Ice fishing is one of the coulee region’s shortest and most intense fishing seasons. It has every element on every extreme possible from long periods of isolation in a heated shack to the coldest of the cold imaginable.
My personal favorite is tip up fishing for northern pike. I use a Fraibill Tip up with 20 Lb ice fishing line, handmade leader of American Fishing Wire 20 lb camo line, number 6 single hook or number 4 treble hook, and live bait of 2 inch shiners or suckers. For jigging, I use PK Ridgeline Crank, PK Flutter Fish and PK spoon.
Setting up a Tip-up is relatively simple. I typically set a multiple of depths to dial in to the feeding pattern of the pike. One tip-up will be 2 feet under the ice, another midpoint between the bottom of the ice and the bottom of the river or lake, and the 3rd just above the bottom. The tip-up that gets the most action will determine what depth I set the other two.
Determining bait for me is based on the season. In early ice, I use suckers or dead shiners from the previous year. Mid winter, I use shiners, and last ice I use shiners and bluegill. The philosophy is to match the hatch. Try to study the body of water you are fishing and monitor the baitfish. Typically, the bluegill become more active in the spring towards late ice and is preferred bait for Northern Pike.
Jigging for Northern Pike is becoming a more popular way of catching these big fish. I use the PK Ridgeline Crank natural colors: Perch, and Rainbow and PK Flutter Fish: Nickel, Firetiger Glow, and Copper are my colors of choice. I first find the bottom of the lake or river and jig about 2 feet above the bottom. The purpose of this is to mimic dead or dyeing bait fish.
Using electronics to find and monitor fish is another popular tool for ice fishing. I use Fish TV and Marcum Flasher. Some people use screen fish locators to find fish, but when the LED becomes cold it crystallizes and tends to give inaccurate readings. With a Fish TV, you can watch the fish bite catching the fish that you may miss due to sensitivity, but you can only use them in clear and calm water. Flashers give you a real time reflection on what’s going on under the ice. You can see your lure and the fish approaching your lure as it appears as a blinking dot.
The most important thing about ice fishing is hygiene. Carry a rag to wipe your hands on between catches and handling food or gear. Fish can taste the human scent on minnows and lures. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve watched big northern pike suck in my minnow and spit it out, only to get caught by other people. Having clean hands will determine whether or not you catch your dream lunker. –Anthony Larson Coulee Region Adventures