To me, when it comes to the hard water season, northern pike are my favorite target for a lot of reasons. First, they are bigger fish that have teeth. And they pull hard and move fast. And another real neat thing to me, is that they are generally pretty easy to target on waters with a decent population. Good action can usually be found, and the best part of all-for someone who’s never been too keen on rising early, is that midday hours are generally best. You normally don’t need to start early or stay late into the dark.
If you really want to be most effective in targeting pike (or realistically any species for that matter), the first move is to make some phone calls and line up friends to go along. And that’s the neat thing about ice. A boat limits those who can all go along. It’s pretty much unlimited on the ice. Round up some folks, because the more holes or sets you are allowed to use, the quicker you should be able to pattern pike.
It’s really all about numbers of folks and mobility. On a chosen body of water, break down the structural options available that you’ll want to check for pike. Where weeds are available, especially early and late ice, they are definitely a factor, while rocks, deeper bars and open water should be checked too. Break down the options and based on number of lines that are legal, dedicate a few lines to each option, always leaning heaviest toward weeds for starters.
A quality power auger is really a must for this as well, because we want LOTS of holes! I love the new Jiffy Stealth 2 horsepower with a nine-inch auger. It’s light enough to walk long distances and just keep drilling-and do it fast. In general, I’ll drill about four times the holes in a zone as I’m allowed tip-ups for. I drill shallow holes, edge holes and deeper holes. There are several reasons for this. One being that a pattern may show (i.e. fish are on the edge or in general deeper or shallower on a structure), and I want to be able to move my tip-ups to match the pattern on that structure without having to locate the auger and drill more holes. This is especially important when active fish are there on the feed.
Also, there are times when one structure-type or zone is getting the majority of the action. In that case, I’ll be moving some of my sets from other structures over to the hot zone. And again, I don’t want to be wasting time and make noise drilling more holes. Anyone who has ice fished with me knows I generally start my day by taking off with the auger and not stopping for about 45 minutes.
It’s a team effort. Other anglers should follow behind the driller and put sets out, taking care to check depths and cover different ranges, leaving extra holes in each range in each area. This way structures are most effectively covered and things are in a state of readiness when patterns show themselves.
For sets on tip-ups, I like to break it down between live and dead baits. Most folks know about live baits, but there are still many who are unaware