Northern pike fishing guide

In the vast and icy waters of the northern hemisphere, an apex predator lurks, commanding both fear and fascination—the Northern Pike. With its sleek, elongated body and a mouthful of razor-sharp teeth, this formidable fish embodies the essence of wilderness and mystery. Renowned for its voracious appetite and cunning hunting tactics, the Northern Pike holds a special place in the hearts of anglers and nature enthusiasts alike.Big, aggressive, and a ton of fun to catch, the Northern Pike is the apex predator for most of the frozen lakes in the U.S. and Canada.

Throughout history, the Northern Pike has been shrouded in myth and legend, revered by indigenous peoples and revered as a symbol of strength and resilience. From the icy expanses of USA to the serene lakes of Scandinavia, this elusive creature has captured the imaginations of adventurers and storytellers for centuries.


Northern Pike are formidable predators, renowned for their aggressive nature, making them one of the most sought-after freshwater game fish across North America.

The species can grow up to 65” and over 70lbs, but common catches will be between 5lbs and 10lbs.

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Let us embark on a journey to uncover the secrets of the Northern Pike, delving into its biology, habitat, and behavior. We’ll explore the thrill of pursuing this elusive predator, as well as the challenges and rewards that come with the pursuit. Whether you’re an experienced angler seeking new insights or simply curious about the wonders of the natural world, join us as we dive into the realm of the Northern Pike and unlock the mysteries that lie beneath the surface.

The target-monster northern pike

Standing on the top of a 40-inch thick ice sheet, the air hinted at the onset of spring, though the chill still lingered. It was late January, precisely we had chosen for our pilgrimage to Minnesota’s renowned Lake of the Woods—a haven teeming with colossal pike.

Within the first half hour, the telltale flag signaled our first encounter. A live sucker, suspended 6 feet off the lake’s 14-foot bottom, enticed a voracious pike. In moments, a 16-pound leviathan thrashed upon the ice, immortalized in a couple of swift photographs before its release.

Then, the cisco-baited tip-up sprang to life. With adrenaline coursing through my veins, I set the hook, feeling as though I were tethered to a speeding truck. The pike erupted into a furious sprint, momentarily testing the limits of my sturdy 50-yard main line.

In a battle of strength and will, the pike made three valiant runs before succumbing to exhaustion. With bated breath, I guided its colossal head through the narrow 10-inch ice hole. As its nose broke through the slushy surface, I reached in, grasping a gill plate, ready to lift 44 inches of pure aquatic majesty from its icy domain.

When and Where to Go Ice Fishing for monster pike

Northern Pike thrive in the cooler waters of the northern and temperate regions of the United States and Canada, favoring lakes, rivers, and streams with abundant food sources. Studies show they’re most active in waters ranging from 45 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, with temperatures above 75 causing stress and those below 45 inducing sluggishness due to decreased metabolism. Additionally, anglers often find optimal ice fishing conditions for Northern Pike during late winter and early spring when these predators are actively seeking prey in shallower waters close to spawning sites.

Northern Pike

When is the Best Time to Ice Fish for Northern Pike?

Northern Pike, the dominant predators in numerous freshwater habitats across the United States and Canada, possess remarkable instincts and camouflage, enabling them to blend seamlessly into their environment until the moment they strike unsuspecting prey. They can be caught throughout the day, with the warmest part being most favorable during ice fishing, when the pike’s prey are most active. Anglers often recommend mid-morning as the prime time for pike activity beneath the ice, typically between 10 am and 2 pm. It’s important to note that pike are large and voracious predators, making them likely to take bait when presented in their’s essential to monitor local conditions and adapt tactics accordingly, as factors such as weather patterns and water temperatures can influence the pike’s behavior and feeding habits.

States and Lakes for Northern Pike Ice Fishing

For those seeking thrilling ice fishing adventures, the temperate and northern regions of the United States and Canada offer prime locations to reel in the elusive Northern Pike, along with other prized catches like panfish and perch.

Here are some standout destinations for ice fishing Northern Pike:

Alaska: Explore the icy waters of Yukon River, Nancy Lake, and Soldotna Creek for accessible pike fishing opportunities, particularly in the South Central Alaska region. Refer to the comprehensive list of pike lakes and streams in the Northern Pike in Southcentral Alaska guide provided by the Southcentral Region Department of Fish and Game.

Idaho: Cast your line into Hayden Lake, Coeur d’Alene Chain Lakes, or Priest Lake (Cavanaugh Bay) for thrilling pike encounters amidst picturesque landscapes.

Montana: Embark on ice fishing expeditions to Church Slough, Flathead Lake, or Lake Sakakawea, where Northern Pike thrive in abundance alongside other freshwater game fish.

North Dakota: Navigate the frozen expanses of Devils Lake, Lake Oahe, and Lake Sakakawea, renowned for their trophy-sized pike populations and excellent ice fishing conditions.

Ontario: Head to Rainy Lake, Lake of the Woods, or Vermilion Bay for epic ice fishing adventures amidst Ontario’s stunning wilderness settings.

