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Sioux Empire Edition
3 Factors for Bigger
PIKE thru the
There is nothing more fun than pulling a big pike through a hole in the ice. Even the smaller “eater sized” pike are a blast to catch through the ice. Although it is quite easy to catch numbers of pike, the trick is getting into the bigger fish (10 lbs. plus). By considering these three factors, you can up your odds of catching more and larger pike this ice fishing season! 1. CHOOSING THE RIGHT BODY OF WATER IS CRUCIAL Not every lake has the ability to grow NUMBERS of big pike (I will just refer to pike 10 lbs. and over as big for this article). I look for lakes that have larger surface areas combined with large amounts of deep clear cool water to help these bruisers cruise through the warm summer months. Why is that important? Comfort and food is the answer. Once pike hit a certain size (roughly the 7 lb. range), they require cooler water temps to survive. Once they get big, they are kind of like salmon—they look for comfort zones in the 50-55 degree range. Throughout the summer months, these cooler water temps are found in deep water, the thermocline, or near sources of natural springs.Once Fall rolls around and the lakes freeze these temps are easily found in the shallows which is why big pike return—which explains why more big pike are caught by anglers in the Spring, Fall, and of course Winter. These bigger, deeper lakes also provide the needed forage to support big pike. This forage consists of open water nomadic bait fish like the northern cicso or tullibee. Small pike that live in shallower warmer water (67-75 degrees) can survive by eating nothing but small panfish or perch. Once the pike reach the 7 lb. range, the diet changes with location, thus the tullibee is on the menu. I’m not saying that the shallow bowl prairie lake down the street with a max depth of 17’ will not have a big pike in it—it will, just not many of them. The short of it is, if your after numbers of big pike through the ice this winter, spend more time on the type of lakes like I have mentioned so far. Once a lake has been chosen, it’s time to zero in on an actual fishing spot—the fun part! 2. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION The beauty of ice fishing for big pike is that the location factor is fairly simple. Big pike are aggressive cold water eating machines that need at least two things—food and shelter. Big shallow weedy flats with quick access (moderate to steep breaks) to deep water (30 ft. plus) fits the bill. How big of a flat? It’s all relative to the size of the lake. Look at the lake map/ chip/chart and let the map tell your eyes where the biggest flats near deep water are. Personally, I like a 15 acre minimum for reference. How shallow of a weedy flat? It can vary from lake to lake, but it’s generally in the 6’-12’ range –which is also the prime depth that grows thick cabbage and coontail weeds— the shelter part of the deal. These weed beds also double as shelter for the forage the pike are now eating. Now that the big pike are using these shallow weed beds, they are eating more perch, bluegills, crappies (they love crappies) and bass than tullibee(s). Once the hot spot has been found and a couple dozen holes are drilled throughout the weed bed and along the break line, get out the tackle and start rigging up the presentation of choice.
