I must say, I still think the fierce fighting Northern Pike is a greatly under-rated sport fish...and extremely tasty on the table too! Catching these brutes through the ice by using a good old fshioned tip-up rig is a sure way to get the kids (and adults) excited about ice fishing. "Its like cathing a shark through the ice" says an excited 7 year old after watching his 5 year old brother perfectly hook and land "hand over hand" style the 3 lb northern on a tip-up rig. Plus it's fun and simple..and thats the recipe for success.
Location! (always the most important factor in fishing) ..find a good shoreline weed flat (20 acres or bigger, full of cabbage/coontail weed and 5-10 ft deep), a nice medium break down to deep water (30 ft or more) , locate the main weed edge (somewhere around 12-20 ft deep) and your in business. Set the line 2-3 ft off the bottom, hook a good strong medium sized Shiner minnow IN FRONT of the dorsal fine and keep the split shot a good 12 inches from the bait. This allows the minnow to swim like crazy and attract the fish for you! Also stay away from weighted hooks--they tire the minnow quickly--ever try to swim with 10 lbs around your waist? A good hook is a number 2 size in either chartreuse or bright orange--both colors replicate perch/ bluegill patterns. Bait?--Try 2-3 dozen medium sized (easier for fish to swallow quickly) Shiners. Yes I said Shiners--they will out fish sucker minnows three to one on most days. How 'bout the tip-up?
Stick to the HT plasctic style for under $10 is a sure bet. Never did like the wood "beaver damn" style. The HT's are bullet proof and have a more sensitive flag tripping system than the older wood style. Even the attack a walleye uses when inhaling the bait can't fool these new tip-ups. Load the spool with 30-40 lb test dacron or braided line. Black line is easy to see on the ice and handles well. I personally like to use Trilene 17lb XT line for the leader (which is 3 ft long. I feel the minnow can swim much longer and more naturally than being attached to a steel leader. Yes a fish or two may bite the line off, but the number of fish caught in general will be more than using a steel leader--so it's a fair trade off. /Quick strike rigs work (that's a whole different story), but a a single hook will the job--and it's much easier to unhook the fish when you are in a hurry. Speaking off unhooking fish, a "mouth spreader" and a good "forcepts" should be in your pocket to unhook the fish, many times the hook is not within reach and the fish will bite down on your forcepts when it can.
Seeing the flag fly is part of the fun--and so is the anticipation of finding what's on the line when you arrive at the hole. Although running to the flag is tempting--I suggest walking quietly. To much noise from above can cause the fish to drop the bait. When you arrive at the hole, gently lift the tip-up and set it on the ice, grab the line and pull slowly until tension (the fish) is felt and set the hook with a good long steady pull. Hold one hand over the center of the hole and pull the line through your fingers and drop the line onto the ice as the fish nears the surface. Ease the head of the fish into the hole and grab the fish by the back of the head and squeeze a bit to calm the fish. Done, unhook and rebait and catch another.
That's all there is to it. The pike are still active this time of year and obviously the Vikings are not! So there are no excuses, get out there and catch some tip-up northern pike! Good Luck, Capt. Josh www.minnesotaguideservice.com