Through the many years of pursuing northern pike through the ice, one aspect that stands out from the rest about their ice-time habits – and one that most folks overlook – is that these toothy critters almost always can be found using the entire water column. And this is not just a seasonal approach, either; this pattern had held true from the very first days I can creep out onto the ice to the latest-of-late ice.
Of course, like any technique we talk about, there are different ingredients to achieving the goal of putting fish on top of the ice. We must look at location for being the most key ingredient for getting bit consistently. But once pike locations are found, this top-to-the-bottom phenomenon is one we take into consideration when looking for that next bite. For locations: Early ice could find us nestled against a lush weed edge, mid-winter we could be looking for suspended pike on offshore reefs, and late ice, we are combing shallow flats in spawning bays.
But any of these spots, I want you to remember northern pike, due both to their predatory and scavenger ways, can and will be active right smack dab on the bottom, right underneath the ice and everywhere in between. To capitalize on finding the sweet feeding spot in the water column, we have to maximize our efforts by using as many lines as the law permits (or how many friends you can drag with you for extra lines). And, with having the benefit of extra lines, we must maximize their efforts as well, putting both your tip-ups and jig sticks to work.
For tip-ups, we use everything from big sucker minnows to dead bait that are placed up and down the water column on 30-pound Berkley Ice Tip-Up Line that is terminated to an adjustable quick-strike rig that can be easily made by using 40-pound Berkley Sevalon 7-Strand Coated Wire, teamed with size-6 treble hooks. To make all your crimp connections for quick strikes, check out the pre-packaged Berkley Leader Making Kit for these essentials.
On the jigging side of things, we are always employing a variety of techniques, from spoons to vertical hard swim-baits to soft baits. And with the introduction of the wide variety of shapes and sizes to the Berkley Gulp! Line of baits, we have endless amounts of profiles to show our pike friends. My favorite here would have to be the Berkley Gulp! Crazy Legs Jerk Shad for the great action that the legs give you on a vertical presentation. Line is also a big deal here, as well, with a quality braid like 20-pound Spiderwire Ultracast Invisi-Braid being the ideal choice.
Note: If you have questions or comments on this or other articles of mine you may have read, contact me through the website www.thenextbite.com.
by Pete Maina