Don't forget late-ice northern pike fishing
Many anglers only consider pike during the early hard water of December. The few people who pursue them during February focus almost exclusively on the edge of weedlines. These early spawners are transitioning right now, so that’s absolutely sound logic.
However, in my experience, if we want to catch big northern pike, even late in the winter, we need to keep investigating deeper water. Structure like rocks, humps, and drop-offs out in midlake are where I’ll be searching for large northern pike. If you’re content with numbers of smaller fish, then by all means explore that shallower water, usually in weedy areas.
In my last blog, I suggested using sucker minnows for walleyes, and we all know they work for pike, too. But here’s a tip I’ve learned over the years: Pike actually prefer shiners. I work with many sizes, anywhere from 3 to 8 inches.
For aggressive fish, use shiners or suckers that are larger, say 7 to 8 inches. With neutral pike, go with smaller 4- to 5-inchers. Redtails, by the way, are especially good.
I’ve caught pike during late-winter forays with small shiners and large ones. Using mid-range live bait, I’m able to target both species – pike and walleyes!
When setting your tip-up, look at deeper water relating to structure. Look about a half foot from the bottom, then in the next hole, jig in shallower water but away from the tip-up. I’ve caught a lot of pike by using tip-ups and experimenting in the upper half of the water column with jigs. Bottom line: Active pike generally will not be bedded to the bottom.
We’re coming up on pike spawning time, when they feed a little more aggressively, even under the ice. If you catch those big females, please remember to employ catch and release.