Lurking in the depths of many rivers and lakes are these tooth laden monsters. In the US they are simply referred to as Northerns. In the UK we just call them Pike. But no matter where you are, they are quite imposing beasts.
We have been lucky enough over the last few years to have been given the opportunity to fish for these monsters through the ice of the frozen lakes of Minnesota. One afternoon my son, who was four at the time, and I were sat on the ice when he had a huge bite on the line. He started hauling in and as the fish he had caught came up through the hole, all you could see was teeth. Literally an 18inch ice hole had been replaced by a gaping mouth full of razor sharp teeth. He screamed and so did I. It was a truly terrifying sight. We dragged the Northern onto the ice – it was huge. This will be hugely frowned on in the UK, but we decided not to release him, cleaned him up, deboned him (and there was a lot of bones) and fried him in Shorelunch (an American breaded mix). Delicious – trust me.
For ice fishing the rules for fishing pike are pretty simple. When it is really cold, the pike go deep and hang around deep structures waiting just off the margins for smaller prey fish. When the water is not as cold they come closer to the margins and weeds on the hunt for fish like crappies.
There are a couple of techniques that work well for ice bound pike.
- Baited minnow in a treble hook – hook the minnow just behind the dorsal fin. Drop through the ice to a depth of about 2 feet off the top of some weeds.
- Red and white spinner. Again drop so that it sits a couple of feet off the top of some weeds or other structure and jiig up and down.
One of the best ice fishers I have seen only jigs a little way but holds the rod with the lightest of touch. Any tap – tap – tap and he sets the hook by pulling up about 10 inches.
When you have the monster out of the ice and are ready to release it back – you really need to check the weight for bragging rights. I think that monster we caught was well on the way to about 5 pounds, but I will never know. This winter we are taking one of these fishing scales with us just to make sure we can properly verify what we have caught. Oh and a camera, because as we all know the fish was always THIS BIG! (Really???)