This may no longer be a secret, but chasing pike during the last weeks of ice season, and the days just after the ice has melted off, can be the most effective time for targeting aggressive pike. During this time, pike are preparing to spawn and are feeding heavily. Here are some tips to capitalize on this peak time for pike fishing.
Cover water. Though this is very basic, it is more often said than done. During this time fish are on the move and looking for an easy meal. Moving your tip ups or dropping your trolling motor to make quick casts can be the difference between an average or a great day.
Big baits catch big fish. Yes, pike are opportunists and yes, they like an easy meal, but sometimes they want one meal and one meal only. Pike may be feeding throughout the day and eating whatever forage they can get, but when it comes to large pike this time of year big baits may be the only thing to persuade them. Don’t be discouraged from throwing large musky baits or using table fare size panfish this time of year for pike.
Change baits. This time of year the fish are aggressive, but they can be well educated from being caught during early ice fishing season. In some areas this is a more common issue than others, but having a large variety of baits to use will give you the upper hand with catching more fish. Try using a sucker or chub off the side of the boat while you are casting stickbaits. If you’re ice fishing and your live bait is not working, put a few cuts in it. The fish may be looking for something already dead.
Even in the twilight. Pike not feeding at night is a huge myth. While they may not be as active as during the day, some of the best late ice pike fishing can be done at night. Pike are also not afraid to hit glide baits and subsurface baits after dark while they prowl the shallows to map out their spawning area.
Do not be discouraged by a front. While this is not true for the whole year, late ice and early ice out are usually great fishing for pike, regardless of whether a cold front or storm comes through. Pike are in a feeding mode, and the water temperature does not typically change this for them once they know it is time to prepare to spawn.
Fish shallow weeds. Depth is one of the toughest things to pin down when targeting pike this time of year. They can be sitting in dead water staging before moving in shallow or can be found sitting in as little as two feet of water. Making sure you try different depths will help you catch more fish. The most common area to find pike this time of year is in shallow weed beds typically in five to fifteen feet of water.
Keep a fishing log. If you are serious about pike fishing or think you may continue to do it, make sure to keep track of each trip. Record anything that could have significance to why the fish were biting. Pike do not usually change their habits year to year, as they follow a strict pattern that aligns with the seasons.