3. PRESENTATION IS KEY! Live bait, dead bait, or artificial baits are all important tools to catch a big pike. I like to use a 2 punch approach--a set line like a live/dead bait rig used while I “hole hop” actively working artificial baits at the same time (if two or more lines can be used while ice fishing). A live bait rig consists of a large lively minnow on a tip-up, rod/reel/slip bobber combo, or a fish house wall mounted rattle reel. Look for the largest shiner minnows available. There is no doubt from my experiences that shiner minnows out produce other minnows when it comes to pike through the ice. A close second is the popular sucker minnow. Large sucker minnows are much easier to find than large shiners. When using suckers, I try to use a minimum length of 6”, but will use sizes up to the “muskie” size sucker minnows in the 15” range. I do not use a “quick strike” rig on minnows under 8” in length as I feel they cause the minnow to tire out faster as they try to swim with all the hardware attached to them. Minnows over 8” in length or longer, definitely require a quick strike rig to help increase the odds of a hook up. In either scenario, I like to incorporate fluorescent red or chartreuse colored hooks in sizes 1 or 2. At a bare minimum, a red hook. Pike are extremely sight orientated feeders-so bright color can help. Adding a tiny silver spinner blade next to the hook(s) can also help add some fish attracting flash as the minnow darts around. A dead bait rig is also a productive presentation option. Besides being aggressive feeders, pike are also scavengers and at times can be found eating dead fish off the bottom of the lake. Dead bait like a cisco, smelt, or sucker (or whatever is legal in your area) suspended on a live bait rig system can be deadly. Another option is an uncooked hot dog! Yes, I said a hot dog like the kids eat at birthday parties. The brand that seems to work the best is the “Fun Dog”. Simply hook the hot dog like you would actual live or dead bait. When setting the depth of your presentation, keep in mind the 30% rule. If the bottom depth is 10 ft., set the bait depth at around 7 ft. down or roughly 3 ft. or 30% of the bottom depth off of the bottom. This helps any pike cruising the bottom or even suspended a little bit, see the bait. Pike feed upwards most efficiently like most fish do. I tend to scatter the live/dead bait rig(s) throughout the weed bed while I “hole hop” along the break line actively working artificial baits. Jigging spoons (like Swedish Pimples or Kastmaster), plastic swim baits on lead head jigs (just like are used for walleye/bass throughout the summer), king sized Rat-L-Traps jigged vertically (yes the same rattle baits retrieved on long casts all summer), and jigging Raps are all great active tools to trigger those undecided fish along with catching the most active fish in the area. The pike cannot resist either of these baits in brightly colored or flashy patterns. Remember, even on a sunny day, it is a dark world under a sheet of ice with snow on it—hence why bright colors and rattle baits can really help catch fish—especially pike! So there you go, it’s big pike time! Have fun, respect your fellow anglers, be safe, and catch some memories! Lotsa Fish! Lotsa Fun!
Capt. Josh Hagemeister, Minnesota Fishing Guide Service 320-291-0708 • 218-732-9919 www.minnesotaguideservice.com www.minnesotaicefishhouserental.com
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ons n calls for the use of jigging spo Early ice, early winter fishing ofte ever, fish. As winter progresses, how to call in and catch aggressive ir metabolism often slows too. fish get more pressured and the ter get less apt to bite as early win For those reasons, the fish usually can do , however, some things anglers becomes mid-season. There are mid-winter fishing success. to increase their odds for finding
The first recommendation for increasing your mid-winter successes is to re-evaluate your fishing spots. Those hot early ice bite spots often become “community spots” by January, meaning many of the fish that called them home have left in anglers’ pails! And, the remaining fish have been bombarded by lures and are less likely to bite your bait. Venturing out to new, less pressured areas and staying on the move to try to locate new spots and “fresh” fish is solid advice at this time. If you’re fishing for walleyes, for example, that might mean setting up in new areas several evenings in a row to try to find a productive new spot. Walleyes in lots of lakes are notorious for being lowlight feeders meaning an evening, or morning, bite often is by far and away the best opportunity to ice these fish. Panfish may be more susceptible during daylight, but again some species on some lakes will have peak bites during early morning and again in late afternoon. So, again, hitting new spots to try to find a new bite is important, but so is fishing those peak times. Fishing new spots at the right times is a good midseason tactic, but so is making adjustments to your fishing presentations. Jigging spoons and lures will still attract and catch fish, but often I work them less aggressively now. And, when a fish does appear, I always have a “bobber rod” set up next to my jigging rod. The bobber rod often features a lively minnow as bait. And, a walleye or crappie attracted to my jigging spoon but not willing to hit, will often be attracted to the lively, squirming minnow just next to my jigging bait.
