Northern Pike enthusiasts about winter fishing and you’re likely
to hear a lot about the strategy for catching or spearing them
during the early season. Pike devotees are always the first to
arrive on the ice when it is scarcely thick enough to support
their own weight, let alone a spear house. But they know the
secret; Pike fishing during winter is all about location and the
relationship between the Pike and their food.
In early season, larger Pike remain in the shallows as
long as the fall spawning Tulibees and Whitefish inhabit the flats
and adjacent drop-off areas. These soft body fish provide a
healthy meal for the Pike and so the big rush for savvy Pike
anglers is to get there before the food and therefore the Pike,
move out. For a lot of winter anglers the story ends here as they
move on to fish Crappies, Perch or Walleye. If that’s the way you
like it, great! But if you’re willing to make a move or two, you
can stick with these Pike as they move into mid winter territory.
Let’s stop here for a second. Before you start packing
up all of your gear and rush out the door for Lake Picklethese,
let me add that knowing whether or not your lake contains larger
Pike is your first priority. Not all lakes are equal and Pike
living in lakes with prime habitat and forage will grow larger
than their cousins in lakes that provide less ideal habitat will.
If your goal is to locate larger fish, do a little research first.
Paying close attention up front to the forage species available
and size structure of the Pike in a lake will pay off big time
when you start fishing it.
An awful lot of this information is already available by taking a
look at the “Lakefinder Section” of the DNR website. If your goal
is action, not size, you probably already know about a handful of
lakes that fit the bill. In either case you can make an educated
guess on Pike location by having a handle on the food that your
lake has available. Whether the majority of Pike in your lake feed
on Tulibees, Suckers, Crappie, Whitefish or some other game
species, knowing the habits of the forage is just as important as
learning the Pike’s feeding habits.
Many of the forage fish that fall into the preferred
food category for Pike move into deeper main lake areas in mid
winter. Soft bottom areas located in or near deep-water “holes”
tend to contain insect larvae and small minnows that attract
forage species like Tulibees (Northern Cisco), Whitefish, Suckers
and Crappies. With the proper food chain in place, you have the
makings of a good Pike fishing spot. So that’s it, there you have
it, just find the deep water and start fishing right? We’re not
quite ready to start fishing just yet. Locating the Pike’s food
source is just one of the key pieces of the puzzle. Understanding
how Pike arrange their kitchens is another important part of the
No matter where you locate them, Pike are still ambush
feeders. Even though they might not be located in what we think of
as classic ambush territory like a weed bed or sunken log, they’ll
still find some type of hideout where they’ll lay and wait for
unsuspecting prey to come close enough to strike. Structure in
open water areas could be anything from an inside corner along a
steep drop off, a rock pile or if you’re lucky, maybe even a deep
weed bed close to a deep hole. Sharp breakline (drop off) areas
are a nifty starting point because they’re easy to figure out.
Start your search by taking a look at your lake map and identify
two or three areas of the deepest water, then narrow your choices
by finding the steeper drop off areas. Once you have a couple of
good steep breaklines singled out, looks for turns (corners) or
dips that interrupt the drop off. As schools of baitfish move
along these steep breaklines, these interruptions force them to
stop. Turn or slow down and for a brief moment they’re vulnerable
to attack by the waiting predator. With a little practice, you’ll
be amazed at your ability to guess the “sweet spot”.
After I get to an area I like, the
first thing I do is drill a line of holes to "troll". Drill some
deeper, some shallower. Work your way from one to another with a
variety of baits. It's not unusual to drill a hundred holes, maybe
more so in mid winter, a good fast cutting auger like the
Strikemaster Lazer will make moving a lot more efficient.
Frabill's Lite Bite tip ups are handy.
Rig them up with ice line, egg sinker and a heavy mono leader and
you're ready to fish.
Just a few selected jigging lures for
Pike. You can easily substitute your favorite flashy spoons or
Jigs. Pike are curious, so use the jigging lures aggressively to
attract Pike into the area.