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Ice Fishing for Pike

Posted by Scott Sibley on

Northern Pike Ice Fishing
Tips and Techniques

Northern Pike pulled up through ice fishing hole

The real secret to catching more fish is knowledge! The more you know, the more fish you'll catch. These Northern Pike ice fishing tips and techniques are proven winners.

Love 'em or hate 'em, if you're ice fishing, you're likely to run into some Northern Pike. Near the top of the food chain in nearly any lake they inhabit, these aggressive fish can be a ton of fun to catch! And, once you get past the slime and the Y-bone their good eating too. 

If you want to catch more Northern Pike the two most important keys are location and presentation. You could have the most appealing bait in the world but if there aren't any fish around it's going to be a looong day. And, not catching a thing while everyone else around you is catching fish can be really frustrating. What you present to the fish is just as important as finding them.

The information found here is best used along with some investigative work done by you. Finding out what the Department of Natural Resources says about a lake and talking to local anglers, especially at the bait shop, can save you a ton of time finding the fish and knowing what they're biting on.

Northern Pike have very good vision but limited night vision. Unlike most other fish species Northern Pike remain active in the winter and are primarily caught during broad daylight.

Northern Pike Ice Fishing Location

Northern Pike location is often dictated by their belly. They don't swim in schools and can usually be found relating to the same types of lake structure as their next meal.

Structure like points, breaks, rock piles and humps are classic examples of structure that will have Northerns in close proximity. 

In shallow water Northern Pike usually cruise about mid depth but as the water becomes deeper they tend to hang closer to the bottom.

During early ice Northern Pike can be found in fairly shallow water accompanied by weed edges, points and bars. Combined with inside turns or other structure is even better.

As winter progresses Northern Pike follow the food and move further out. Start by fishing outside weed edges and offshore humps and bars.

As spring nears Northern Pike begin moving shallower again into pre spawn areas. Besides shoreline points and breaks, look for them near river mouths.

Before we switch gears and talk about presentation, remember locating the fish is half the battle. Don't just drill one hole in 10 ft of water next to a point. Instead drill several holes in varying depths and find the fish.

Using modern electronics can also help you find fish faster. Depth, fish and structure can all be seen using a flasher (Vexilar or Marcum).

Northern Pike Ice Fishing Presentation

OK, you've found the Northern Pike, now let's look at some effective techniques to get them on the ice!

The most common way to ice fish for Northern Pike is by using Tip-ups. This ice fishing contraption is simple and effective.

More Northern Pike have probably been caught using a treble hook and a sucker minnow on a Tip-up then any other method.

Generally the bigger the Pike you're after the larger the minnow you'll want to use. I generally use a medium sucker minnow or smelt in the 6-8 inch range. Push the eye of the treble hook up through the belly of the smelt. 

Most ice fishermen can attest that they've caught Northern Pike while jigging for other species of fish. Even the smallest lures have been known to produce Northerns, only because they'll eat nearly anything you place in front of them.

Jigging has become a popular method for catching Northern Pike as well. Most likely this is because they're more fun to fight using normal ice fishing equipment than with a Tip-up.

Jigging for Northern is basically raising your rod tip a foot or more, then dropping it back down to its starting position.

When choosing tackle to jig for Northern Pike you'll use the same types of lures used for Walleye, only bigger in most cases.  My favorite type is the sinking lure or spoon.

Sinking lures include the Live Target Golden Shiner Rattlebait  and Dynamic Lures HD-Ice and nobody makes a better spoon than Len Thompson and their Dimpled Series spoon where added indents cause a lot more action has you move the rod tip up and down.

Live Target Golden Shiner Rattle bait Len Thompson Dimple Series Spoon Dynamic Lures HD Ice


Sinking baits and spoons are great for more aggressive Northern Pike. Usually I put a minnow head on one of the treble hook barbs and start by fishing with one of these. 

Hopefully you've found something new to try in these Northern Pike ice fishing tips and techniques that will help you ice more fish.

What most people consider luck is usually a combination of preparation and practice so get out there and enjoy the practice.

Looking to venture to a new species check out our 5 Tips for Catching Walleye through the Ice.

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