Lightly hooking minnows behind the dorsal fin, using fresh and lively minnows, and then changing out a “tired” minnow is a good way to up the chances that this bobber set-up gets bit. As simple as it seems, a lively minnow on a plain hook beneath a bobber will often be the best fish producer during a tough bite. Another trick to fooling mid-winter fish with this presentation is to use a barely-floating bobber that easily slides under the water when a fish bites. I use an Ice Buster bobber because it can be trimmed down so it easily slides underwater without alerting a finicky fish that might be spooked by a more buoyant float. A final bit of advice when pursuing fish during mid-winter is the importance of using quality sonar. Carefully watching your sonar will tell you quickly if any fish are present in a new spot. Sonar can also be very beneficial in helping read the mood of any fish present, which helps when experimenting with various jigging approaches in an attempt to find one that attracts and triggers some fish. The new FLX-30 sonar I am using has all the fishing features an angler could want, plus it features a lightweight, long lasting lithium battery. Anglers wanting to find more fish during mid-winter would be wise to consider exploring to find new fishing spots and then using some of the presentation tips just outlined. Those tips just might, in fact, help lead to a good ice bite on your next fishing adventure. And, as always, remember to include a youngster in those ice fishing trips! Mike Frisch hosts the popular Fishing the Midwest TV series. Visit www.fishingthemidwest to see more fishing tips and view recent TV episodes as well!
Top ice angler and lure designed season walleye. John Crane with a chunky early will adjust their As winter progresses, anglers successes! methods to maintain ice fishing
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IN THE FIELD OR ON THE ICE Whether you want to learn how to skin an animal you have trapped, or you want to get some time on the ice catching a fish, THE OUTDOOR CAMPUS can help!
Sitting in the blind with my binoculars up, watching as a pair of deer making their way into the clearing. They slowly and attentively walk from the cover of the brush. Adrenaline pumping as I slowly and quietly lower my binoculars and pick up my gun. I rest my gun on a jacket perched on the edge of the blind, slowly lowering my eye to align with the scope. There between my cross hairs are the two deer. Waiting breathlessly for the right shot, and with mild frustration that the pair have lined up in a way that if I shot, I would hit both. Then the moment where one walks ahead, leaving a gap to shoot. Everything slows down and speeds up all at the same time. The shot, and all goes quiet.
AFTER THE SHOT...
COMES THE REAL WORK
If you are interested in learning more about what we do or would like to sign up for our classes check us out at gfp.sd.gov/education/ or give us a call at 605-362-2777. All Classes are FREE to the public.
As every hunter knows, the shot is just the beginning of the hunt.Then comes the real work: field dressing it, tagging it, getting it back to the vehicle, and then processing it. Field dressing and processing a deer can take some time to perfect but is quite the satisfying process.There is something primeval and sacred about skinning and quartering your own meat.Loading it into the freezer and knowing that later this year you will enjoy the efforts of your work. With many of the hunting seasons ending, people are starting to think about putting up their rifle to prepare for ice fishing or turkey season. However, the hunt is not over for folks who successfully filled their tag. There is still the opportunity to consume the food you harvested. So what do you do with that meat in the freezer? Does it become jerky or ground up for burger? Whatever your fancy, now is the perfect time to try out a new recipe. Here at The Outdoor Campus, we are prone to try any recipe we can get our hands on for wild game, why not swing by and share your favorite recipe with us. While you’re here, grab a winter booklet. We have plenty of classes this winter to help you continue your active outdoor life. Whether you want to learn how to skin an animal you have trapped, or you want to get some time on the ice catching a fish, we can help. Remember to thank a hunter or angler for purchasing a hunting or fishing license. It is because of these purchases, that the Campus can offer the diverse level of hunting and fishing classes we have and continue to inspire students of all ages to get outside and practice conservation through hunting and fishing.
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It’s been a few years, but I’ve always been a big fan of full-moon fall trolling on the big lakes. What thermocline may have kept bait and ‘eyes out deeper all summer, gave way to incredible shallow water fishing come late October and November. What surprised me however, was just how many anglers had that full-moon fever bite going, and never reconnected with it come first ice. Those same fish didn’t make vast moves or change their feeding patterns too much. They were just under a few inches of ice now. It’s that same mentality you need to take with you to the lake come first ice walleyes, especially from a location perspective. You’ll have plenty of time to pound off-shore reefs, deep mud, gravel bars, and rock piles. Early ice is the time for fishing right off of shore, just below or on the “first break.” By that, I mean simply that you should look for the first appreciable steep drop from shore, which could bottom out anywhere from 5 to 15 FOW. First ice walleyes love to cruise the bottom of these edges in search of food, and when you’ve got some weed cover, substrate change, or other features to target, the spot is all that much better.
