Pike are tough fighters and an awful lot of fun to catch any time of the year, but they really shine as a quarry during the winter through the ice. Plentiful across the ice range, Northern Pike is targeted by anglers using all available techniques, not just because they get really big and are great table fare, but also because they are aggressive and readily caught during the ice season.
Tip-ups are the most common method out on the ice, but we’d wager there’s little much more fun than fishing them with a medium-action ice rod. A small spinning reel spooled with 10# superline will land pike up to 40 plus inches with no serious issues, and the fight can be epic.
Finding Winter Pike
Pike are apex predators and will be found in numbers where there are plenty of prey species. Early in the Winter, weedy bays are the best areas to look first, fishing pockets in the weeds. As the ice thickens, it’s common for the larger pike to move out onto the weed edges and deep breaklines. Find the panfish, and in all probability, you will find the pike. An ‘eater’ should be in the 20” to 26” range. Pike larger than that should be released to ensure a good population for Winters to come. Check online for boneless filleting methods, it’s easy to take out the Y bones pike are famous for and end up with boneless fillets.
An overlooked area that will hold the biggest pike is the basins on lakes where little perch are common out deep. Don’t be afraid to check the deep-water basins, especially on the sand flats and transition areas to mud. Move around and explore, you will know when you are in the right place as pike frequently come into a bait and check it out before hitting.
Gear For A Dead Stick
This is our favorite technique for icing pike. We use a Vexan VI-32M-S Walleye rod and a small spinning reel or Vexan 1:1 Ratio In-line Reel. Spool the reel with 10# superline and tie on a 6” to 9” 20# fluorocarbon leader and strong, small interlock snap.
We almost always have a ‘dead stick’ in one hole with a Vexan Crystal Reaper treble baited with a small to medium shiner. This draws panfish in and attracts the attention of any active pike in the area. You will catch a lot of pike on that rod! Make sure the rod is secure and the drag set light enough, so you don’t have it fly forward and down the hole when a pike slams the shiner. Don’t try to horse the pike out of the hole, let that Vexan ice rod do the work and tire the fish out a bit of havoc inside your shelter when the fish clears the hole is likely.
RIP Jigging Pike
Our favorite technique is rip-jigging with a Vexan Crystal reaper. The weight you choose is up to you, match it to the size of the pike you have in your waters. We fish the 3/16 ounce model a lot with great success. If the water is clear, use the more muted colors, if it is cloudy, go for the bright colors. You can tip the Crystal Reaper with a minnow head or small minnow, but many times that’s not necessary, pike love chasing down fast-moving prey. We like snapping the jig up about a foot or two, and as soon as it settles down, repeat four or five times, then let it rest a few seconds. Hits will come at rest or on the fall, and it’s a good idea to keep a solid grip on that Vexan ice rod, they hit HARD! Good luck on the ice this winter!
Your friends at Vexan Fishing