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Jigging Up Giant Northern Ontario Pike

No need to fish in and around weeds to be successful catching trophy northern pike, like this gorgeous fish caught in Northern Ontario. • Credit: Gord Pyzer
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Jigging Up Giant Northern Ontario Pike

Learn some new tips and tricks when ice fishing for this trophy fish

What is the best way to usher in and celebrate a New Year? If you said party streamers, champagne, funny hats and singing Auld Lang Syne, you're on a different page than I am.

This year, I welcomed the new arrival by catching an 18-pound eye-popping northern pike the very first time I dropped my lure down a hole in the ice on Lake of the Woods, on New Year's Eve afternoon.

It was breezy outside so I'd brought along my portable shelter and a heater which made for summer-like, shirt-sleeve fishing conditions inside. And believe it or not -- another case of Murphy's Law -- I spotted the pike sneaking in on the sonar screen by the corner of my eye just as I was removing my jacket with my rod lying on the ice.

otario pike
(Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

The first thing I always do when I arrive at an ice fishing spot is drill holes, set up the sonar unit and drop down my lure. Then, I make myself comfortable setting up the shelter, turning on the heat and getting things otherwise organized.

Only this time, the pike appeared so quickly that I had one arm halfway out of my coat when I spotted my rod sliding across the ice, heading toward an icy bath. I managed to grab it with my free hand just in the nick of time, before pandemonium set in when I realized I was handcuffed with my arm stuck inside my jacket sleeve, unable to reel.

To be honest, I was rolling around on the ice, inside the hut, like John Cleese in a scene out of a Monty Python movie trying to extract my arm so I could wrestle in the fish. I think at one stage I actually bit the sleeve with my teeth to help pull out my arm. I'll spare you the rest of the details.

Fortunately, the pike was well hooked and I was able to finally reel it in, admire its size and then slide it back down the hole with best wishes for health and happiness in the new year!

But, what will surprise you is that I was jigging for pike in 24 feet of water, at an island point in the middle of Lake of the Woods, with nary a weed in sight. It's a Northern Ontario pike pattern that produces no matter where you ice fish in the winter -- from the myriad pike waters in Northeastern Ontario, throughout Algoma Country and the magnificent pike-filled area North of Superior, to my home waters in Northwestern Ontario's Sunset Country.

The fact of the matter is, you do not need to be ice fishing around weeds in the winter to catch giant Northern Ontario pike. Nor, do you need bait of any sort.

In fact, the best lures are the very same jigging style baits -- albeit in slightly larger sizes -- that you use to catch winter walleye. Especially, hard-body metal lures like the Rapala Jigging Rap, Jigging Shad Rap and Snap Rap.

ice fishing northern pikeYou will increase your hooking percentage measurably when you’re ice fishing for northern pike if you remove the treble hook from your jigging lures, add an O-ring and then reassemble everything together, binding the items with shrink wrap. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

You can vertically jig these lures the way they come out of the package, but if you make a couple of adjustments, you'll increase your success rate immeasurably. Surprisingly, the first thing I always do is take a pair of pliers and twist off the lower belly treble hook. It's a trick I learned years ago from buddy and In-Fisherman Television host, Doug Stange. When you remove the bottom treble hook, the lure swims and glides effortlessly below your hole and never snags or catches your mainline when you jig it moderately aggressively.

A giant Northern Ontario pike has a mouth so big you could put your head inside it and check its teeth for cavities, so losing the tiny treble hook doesn't diminish your chances of hooking it in the least. Indeed, the reason we initially started making the adjustment was that we noticed virtually every fish we nabbed was on the uniquely curved front or back single hook.

Jeff MatityJeff Matity used a Jigging Rap, with the treble bottom treble hook removed, to land this beautiful northern pike while ice fishing on a small lake near Dryden, Ontario in Northwestern Ontario’s Sunset Country. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

If you feel uncomfortable removing the belly treble, however, a trick I learned recently from buddy JP Bushey, who catches some veritable monster pike from his home waters of Georgian Bay every year, is to first detach the belly hook, then add an O-ring to the clip and a short piece of shrink tubing before re-attaching the hook. When you have everything reassembled, heat the tubing with a hairdryer or a lighter so it shrinks and anchors the hook in a relatively tight vertical position.

Next week, I'll share a couple of other winter pike jigging tricks that will have you saying, Happy New Year in Northern Ontario all winter long.

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