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Josh Hagemeister

Sartell, Minn.

Shallow water northern pike still active

Its plain nd simple. Its fun to catch perhaps the most under-rated fish in Minnesota.  Years ago, the feisty northern pike inherited a bad wrap.  I still meet people that refuse to touch them, catch them, clean them, or will even cut the line and not allow them in the fish house (or boat).  I dont see the problem.  They are agressive, fight well, and taste great.  I actually prefer the texture over a walleye fillet.  And I have yet to meet a client while eating a walleye shore lunch (with a pike in the mix) identify the taste difference between fresh caught walleye ans a freshly caught northern pike.

With the lack of  snow cover throughtout many portions of the state, many of the under water weed beds remained green and full of life throughout the winter--thus keeping pike around.  While some of the biggest pike in the system are chasing suspended forage, there is still an easy to find popoulation of active pike in water depths between 6-12 ft deep.  I like to find weed beds using electronics, an under water camera, or actualy looking down the hole.  Large shoreline flats that extend about 1/4-1/2 mile from shore into the main lake diced with weeds with a steep drop off nearby that leads to deep water (25 ft plus) will hold fish-especially if there are panfish around for them to eat.  Fun to catch pike love small bluegills, crappies, and perch as a food source.  So if you have a few spots that you have caught small panfish --start there. 

Whatever the depth of the weeds are,  place the bait about 18"-2ft. off of the bottom next to the weed beds.  If  the weeds are expansive, just make sure the minnow is above the tops of the weeds-otherwise the minnow will hide in the weed beds.    Rig up a number 2 chartreuse hook with a lake shiner or a golden shiner hook lightly infront of the dorsal fine.  Believe it or not, shiners will work much better than sucker minnows.  A 3-4 inch long minnow is perfect and will up you hooking percentage.  If your hawg hunting with deoy sized minnows, I recommend a quick strike rig with red hooks. 

Load the tip-up spool with  tip-up line (much like fly line) and attach a 4ft 20lb monofiliment leader.  The hook is attached to the leader --not the tip-up line.  I use Berkely Trilene XT which is very difficult for the teeth to bite through.  I like the flexibility of the monofiliment verses a steel leader which extends the minnows swimming ability.  Place a large split shot about 7" above the hook to help anchor he minnow a little.  Find the weed edge and place the tip -ups about 10-15 yds apart in a line to cover water.  Pre-drill additional holes around the set lines so if there are a couple "hot lines"  then other tip -ups can be moved quietly closer to the "hot lines".  And dont forget--lets the kids catch the fish!  Have fun and good luck, Capt Josh Hagemeister,  Minnesota Fishing Guide Service, www.minnesotaguideservice.com 320-291-0708

Mid Winter Shallow Water Crappies

Mid-day shallows for Crappies and Perch Like most species of fish, the biggest crappies and perch are found in shallow water (10 ft. deep or less) all year-- even under the ice. It’s not uncommon for me to find schools of big crappies and perch in 7 ft. of water (or less) throughout most of the winter. Especially after a warm late fall, insect activity remains strong on shallow weed flats well into winter. Drill a hole and look down the hole for weed cover. No weeds—no fish. Then, match the hatch. Water insects are tiny, so use small neutral colored horizontal jigs tipped with a spike or waxie half way down to the bottom and you’re in the fish. Captain Josh Hagemeister, Minnesota Fishing Guide Service 320-291-0708, 218-732-9919, www.minnesotaguideservice.com www.minnesotaicefishhouserental.com