It’s almost ice fishing time and my favorite thing to fish thru the ice for are northern pike. Nothing like pulling a huge northern up thru the ice fishing hole and it just keeps coming. Big pike are easier to catch in the winter, at least for me. For a lot of people the question is to use live or dead bait? For 95% of my northern pike fishing in the winter I use dead bait. Large frozen smelt to be exact. Anyway read this article about baits for northern pike and then give them a try and see if they work for you when you’re out ice fishing.
Dead Bait or Live Bait? Ice Fishing for Pike
By Dave Selleck
Have you ever ice fished for pike? Whether you use dead bait, such as perch or smelt, or live bait such as large minnows, the method of fishing you choose will determine how you plan your trip. Ice fishing has grown by leaps and bounds through the last several decades due in part to the development of better clothing and shanties. I have fished blue gill, crappie, walleye, perch, and Pike through the ice. It’s a kind of fishing that doesn’t suit everyone, because you need to have correct clothing so you don’t get cold. You also have to choose a particular technique and the gear that goes with it because spearing, tip-ups or bobber fishing all require different gear.
Pike are the prize in ice fishing; it’s a great thrill to bring a huge pike through a relatively small hole in the ice. (There are great YouTube videos of ice fishing for monster Pike and Muskie that you might want to watch.)
Here are three things to think about when you’re trying to decide what kind of fishing you want to do and what gear you want, or don’t want to haul out onto the ice:
- Decoy. You can stay in a shanty, watch a decoy and spear Pike through the hole in the ice. Of course that involves getting the shanty out onto the ice… a whole different conversation! Pike are curious and territorial so watching a decoy can be exciting. I remember fishing with a decoy on a sunny day in a dark shanty. I was over about 5 feet of water over sandy bottom. The view was fantastic and I could see clearly. I turned away to pour a cup of coffee and then like a stealth missile there he was, a huge Pike examining my decoy, just sitting there. I slowly grabbed my three-tinned fork and raised it up. I jabbed the spear into the water and the fish moved in a quick dodge, making my stab a worthless stab into the sand. It was fun, even in missing him, just for the excitement and memory.
- Dead bait. Attach a dead smelt or perch to your quick-strike rig with a bobber and watch what happens.Pike scavenge for food and will take a dead fish as easily as a live one. You can add flavorings and colors to the dead bait to increase their attraction factor.
- Tip-ups: dead or alive. Tip-ups are popular in Michigan because you can set up two of them (which is the maximum number here) or set up a tip-up and fish out of a hole at the same time. No shanty is required with this method. There are a variety of tip-ups you can use: wooden, metal or plastic varieties. All of them work well. The set up uses a reel of heavy line hooked up to a dead bait set-up with a perch or smelt or a large live Pike minnow. Swedish hooks, circle hooks and some treble hooks can be used to make a deadly rig to catch and haul a Pike through the hole. There is usually a flag that is hooked onto the tip-up which is released when a Pike takes the bait. There’s no hurry when a flag goes up, but it is important to ease up to the tip-up and see if line is continuing to go out. When the line stops going out, ease the tip-up out of the hole and grab the line with your gloves on. Pull the line up slowly, hand over hand, until you feel the weight of the fish and then jerk the line to set the hook. Hang on for a fight and continue to keep the pressure on the fish until you can ease him through the hole. Marvel at the size and beauty of the fish!
Fishing in the winter is good exercise and a great way to enjoy the weather while you try to catch a lunker Pike through the ice.
Dave Selleck has been fishing for pike in the great lakes area and Canada since he was a small child. Now he wants to pass on what he’s learned to others so that they can experience the thrill of hunting and catching these monster fish.
Fishing for Pike is a great way to spend an afternoon. Find out more about what fish to use for dead bait and how to use them to catch more Pike. Learn more tips about how to catch Pike on our website
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