Minnesota: Test your angling skills on Lake Winnibigoshish, Leech Lake, or Lake of the Woods, where Northern Pike roam in abundance beneath the ice.

Michigan: Seek out Northern Pike hotspots such as Houghton Lake, Higgins Lake, and Lake Gogebic for unforgettable ice fishing experiences.

Wisconsin: Explore the frozen waters of Lake Mendota, Green Bay, or Lake Winnebago, known for their thriving pike populations and exceptional ice fishing opportunities.

Colorado: Venture to Eleven Mile Reservoir, Williams Fork Reservoir, or Spinney Mountain Reservoir for exhilarating ice fishing excursions amidst Colorado’s breathtaking scenery.

Vermont: Discover the icy wonders of Lake Champlain, Bristol Pond, or Connecticut River, where Northern Pike lurk beneath the frozen surface, awaiting eager anglers.

New Hampshire: Brave the cold and fish for Northern Pike in Moore Reservoir or Patridge Lake, where icy waters hold the promise of thrilling catches.

Pennsylvania: Explore Presque Isle Bay, Lake Arthur, or Lake Wallenpaupack for exciting ice fishing adventures in Pennsylvania’s scenic landscapes.

Wyoming: Conquer the frozen waters of Keyhole Reservoir, where Northern Pike abound amidst Wyoming’s rugged beauty.

Discovering the Ideal Spots to Target Pike

Northern Pike, known for their aggressive hunting nature, can typically be found in areas where their primary prey, such as perch and panfish, seek shelter and food under the ice. Understanding their preferred habitats can greatly enhance your chances of a successful ice fishing expedition.

  1. Large Bays/Shallower Waters (Early Ice): During the early stages of winter, Northern Pike often venture into shallower waters, following schools of bait fish. Areas abundant in weeds and vegetation serve as prime hunting grounds for hungry pike searching for their next meal.
  2. Deeper Waters (Midwinter): As winter progresses, bait fish migrate to deeper waters, prompting Northern Pike to follow suit. Look for rocky structures in deeper areas, as these locations attract larger pike seeking refuge and prey.
  3. Vegetation Edges: Dense vegetation along the edges of a water body provides ample opportunities for Northern Pike to ambush unsuspecting prey. Focus your efforts along the border where vegetation meets rocky or muddy bottoms.
  4. Structure: Northern Pike excel at blending into submerged structures, such as fallen branches. While locating these structures beneath the ice may require pre-ice scouting, the payoff is often rewarding once winter sets in.
  5. Depth: Northern Pike are relentless hunters, adapting to the depth where their prey resides. In colder months, smaller bait fish typically inhabit depths of 5-20 feet, with clearer waters hosting more vegetation and habitat at deeper levels. Be prepared to explore varying depths based on the lake’s characteristics.
  6. Drop-offs: Target areas where vegetation and structure coincide with drop-offs, as these transitional zones attract Northern Pike and other predatory species. Focus on gradual or stepped drop-offs rather than large, abrupt ones, as they tend to attract more pike seeking easy access to both shallow and deep waters.

Best place in canada for catching pike

Determining the absolute best place for Northern Pike fishing in Canada can be subjective and depends on various factors such as accessibility, local regulations, fishing preferences, and time of year. However, several regions across Canada are renowned for their excellent Northern Pike fishing opportunities. Here are some top destinations:

  1. Ontario: Known for its vast wilderness and abundant water bodies, Ontario offers numerous hotspots for Northern Pike fishing. Lakes like Lake of the Woods, Rainy Lake, Eagle Lake, and the French River are famous for their trophy-sized Pike.
  2. Manitoba: The province boasts countless lakes and rivers teeming with Northern Pike. Areas like Lake Winnipeg, Lake Manitoba, and the Winnipeg River are particularly renowned for their Pike fishing.
  3. Saskatchewan: With its expansive boreal forests and countless lakes and rivers, Saskatchewan is a haven for Northern Pike anglers. Destinations like Tobin Lake, Cree Lake, and Lac La Ronge offer excellent Pike fishing opportunities.
  4. Alberta: Alberta’s diverse landscapes provide ample opportunities for Northern Pike fishing. Lakes such as Lac Ste. Anne, Cold Lake, and Lesser Slave Lake are known for their healthy Pike populations.
  5. British Columbia: Although not as widely recognized for Pike fishing as other provinces, British Columbia still offers excellent opportunities in certain areas. Lakes like Kootenay Lake, Okanagan Lake, and Shuswap Lake are known for their Pike fishing.
  6. Northwest Territories: The remote and pristine waters of the Northwest Territories provide exceptional Pike fishing experiences. Great Slave Lake, Great Bear Lake, and the Mackenzie River are some of the top destinations for trophy-sized Pike.

Ice Fishing Tackle and Equipment list for Pike

Northern Pike can grow exceptionally large, with records surpassing 50lbs! When targeting these giants under the ice, it’s crucial to have the right gear to handle their size and power.

