls Lodge in northern Manitoba, one of many few resorts that is still open within the winter catering to ice anglers.

“Early ice pike on Protect-type lakes could be tough for anglers to find persistently,” Bogdan says, who notes that ciscoes and whitefish are dispersing again out into the main-lake basin after spawning. “I begin wanting on the first deep water adjoining to the place whitefish and ciscoes spawn, particularly inflowing and outflowing rivers. They maintain the most important concentrations of pike. I sometimes arrange in 10 toes after which, relying on the motion, transfer out to twenty toes on secondary cabinets.”

After he explores river mouths on his run-and-gun reconnaissance missions, he checks the realm fronting massive beds of deep weeds. He says some pike are all the time on a yellow perch/walleye food plan. Lastly, he terminates his search establishing on submerged rockpiles.  

“You gained’t discover many fish on sunken islands, however the ones you do are high quality fish,” he says. “These giants come up and feed on the humps as quickly as ice types.”

Be (Selectively) Quiet


Bryan Bogdan has spent extra time than most learning how huge pike lock in on a deadbait hanging down from a tip-up. And he has watched them frantically scoot away when somebody inadvertently made noise whereas strolling on the ice. He says for those who suppose an enormous pike solely remembers the final 15 seconds, rethink your technique. Figuring out this to be true, we’ve turned many a sluggish day round by driving a snowmobile or ATV by way of our setup. It will get the fish transferring after which, they usually spot the hanging deadbaits. 

Weeding Out Prodigious Pike

Within the prairie lakes that Midwest ice-fishing specialist Jason Mitchell calls house, you possibly can’t go incorrect at first ice drilling holes round inexperienced vegetation. What would possibly shock you, nevertheless, is Mitchell’s tackle brown weeds. “I usually discover pike referring to weeds which are brown and down,” he says. “Even in good situations, a lot of the weeds are yellow or brown, with just a few inexperienced clumps remaining. As long as there’s good oxygen and water circulation, we catch a whole lot of pike round useless weeds.”

Sean Landsman substantiated Mitchell’s observations in his ground-breaking Challenge Noble Beast, which tracked big muskies within the Ottawa River proper up till ice formation. Landsman found that the fish not solely remained devoted to weededges, however it didn’t matter if the vegetation was inexperienced and vibrant or brown and down. “Weeds present good ambush cowl,” Landsman says. “So long as there are preyfish utilizing the realm, you discover predators.”

Mitchell usually locates his greatest spots after detecting vegetation that’s frozen into the ice. And extra essential than its shade or vibrancy, he desires to know the way the fish are referring to it. “The essential factor about pike referring to weeds is the necessity to decide whether or not the fish are roaming by way of the realm or residing in it,” he says. “Usually they appear to run in packs and after they do, I set tip-ups like a fence, to intercept them as they transfer from spot to identify. Usually they comply with the upper clumps of vegetation or the weeds hanging down from the underside of the ice.”  

Rocky Connections

Whereas vegetation can produce constant pike motion all through winter, Mitchell and Bogdan additionally recommend staying cell, checking hard-bottom main-lake constructions like underwater factors and rockpiles, particularly in the course of the midwinter doldrums.

“Massive main-lake constructions with boulders and walleyes sometimes produce huge pike for us each winter,” Mitchell says. “I’ve caught huge fish by hanging deadbaits midway down over construction topping out in 15 to 25 toes of water. Perhaps suspended baits depart a greater scent path for pike to comply with.

Moonlight Pike 


In midwinter, no matter location, Bryan Bogdan says you’re lacking out on the most important pike within the lake for those who don’t fish at evening. The important thing mixture is a transparent night and a full moon. In line with Bogdan, it’s when the giants gorge.

“On Missouri River reservoirs like Fort Peck and Sakakawea, we sometimes discover fish on secondary factors and inside turns close to previous creek channels. Areas with sand and gravel maintain essentially the most fish and I believe it’s as a result of they’ve extra flooded terrestrial vegetation.”

Like Mitchell, Bogdan spends loads of time camped out over hard-bottomed main-lake constructions throughout midwinter, noting that major and secondary cabinets within the 12- and 20-foot vary present ideally suited feeding platforms. He zeros in on slender bays. “I like fishing mouths of shallow, finger-like bays, the place you possibly can intercept fish transferring in or out,” he says.

“Faculties of bait begin in search of oxygen-rich water on the mouth, so meals is concentrated. Pike transfer up out of the deep water and feed, usually for just a few minutes, earlier than transferring again out. It may be the most effective pike fishing of the 12 months and there’s little angling stress.”

Pike/Burbot Bonanza

In February and March, Matity units his sights on shallow, sand- and gravel bars the place burbot (a.ok.a. ling and eelpout) are spawning. “Massive pike by no means miss a meal in winter,” he says. “Mom Nature intervenes with another feeding alternative to assist pike full their egg growth and enter the spawning season in high situation. The occasion is the month-long burbot spawning season after they invade shallow main-lake shoals.

“Once you put down an underwater digital camera on one in every of these spawning shoals, it seems to be like a moonscape,” he says. “You gained’t see a single shiner, crayfish, or perch. However the burbot aren’t alone. Search for and also you see ciscoes hiding proper beneath the ice. They scoot down and steal burbot eggs at any time when one of many sentries lets his guard down.

“Pike are the one fish burbot can’t intimidate. Pike roam by way of the spawning areas a number of occasions a day and feed on the burbot, suckers, or ciscoes. That is the most effective time and placement to catch the most important pike within the system. And it occurs lengthy earlier than pike make their prespawn actions, after they’re essentially the most accessible and susceptible to anglers.”

Shallow Prespawn Prizes

“For me, it’s all in regards to the prespawn,” Bogdan says, noting that he seems to be for shallow bays with feeder creeks at the moment. “It will probably take some drilling as a result of you possibly can have a whole lot of stagnant water within the again ends, however the fish are there. I like to start out with extra tip-ups on the deeper facet, placing solely a few tip-ups shallower. If I don’t catch something, I preserve transferring the shallow tip-ups shallower till I join with fish.”


He by no means hesitates setting tip-ups proper in vegetation, spooling his reels with line stout sufficient to drag up and haul in weeds alongside along with his fish. He additionally says that pike cruising these shallow grassy flats take much less time deciding to eat your bait and strike extra forcefully.

Mitchell, however, takes the idea of transferring shallow to an excessive. “It’s wonderful how shallow pike get,” he says. “There‘s barely sufficient water for the fish to suit between the underside and the ice. The toughest half is getting your bait to hold the place it isn’t laying within the mud or hanging so excessive that it’s within the gap. This ‘crawl house’ sample will get good when the climate is heat sufficient to soften the snow and the runoff that’s getting into the lake adjustments the water shade. When the water will get darkish, be careful.”

*In-Fisherman Discipline Editor Gord Pyzer, Kenora, Ontario, has been contributing to In-Fisherman publications on ice-fishing matters for greater than 20 years.

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