During early ice, weedlines are very productive. We still have
some green weeds producing oxygen, so this sets up a food web.
Green weeds are key, so generally, these fish are going to be
shallower, though this is all relative to lake construction. Here’s
how to target northern pike under such conditions.
Work one rod with a leadhead jig or vertical jigging spoon. Then
set a tip-up. With that vertical jigging spoon, work the whole
water column. So often I hear, “work it a foot off the bottom.”
What about the rest of the lake? Concentrate about 4 to 6 feet off
the bottom, and use electronics to mark these fish. Generally as
December progresses, fish about 3 feet or more off bottom in water
that’s 15 feet or more. This will hold through the mid-ice
Later, we see oxygen decline, fish can be right under the ice,
where they’ll find a little more oxygen.
On my tip-up, shiners are a natural bait selection. Too many ice
anglers use sucker minnows. They’re fine but shiners are a natural
in wintertime for catching northern pike. Use large live bait:
we’re talking 7 to 8 inches long. If dealing with neutral fish, go
smaller, say 4 to 5 inches long, and in a tough bite, stick with
small shiners, large fatheads.
Above all, if you don’t have success in a spot, move!