Brad Fenson

How to catch big hardwater pike all season long

Altered states

The secret to tracking northern pike as their habits change from January to March


Brad Fenson
Brad Fenson

This is the toughest time of year to catch any fish through the ice, let alone a trophy pike. That said, it’s still possible—you just need to find their preferred depth, highly oxygenated water and a food source. The presence of perch and ciscoes is a good indicator that the water has a high level of oxygen; in mid-winter, it’s not uncommon to find them in deepwater.

One of my favourite lakes has good concentrations of perch and some ciscoes in 20 to 30 feet of water. We normally fish for perch with a rod and reel and set out a tip-up for any big pike that are living and hunting in the area. Northerns find it hard to see in the deep, dark water under the ice, so make sure the baits are as visible as possible. Pike will lurk along the bottom, keeping an eye on a large area ahead of and above them, so set your bait at least a metre off the bottom—right in their line of sight. And by setting it off the bottom, the bait will also be easier to see against the brighter background of the surface.

Pike are sluggish at this time of year and often take bait in the afternoon or later in the day, likely because that’s when their prey is on the move and easier to find. Indeed, perch are most active when there’s more light penetrating the ice. They shut down after dark, however, making them hard for pike to find in the deep water.

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