Resting against the side of an ice shack with the strong March sun warming me, I heard the unmistakable beep of a tip-up going off.
That's right, technology is a wonderful thing, and the group of anglers I was fishing with this particular day had all the best equipment in their quest to catch trophy pike. This included a wood shack set up on metal runners that allowed quick relocation to the latest hot spot.
Inside that shack, there was a workbench, stove and couch -- all to make the experience more memorable. What impressed me the most, though, was the wall of tip-ups, all designed to make ice fishing for trophy northern pike as efficient as possible. They included the latest model, which had a battery-powered beeper that triggered when the flag was tripped. When I heard that buzzer go off, I knew we were in business.
Pike fishing gets really exciting in this part of the world in March. In Manitoba, northern pike are one of the most sought-after trophy fish for anglers from all over the world. Most prefer to try for them in open water, but if you want a really big fish, last ice can be the ticket. On this particular day we were fishing a large reservoir with extensive mud flats that averaged about two metres in depth.
After we arrived at the spot we had chosen to fish, two of my friends took a snow machine, sleigh, and auger to drill 12 holes around the perimeter of the guide shack, about 50 metres away. There was method behind their madness, because they knew when fishing this shallow, it's critical to spread out and be quiet once you are set up.
At this time of year, the big pike are moving toward the back bays to spawn and shallow water troughs are a key place to find them. As the day wore on, we landed and released 10 nice pike, the largest just over one metre. All were caught on tip-ups, using ciscoes or Portuguese sardines rigged to sit upright on ultra-sharp, quick-strike rigs.
In shallow water at this time of the year, the tip-ups were the most effective way to cover water.
There are a variety of different tip-ups on the market right now.
In blowing snow conditions it's nice to work with those that cover the hole, like a HT Enterprises Polar Therm or the new Frabill Arctic Siren that gives off a big beep when a fish takes the line.
Still, variety is good, and we also had a number of the Frabill Big Foot Classic models that got the job done. Some tip-ups now have an extension for the tip-up flags so you can see them in deep snow. There will be days when the fish will come only to holes that are covered.
For ease of operations when setting up and storing at the end of long day, tie a snap swivel on the end of your Dacron line. You can open this snap swivel to either rig up or break down your quick-strike rig and leader, which should have a heavy-duty ball bearing swivel on the end. When storing your quick-strike rigs, use a round tackle tamer like you would for your walleye spinner rigs. This prevents tangle and keeps sharp hooks out of the way. Setting the tip-ups properly is the key to getting bites. If you are fishing deeper water, it's a good idea to have a snap-on weight to quickly find bottom, then a bobber stop to allow you to find that depth again. You can also use a split shot if need be. For a leader, I prefer Berkley Sevenstrand, just under a metre in length. A long trace is a must to prevent cutoffs when pike roll in the line.
Spring ice fishing for pike with tip-ups can be an exciting and rewarding experience. Give it a try this year -- but remember to carefully release all those big fish.
Angler Notes: The Pelican Lake Healthy Water & Fish Committee raised nearly $8,000 at its first ice-fishing derby. The higher than expected revenue should allow the group to double the size of the current aeration field located in the northern basin for next winter, said Trevor Maguire. Nearly 500 fish were caught by the 300 anglers.