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Pike Jigging Tricks

It always pays to use an invisible wire leader -- even when you’re fishing for other species.

Jennifer Pyzer fished for whitefish on Northwestern Ontario’s Lake of the Woods and hooked a huge northern pike that cut her line. • Credit: Gord Pyzer

Talk about perfect timing.

In my last blog, Jigging Up Giant Northern Ontario Pike, I promised I'd follow up with some additional tricks and tactics to help you catch pike from one end of fish-filled Northern Ontario to the other. And it seems as though the "pike gods" heard me. Since I left you last, I've been plagued by big brutes -- not that I am complaining.

Well, actually, I am protesting a little, because the giant 'gators have been showing up unpredictably when I've not necessarily been targeting them. Like the other day when I was ice fishing for whitefish on Lake of the Woods with my daughter, Jennifer and grandson, Liam. Twice, from out of nowhere, we watched huge red blips appear on our sonar screens, chase after and clobber our lures, only to lose the fish when they bit through our lines with their impressive dental work.

northern pike Jason Matity was ice fishing for "whatever would bite" when he landed this gorgeous northern pike in Northwestern Ontario’s Sunset Country. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

Indeed, I fought the biggest fish right to the hole, but it was too long and wide to squeeze through. When it hung horizontally under the ice I attempted to turn its head up the hole, but it streaked away frantically and frayed my line. Seems I should have taken my own advice.

And that is to always use a leader when you ice fish in any Northern Ontario lake that harbours pike -- even when pike are not the intended quarry and you're fishing for some other species. But, before you think I am referring to the old, thick, plastic-coated steel leaders with a snap on the end, let me explain.

If you carefully check the big box outdoor stores you'll find 30-foot spools of a special tie-able stainless steel material. The best I've found is called Surflon Supreme but I am sure there are others. You can buy it in various diameters and strengths -- right down to the ultra-slim 13-pound test. It is as thin as a spider's web, almost invisible and every bit as flexible as your main braid, fluorocarbon or monofilament line. So, it doesn't hinder your presentation when you're jigging for walleye, yellow perch, black crappies, lake trout or whitefish. Use it, and you'll not only save your lures from being bitten off but you'll land all of those happy, accidental pike.

winter ice fishing Author Gord Pyzer recommends using thin tie-able stainless steel leaders in the winter when you ice fishing in Northern Ontario so you can land all of the bonus big pike that show up. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

By the way, fluorocarbon line is another option worth considering. Having the same refractive index as water, it is almost invisible, so you can tie a 2-, 4-, even 6-pound test heavier fluorocarbon shock leader between your mainline and lure and not suffer any negative consequences.

winter ice fishing (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

Indeed, any time I am jigging for lake trout in waters where big trophy pike are a possibility, I'll fish with an 8- to 10-pound test mainline, with an 18-inch length of 12- to 15-pound test fluorocarbon as a leader.

And talking about catching big toothy critters in lake trout lakes -- like the wonderful waters around Chapleau, Cochrane and Hearst, Temagami, Espanola and Sault Ste. Marie, White River, Terrace Bay and Thunder Bay and Sioux Lookout, Dryden and Kenora -- some of the biggest pike I've caught over the years have arrived "accidentally" when I've been jigging for lake trout.

In fact, many anglers fail to realize that pike -- especially the biggest northerns, which have a much cooler thermal preference than their small and medium-sized brethren -- are cool water-loving predators that often behave like lake trout, stalking the water column in search of pelagic prey like ciscoes, smelts. . .and whitefish, as we rediscovered the other day.

winter ice fishing (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

Indeed, how crazy is this -- I've caught three trophy northern pike in the 20-pound plus range in Northwestern Ontario the past three weeks when I was fishing for some other species. And I called the shot on every one of the fish, thanks to a unique stalking pattern pike typically exhibit on your sonar screen.

Indeed, while lake trout, walleye and yellow perch will typically appear and quickly -- especially lake trout -- swim up and bang your bait, northern pike will characteristically rise up ever so painfully slowly. Much slower and much more deliberately than you'd ever imagine.

northern pike Look at the teeth inside the mouth of gorgeous northern pike Kraig Koulter caught in a small lake outside Dryden, Ontario and you’ll see why it’s important to always use a leader. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

It is almost as though -- like a lion, tiger or leopard that catches sight of its prey out in the open -- they freeze, hunker down their broad shoulders and step, cat-like until they're inches away from their prey. Then, at the very last moment, they step on the gas and pounce on your bait.

Watch for this exciting, tell-tale signal the next time you're ice fishing in Northern Ontario, and when you see it suddenly happening, yell out to your friends, "here comes a big northern".

winter ice fishing Author Gord Pyzer says he has caught plenty of “bonus” northern pike while jigging for lake trout like this huge Northern Ontario trophy. Pyzer’s advice is to always use a thin, steel wire leader. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

You'll impress the heck out of them, as they scratch their heads and wonder, how in the world you knew it was a pike before it even hit.

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