Throughout the year, the main species of fish I target are usually Bass and Walleye, but lately I’ve sparked a new interest in even bigger, toothier critters, especially during the hardwater season. On our local bodies of water here in Manitoba and Northwest Ontario they are abundant and can grow to great lengths. Northern pike and lake trout, when in season, can be arguably one of the most exciting species to catch through the ice.
I really started ice fishing about eight years ago. It was my first time out since I was a child and it still feels like just yesterday. Late March, great ice conditions, and the sun was shining. It was so warm I managed one of the worst sunburns I have ever had, red cheeks and white forehead from wearing my tuque-the boys sure had a good laugh all weekend. More importantly I spent the weekend with my Dad and a great group of our close friends. It started as a fairly average day and ended with memories I will never forget. During the day I caught a lake trout that weighed in at about twenty pounds and that evening I landed the largest northern pike I have caught to-date. I don’t even know how big it was, I could barely hold it up for a picture. Since that day I have been ice fishing much more!
I landed the lake trout on my favorite lure, a big white tube. They are always my first choice in any depth and on any body of water. Make sure you have a good selection of sizes and a few different colors of assorted tubes in your tackle box. On lakes where the average size of trout is small I would use about a three-inch tube but if I know I am on a body of water with potential for a really big fish I won’t hesitate to use a five inch tube on a heavy jig. Another lure that works well is a large, soft plastic minnow; again I prefer white colors like smelt, glow, or pearl. Last but not least would be the rattling crankbait. Sometimes if the bite is slow I will switch to a vertical crank and really “rip” it to create as much vibration and noise as possible. Being a true predator, bothlake trout and Pike cannot resist it, it usually doesn’t take long for one to come and investigate all the commotion. If I notice activity on my flasher and the fish does not bite, I will reel up my crank and drop down my tube or another lure and keep changing until I find out what the fish want. My favorite color crankbaits to use are blue, silver, shad and anything with white or pearl. Remember these are only my preference, all colors work if you have confidence in them. These presentations will also work to catch northern pike. When you are on a lake that holds both species it can make for some exciting action if you can target both at the same time.
When you are working these lures, drop it right to the bottom, jig for a minute and then reel up a few feet every minute or so, constantly changing your depth. Try jigging fairly aggressive, big fish like big bait movements and it triggers them to a have a reaction bite. Predators roam in all depths usually on the deep drop ledges off of a main mid-lake structure or point. I usually stay near the middle of the water column the most, about halfway off the bottom.
Last year near the end of the ice fishing season my boyfriend Logan took me fishing and taught me how to use a tip-up and wow, it’s a pretty fun way to fish! I’m still not certain why it took me so long to learn how to use one. Within the first five minutes the flag on the tip-up I set up went flying in the air and I immediately turned into a marathon runner… I don’t think I have ever ran that fast. I ended up missing the fish on the hook-set, and I missed a few more after that as well. By the end of the day I managed to hook and bring in one nice one, it was a pretty exciting day for me. I got my workout in that day running around on the ice and I can’t wait to get back out there this year and try it again.
All of the methods mentioned above will work successfully onlake trout and northern pike, but if you are specifically trying to target Pike there are even more options. Besides tubes and crankbaits you can try fluttering spoons, rattling spoons, a jig with a salted minnow, various sizes and colors in soft plastics, and so much more. A hungry Pike will eat just about anything.
One thing is certain; if you hook one of these large predators through the ice it can be pretty EXCITING! Hope you all had a great, safe season on the ice! n