I am still flying high as a kite after Bob Izumi and I landed one of the biggest northern pike I've ever seen last week. I promise, it is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime episode of the Real Fishing Television Show when the program goes to air because the Northern Ontario behemoth was so long and so wide - it had a 2-foot girth for crying out loud -- Bob couldn't turn it to come up through the ten inch hole in the ice.
As a result, I had to whip off my gloves, slide up my sleeve and plunge my arm down into the icy water to maneuver the big toothy critter's head. You can read about it by clicking the link below but the bottom line is the mammoth fish weighed an incredible 31.67 pounds.
Catching it was so much fun!
Catching it was so much fun!
And talking about fun fishing for giant Northern Ontario pike, it never ceases to amaze me that the folks who enjoy targeting these amazing massive creatures at last ice, change their approach as soon as the open water season arrives.
Don't do it this spring.
Instead, hang onto any frozen chub mackerel, herring, ciscoes or suckers that you have left over and pull aside your quick strike rigs when you put the rest of your ice fishing gear to bed because you're going to need both items in the days ahead, for some of the fastest, most exciting pike fishing that Northern Ontario has to offer
And the strategy is so easy to employ.
As I've mentioned in the past, northern pike are the first of our Northern Ontario sport fish to spawn in the spring, beginning the process in a matter of days now, as the ice melts.
This means that as soon as you're able to launch your boat, you're going to find that the bulk of the pike population has spawned, recuperated from the ordeal and grown famished.
Indeed, you will find the big toothy critters still concentrated around the shallow, weedy spawning bays and coves where they laid their eggs. And they're drooling, waiting for all of the other spring spawning species in the lake -- including walleye, perch, bass, shiners and especially suckers -- to waltz past the buffet table.
And believe it or not, the way I like to fish for pike early in the spring, whether I am in my Kingfisher or casting from shore is with a large float, heavy enough to suspend a big dead bait fixed to my line.
By the way, I favour baitcasting equipment -- specifically, a 7-foot to 7-foot 2-inch medium heavy action rod and reel spooled with 17- to 30-pound test braided line -- but you can certainly use your spinning equipment provided it is sturdy enough to wrestle a big toothy critter. Just be sure to add a quality steel or heavy fluorocarbon leader to the end of your line before snapping on the same quick strike rig you used at last ice. Finally, attach your dead bait the same way, by inserting one tine from the first treble hook under the skin near the baitfish's tail and the second hook under the skin near the dorsal fin so that it hangs vertically straight up and down.
Now, search within the bay or cove for any weedlines or flats covered with scattered clumps of emerging green cabbage, coontail or milfoil weeds. The vegetation doesn't have to be tall or fully grown yet -- in fact, it is better if it isn't -- so long as it is green and emerging. Now, set your bobber so that it will suspend your deadbait one to two feet off the bottom.
Position your boat parallel to the weedline -- about a cast away -- and then lob your bait so that it floats along, aided by the wind and waves, in front of the wall of weeds, or over top of the emerging clumps if you're drifting over a flat.
It is no more complicated than that -- and believe it or not -- it is often twice as effective as deadbaiting with quick strike rigs under tip ups in the winter because when you're in a boat, you can drift and cover so much more water.
To keep yourself positioned properly you'll want to use your front or back electric trolling motor, or kicker outboard, and if it is particularly windy, you'll want to drag a sea anchor to slow down your drift.
Oh, yes, and if you can't find a float big enough to suspend your bait, don't fret. Simply buy a package of party balloons, blow one up a little and then knot it around your mainline. It will look crazy when a behemoth pike strikes your bobbing deadbait and you spot your balloon streaking across the surface, but crazy exciting is what's in store when you tighten up on the fish and sweep set your hooks into the trophy Northern Ontario pike of a lifetime.