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Northern Ontario Pike Paradise

Good friends, spring time and Northern Ontario. Talk about the perfect combination to land the fish of your dreams. • Credit: Gord Pyzer

Editor's Note: Originally published in Winter 2014, this is a great article from two Ontario fishing legends: Bob Izumi and Gord Pyzer about quick-strike rigs!

Buddy Bob Izumi, the popular television host of the Real Fishing Show rolled into town the other day, so it can only mean one thing.  It is spring in Northern Ontario and Bob has returned to catch some giant knee-knocking northern pike.

It is part of an irregular ritual we've engaged in for well over 30 years now, and something I look forward to as much as the folks who dote over the miraculous return of the swallows on March 19th every spring to Mission San Capistrano.

Only Bob's a bit bigger than a bird and far more squawky. Especially when he spots a tip-up flag fly, signalling another titanic toothy critter on the end of the line. Then it is a mad dash race out onto the ice to see who can get to the hole first and claim the big fish, as this is a no-holds-barred game of "every man for himself".

Gord Pyzer gets the tip-ups ready and the quick-strike rigs set up for another fantastic, fish-filled day of springtime pike fishing in Northern Ontario. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

If you snooze you lose, so no matter what we're doing after we drill the holes and put the bait on the tip-up lines -- whether it is collecting firewood, cooking up shore lunch, nursing a hot cup of coffee or trying to one-up the other person in the joke department, we always have one, and usually both eyes glued to the field of tip-ups spread out before us.

And we get plenty of exercise too, because there is a no better time than from now until the end of the ice fishing season, still several weeks away, to target northern pike. Especially, pudgy pike longer than your leg and weighing in excess of 20, and often 30 pounds.

And it is a spring ritual you can participate in from one end of Northern Ontario to the other, with Zone 11 in Northeastern Ontario being the only exception.

A late winter / early spring pike expedition is also easy to pull off, especially if you know where to set up. And it requires a minimum of tackle and gear.

Where to Ice Fish

The best place to fish is at the mouth of a weedy bay or cove, especially if there is a creek, stream or river flowing it. The river washes in silt, sand and sediment, creating a fertile delta where lush weed growth usually abounds. The moving water also carries down floating tree branches, sticks and limbs that settle to the bottom of the bay, providing optimal habitat for the pike to spawn over the upcoming weeks.

Bob and I set up camp at the mouth of just such a bay, drilling our holes and spreading out the tip-ups so that we offered our baits to any pike cruising along the face of the weeds in a variety of depths, from as shallow as five feet to as deep as 15-feet.

From years of past experience, we baited our quick-strike rigs with large fresh dead baits -- chub mackerel and saltwater herring -- that Bob bought at the supermarket on his drive up to meet me. If you happen to have some fresh, frozen suckers or ciscoes, they'll not only work just as well. In fact, they'll often outproduce the store-bought variety.

Oh, by the way, if you've never fished with quick-strike-rigs before, they're very easy to make. Simply attach a sturdy barrel swivel to one end of an 18- to 24-inch length of leader wire, or my preference, invisible 50-pound test Maxima fluorocarbon line. To the other end of the leader, I add two #6 Gamakatsu treble hooks, tied in tandem and spaced no more than three inches apart. That is much closer than most ice anglers position their hooks, but trust me, if you attach your dead bait properly, you'll catch every pike that bites.

winter ice fishing It's all part of a long-standing springtime tradition - Gord Pyzer and Bob Izumi caught these gorgeous northern pikes on a previous snowy day fishing in Northern Ontario. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

And what is the proper way?

Slide one tine from the top treble hook through the skin along the back of the bait near the base of the tail. Now, poke a tine from the bottom hook under the skin near the dorsal fin so that when you're finished, you've embedded the two treble hooks into the back half of the bait.

The reason you want to attach the dead bait to your quick-strike rig this way is that, once you drop it down the hole and set it below your tip-up, you want it to hang vertically -- straight up and down -- in the water column. This way, when a pike grabs the head of the baitfish, which is the way it always bites it, the front half will pivot and swing headfirst into the mouth of the fish, placing the two treble hooks in the perfect position to stick in the mouth and lips.

Don’t forget about shore lunch while you’re waiting for the tip-up flags to fly -- Gord Pyzer and Bob Izumi can’t wait to dig into some crispy, deep-fried whitefish that they caught the day before. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

This way, too, there is never a danger of the pike swallowing the hooks, allowing you to safely release it -- most areas of the province have wise protective slot limits in effect -- after you've had a chance to marvel at your catch and take a couple of quick photos.

And the strategy worked to perfection yesterday, as Bob and I tagged teamed up on a mammoth pike that had us laughing and beaming with pride. The giant had an unbelievable girth of 24-inches -- that's two feet -- and weighed an incredible 31.67-pounds. Her crocodile-like head completely filled the 10-inch hole when Bob finally slid her up and onto the ice.

What more can I say: good friends, giant pike and springtime in Northern Ontario. It is an unbeatable combination for making your dreams come true.

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