Well, its that time of year when the lakes are frozen over and the snow machines are warmed up and ready to go. Ice fishing for pike is one of my favorite times to fish. You can hunt down some huge pike during this time of year, and the pike caught in colder waters are usually fresher and tastier than those caught during the hot summer months. Food is typically more scarce during the winter months, making starving pike and easy target. Like many other fish in winter, pike tend to slow down and their metabolisms decrease as the water temperatures drop. Don’t be fooled though, monster pike are still lurking, they are just a little more docile than usual.
Trophy northern pike tend to hide out in the deeper waters during the winter. They are less active so they need to use a more strategic approach to hunting down bait-fish. Pike will usually hide out in the deeper waters around large rock structures getting ready to ambush their prey. Use a fish finder and try to find an area with about 15-30 feet of water with larger underwater boulders and structures. Obviously it helps if you are familiar with the lake. Remember the pike are lazy this time of year so finding their nest is crucial to success since they aren’t patrolling the lake.
So now you’ve found the perfect fishing hole and are ready to set the hook into one of these beasts. In my experience dead baits are the best way to go. Dead baits smell and feel like real bait fish making them highly desirable to lazy pike. Dead baits are real bait, so if a pike hit and you don’t set the hook in time it will usually strike again. Smelts are my bait of choice. I recommend using one that is roughly 4-8 inches in length with a large hook through the skull. Your will be fishing in deeper water so sinkers or a jig should be used to help get your rig to the desired depth. You should be using a thick line, at least 20 lb test is your going after large lunkers. Catching a trophy pike is difficult and fitting it though that little ice fishing hole can be just as challenging especially if your using a flimsy line.
So the rig is all set up, now you need to perfect the technique. Well this part is actually quite simple. If you’ve found a good pike hole and have a properly set up rig catching the pike really isn’t that challenging. Simple drop your rig right to the bottom of the lake. Once you hit bottom reel up about 5-10 feet. Now you can simply wait, and slowly jig your dead bait up and down. Be patient, the pike will come.