Large, main-lake points are favorites no matter where you go, to focus feeding attention of hungry ‘eyes. They’re also angler magnets, so if you’re fishing pressured bodies of water, understand that you don’t always need to be on a prominent piece of structure to get it done. More and more, I’m looking for small areas of interest. A living-room sized patch of rock that doesn’t show up on the contour map, a quality weed-bed that’s more dense than the surrounding area, or even some hard-pan sand vs. nearby mud or muck. Often, that’s all it takes to gather some nearshore walleyes once the lakes freeze over. Where most anglers miss out on the shallow water walleye bite, is that they fish it the way they would midwinter walleyes in deeper parts of the lake. They ice troll across the shallow flats, scaring the very fish they seek. With fall trolling, we learned that there were nights where hundreds of feet of line behind the boat was what it took to get bit. The same walleyes that don’t love hanging tight in your main-motor wash, don’t appreciate lots of hole drilling and overhead traffic. For that reason, it’s best to have a few dead-set approaches. While there are a few ways to skin that walleye, the two I employ are tip-ups and deadstick rods. Tip-ups for early ice eyes are a mainstay and have been around for forever, so there’s not much new under the sun here. Select some quality fluorocarbon line in or around 10lb test, select a good light wire live-bait hook, and rig up a small sucker or preferably shiner pegged with a sinker above the hook a few inches. Put that sinker closer to the bait if a lively sucker, or further for less lively minnow species. Set your tip-up on a very “light-trip” setting, preferably not under the notch unless needed for wind’ssake. Then you wait. Tip-ups are great, but do have their problems. Namely, fighting a fish hand-over-hand, especially if it’s a trophy. Dead-stick rods on simple rod-holders have been a great solution to that problem and more, while offering several advantages over the standard tip-up scenario. Why a specialized rod for this type of fishing? Mostly because a dead-stick is unlike any other ice rod. The action is extremely slow for half or better of the length of the rod, offering bite-detection and minnow-monitoring convenience. Then, a hard-wall on the blank that goes straight to very stiff backbone – perfect for setting the hook. While dead-stick rods may tangle, any issues are usually seen quickly and above ice, rather than the below-water snarls that can happen on a tip-up without you knowing about it. More importantly, a quality dead-stick will telegraph every movement of the minnow, all while offering you immediate clues both during and after the bite. Set the rod in the holder, and watch your bait or several baits to to work. Sometimes the fish will grab the bait and sit right below the hole, which is easily seen on a deadstick as it very slowly loads. That’s far less visible and harder to manage a hookset when that happens on a tip-up. I highly recommend bait-feeder reel designs for these rods, as with the flip of a switch, free-spool is offered to running walleyes. These quick runs are easy to detect for either tip-ups or deadsticks, but the hookset and fight are usually superior on a dead-stick-setup. Usually, I’ll either jig on the deeper side of the break and watch a deadstick rod right on it, or many times, simply put out the max number of lines I’m allowed in dead-sticks and wait. As with most things walleye, the bite is best early and late, but cloudy days can make for spurts of great fishing throughout. It’s a really fun way to fish if you’ve got a group of friends, as you can cover a long section of break, all while enjoying each other’s company until a rod goes off. Just make sure to tend the set, just as you would a tipup. Extreme cold weather doesn’t bode well for this type of fishing, but the good news is that first ice is typically pretty mild after that first blast of cold that locks everything up. Check your baits, make sure the hole isn’t icing up too badly, and more than anything, resist the urge to drill too many holes and stomp around throughout the day. These fish are sensitive to noise, as you may only be targeting them in 5-8FOW. Especially when your panfish lakes aren’t locked up well, or you’ve got good walkable ice near-shore but not the whole way out, this is the way to go. Setup a few hours before dark, stake out your spot, and wait until some rods start bending or flags start flying.