The northern pike is an exciting targets for any ice fisherman. These predators can grow to be as long as 36 to 48 inches in some cases, with some state record pike weighing in as much as 45 pounds. Fish this large can give an ice angler all he can handle once they have grabbed the bait and been hooked. Locating northern pike under the ice and knowing what to do once you are in an area they frequent can increase your chances of successfully landing one.
Polar thermal tip-ups are disc shaped and cover the entire hole that has been drilled through the ice, allowing the fish to feel more comfortable as it attacks the bait. Polar thermal tip-ups will keep the hole from freezing as well. They are designed with long telescoping flag arms that can be set into the wind in a special notch so the breeze will not cause the arm to go up, signaling a false alarm. Use 25 to 40 pound test braided Dacron ice fishing line on your tip-ups with a steel leader attached to a barrel swivel. Treble hooks will ensure fewer misses but a No. 4 hook also will suffice. Large shiners make the best bait for northerns; they should be hooked right behind the dorsal, or back fin, and kept down with a split shot a few inches up the line from it.
Many northern states have been able to replenish dwindling northern pike programs with aggressive stocking programs in selected lakes. Connecticut and New Jersey are two states that have stocked pike successfully. In 2009, Connecticut boasted five different lakes with thriving pike populations and New Jersey's stocking program has enabled the state's fishermen to take advantage of pike in the winter. Prospective pike fishermen need to utilize the free fishing regulation handbooks given out in every state to learn where pike exist. Talking to the owners of local tackle shops to find out where in these lakes pike frequent will be helpful.
Pike have a habit of hanging around where the land juts out into a lake. Drill a hole about 15 to 20 feet from shore and check the water's depth with a sinker tied to a line. Pike have no qualms about cruising around in shallow water looking for small baitfish, so setting up in as little as 3 to 4 feet of water is fine. Once a tip-up has been set up drill another hole out from shore and in line with the first one. Having a line of tip-ups about 30 to 40 feet apart will raise the odds of intercepting a pike as it swims through an area in search of food. Another good place to set tip-ups is over weed beds. Scout lakes in the late summer and early fall to get an idea where the weed beds are. Set tip-ups a foot or two under the ice over these weeds to avoid the bait being obscured by the vegetation.
Once a flag on a tip-up goes off, walk calmly to the hole. This will give the pike a chance to eat the shiner. Pike will take a shiner a distance before turning it and swallowing it--always gulping it down headfirst. Once at the hole, the fisher should remove the tip-up and place it away from the hole. Feel the line for tension, and give it a hard pull to set the hook. Lay out your line carefully so if the fish makes a run the line won't be tangled up. Pike will fight hard as they near the hole. Once the fish tires, guide it head first through the hole.You should use a special gripping tool to grab the fish by the lip, thus avoiding the pike's sharp teeth.
John Lindell has written articles for "The Greyhound Review" and various other online publications. A Connecticut native, his work specializes in sports, fishing and nature. Lindell worked in greyhound racing for 25 years.