How to Hold a Musky (and other info)

Friday, January 27, 2006

Tip-up tips for pike

By NICK SIMONSON Thursday, January 19, 2006 2:30 PM CST

If you are tired of finicky panfish or walleye with lockjaw and the slow bite that the area has been experiencing throughout this unstable portion of the winter, turn to an old favorite to heat up the action on the ice.

One of the most exciting fish to catch in our area is the northern pike. The pike, for many anglers, has gone from a childhood trophy to a secondary fish. However, winter is the time of the water wolf, there's no better time to rediscover tip-up angling for northerns.

Pike are readily available in many lakes throughout southeastern North Dakota thanks to stocking and great spawning over the last decade. Furthermore, when other fish shut down during the fickle winter weather, the pike seem to always be on the prowl. The sight of a blaze orange tip-up flag tripped by a northern is a challenge welcomed by all ice anglers.

Getting started

It doesn't take much to get in on the action for pike in winter. A $30 stop at the fishing section of any department or sporting-goods store for tip-ups, some line, leaders and trebles will have you all set for tip-up fishing. I prefer to use a single treble hook attached via 12-inch leader to 25-to-40 pound test nylon line on my tip-ups. Others may prefer heavier line or longer leaders depending on clarity of the lake being fished. If you're fishing catch and release, try a variety of quick-strike rigs to lessen impact on the fish.

Set 'em up...

The legal number of lines that can be used in North Dakota is four. This provides tip-up anglers with a chance for some hole-dashing action.

By setting three tip-ups in high-percentage areas such as channel edge flats, or along last summer's weedline, anglers can capitalize on known pike cruising strips. By drilling holes in other areas nearby, an angler can jig spoons or baited hooks for pike and hop around while still keeping an eye on the flags.

There are several brands of tip-ups, but the one I recommend and use primarily is the classic Polar Tip-Up. Its simple design and bright color make it a shoe-in for inclusion in any angler's arsenal. Its flag-holding notch also prevents the wind from tripping the flag and sending out a false alarm.

Other options, like a variety of hole covering thermal tip-ups and the new Jig-Up, which mechanically moves your offering up and down, are available. Take a look at several different models and see what is best for your angling style.

...Knock 'em down!

You may be dozens of yards away, in the truck, on shore, or in the icehouse when a flag trips on the tip-up. Don't worry about missing the fish. Pike, by nature, tend to grab bait and run with it before turning it and swallowing it.

As you approach the tip-up you can see the spool turning the flag trip mechanism as the pike runs. Watch for the spin to slow or even stop. A good idea once the flag pops up, is to count to twenty and then grab hold of the line. If you can see the line angling off under the ice, there's a good chance the fish is on. Feel for tension and prepare for battle.

The hook is set with a swift upward pull on the line. Make sure to lay the line as neatly as possible next to the hole as the pike nears the surface. In case of a quick run by the fish, the line will smoothly flow through your hands and back down the hole, instead of tangling on the tip-up, your leg or other obstructions.

Once the pike is iced, look for any serious damage to the gills or gullet. If the fish is bleeding, keep it; if not, you have the option of releasing the fish, especially trophy pike. It is a rush to remember.

So when the walleye won't bite, and the perch are a pain, try some tip-ups on the pike-filled waters…of our outdoors.


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