Late Ice = Big Northern Pike

Right now — late ice — is prime time for catching trophy northern pike. Here’s how.

Late Ice = Big Northern Pike

Northern pike, especially the biggest ones, prefer cold water. This is why so few are caught during summer, even in the northern United States and Canada. Anglers have success targeting pike measuring 36 inches or more during early spring when big females move shallow to spawn, but after the waters warm these fish move deeper to find refuge in colder water. Yes, late fall is another opportunity to catch big pike as water temps drop, but by then most anglers are turning their attention to hunting.

Perhaps the best time to target big pike is during the late ice fishing season. Big female pike are preparing for the spring spawn, which is still several weeks away, and they put on the feed bag in shallow bays containing green weeds. The best bays have feeder creeks, so anglers must be careful by checking the ice. Current will quickly deteriorate ice, so be careful.

Finding cabbage and other green vegetation is key. Use a compact underwater camera such as an Aqua-Vu Micro Revolution 5.0 to quickly check dozens of holes to find the ones with the best vegetation. This cover is used by big pike to ambush baitfish.

Tip-ups work well for holding large dead baits rigged on quick-strike rigs. (Click here for tips on rigging for winter pike.) Unlike other large predators such as muskies, big pike often prefer dead bait vs. live offerings. One tip: Frozen bait floats and is a hassle for rigging on tip-ups, so plan ahead and thaw your dead bait before heading onto the ice. 

You’ll be fishing in water less than 10 feet deep. Be sure to keep your dead baits above the vegetation so cruising pike can find them easily. In water 6 feet or less, you can place dead baits just a foot or two below the ice and have good action. It’s easier for pike to find baits suspended above vegetation than those buried in it. 

The 2-minute YouTube video below highlights the fun that can be had chasing big late-ice pike. Now is prime time; don’t miss it!


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