A pike in a hook

Tackle Basics:

  • Reel: Use medium-sized spinning reels (2000-4000 class) designed to withstand the vigorous fights of big Northern Pike.
  • Rod: Swap out tiny ice-fishing rods for a full-size, 6ft rod ranging from light to medium-heavy. This might feel a bit unwieldy through an ice hole, but the extra power is invaluable for controlling large fish.
  • Line: Pike’s sharp teeth demand a durable line setup. Opt for 15lb braid linked to a swivel, with a 2-foot, flexible, single-strand wire leader to the hook. For less aggressive bites, a heavy 30lb fluorocarbon leader can work, but don’t go lighter to avoid break-offs.

Essential Equipment:

  • Multiple Setups: Increase your chances by having several rods and reels ready, allowing you to cover more area.
  • Tip-ups: Use sturdy tip-ups to manage multiple spots efficiently, if local regulations allow.
  • Portable Transducer: This device helps locate fish and underwater structures, essential for finding Pike hotspots.
  • Long Needle-Nose Pliers: Essential for safely removing hooks from the mouths of Pike, known for their razor-sharp teeth.
  • Ice Auger: Whether electric or gas-powered, an auger is necessary for drilling through the ice, especially when moving around to find Pike.
  • Comfort Items: Bring buckets for seating or fish storage, an extra set of clothes in case of splashes, comfortable chairs, a shelter or tent for warmth, snacks, and a thermos with a warm beverage to make your fishing trip more enjoyable.

Top choice Baits and Lures for Northern Pike ice fishing

Northern Pike are notorious for their voracious appetite for fish, making live baitfish and minnows the go-to choice for anglers seeking to hook these formidable predators. While live bait reigns supreme, dead bait can still yield results, particularly during slower fishing days. However, maintaining live bait on the ice requires careful management to prevent freezing, necessitating adequate gear.

Best Live Bait for Ice-fishing Pike:

  • Perch: Whether dead or alive, Perch ranks as the top natural bait for Northern Pike. Not only are they readily available near Pike habitats, but they also prove irresistible to hungry predators.
  • Goldfish, Minnows, Chubs, and Panfish: These bait options also entice Northern Pike, with goldfish offering heightened visibility in the water. Large minnows, chubs, and panfish serve as excellent alternatives when Perch aren’t accessible.

Top Artificial Lures for Targeting Northern Pike:

  • Spoons: Opt for 2-6 inch bronze or silver spoons to mimic injured baitfish, attracting Pike with their flashing allure.
  • Jigs: Ranging from 1/4 to 1oz, jig heads paired with swimbaits or flukes work well on slow fishing days, enticing even the most reluctant Pike to strike.
  • Spinners: Choose larger spinners designed for Largemouth Bass or Muskie, avoiding smaller options that may not capture the attention of hefty Pike.
  • Rattletraps: Employ big, loud, and flashy rattletraps to lure Pike from afar, ensuring subtle movements to avoid startling the fish.
  • Color Selection: Pike favor flashy and vibrant lure colors that trigger their predatory instincts, prompting aggressive strikes or close inspections.

Proven Strategies for Ice Fishing Northern Pike

Capturing Northern Pike beneath the ice demands a blend of strategy, patience, and the right gear. To maximize your success in landing these formidable predators, consider the following enhanced tips and tactics:

1. Optimize Hole Placement: Distribute your fishing holes across a broad area to explore extensive sections of the lake or river. Specifically, when targeting points, arrange your holes to span the entire drop-off area and the point’s peak. This method increases your chances of finding Pike, especially around depth transitions which are prime spots for setting baits and lures.

2. Implement a Tip-Up Network: Utilize a series of tip-ups placed strategically over known Pike structures to boost your likelihood of a catch. This approach involves identifying significant underwater features beforehand and drilling several holes for your tip-ups. Ensure you’re familiar with local regulations regarding the number of tip-ups allowed. Quality is crucial, as Northern Pike are known for their strength; select durable tip-ups capable of withstanding a vigorous fight.

3. Upgrade Your Tackle: Employ robust tackle and include a wire leader to prevent the notorious Pike teeth from severing your line. A solid setup ensures that once you hook a trophy Pike, you have the means to reel it in successfully.

4. Prioritize Live Bait: While both live and dead baits can attract Pike, live bait has the edge due to its movements and distress signals. Whenever possible, use live bait caught from the fishing site for the freshest appeal.

5. Master the Hookset Timing: After a Pike strikes, patience is key. Allow a brief pause to ensure the Pike has properly taken the bait before setting the hook. This technique significantly improves your hook-up rate.

6. Essential Tools – Long Pliers: A sturdy pair of long-nosed pliers is indispensable for safely handling Pike, helping you avoid their sharp teeth during catch release or retrieval.

7. Sustainable Harvesting Practices: If you choose to keep your catch, focus on smaller Pike. Not only does this practice support conservation efforts by allowing larger Pike to continue breeding, but smaller fish also tend to have lower concentrations of environmental toxins, making them healthier to consume.

Incorporating these strategies into your ice fishing routine can substantially elevate your Pike fishing experience. Beyond the basics, understanding the behavior of Northern Pike under ice and adapting to their habitats will refine your technique and increase your success on the ice.

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