HOW IT'S DONE
It’s usually a 1-2 punch for us. Since we’re allowed to use two lines when ice fishing in Ontario, we’ll jig for walleyes then hang a large dead cisco or sucker minnow on a quick-strike rig, beneath a tip-up.
The pike rig I always use is a Northland Tackle Predator Rig. It has two treble hooks that hang the bait horizontally in a natural fashion. I like to put one hook in the head and one in the dorsal fin. In the past we have set up underwater cameras on these dead baits and most of the time pike will hit the bait from the side so they usually get the hooks in the corner of the mouth which is what we want.
I like to set the bait a foot or two above the bottom. When the flag goes off, get to it and hit the fish with a sweeping set. You don’t need to let them swallow it, hit them quickly. If they swim off with the bait for too long the chance of them swallowing the bait increases, making it tough to extract the hooks.
The biggest pike I have ever had in my hands on have all come in March with this tactic. Often, we catch our own bait because it’s sometimes tough to find big baits you can buy. We’ll run into ciscos chasing our trout baits while we jig so I always have a small crappie-sized spoon with me to drop down to the aggressive ciscos.
With walleyes, the depth of water we’re fishing varies from lake to lake. On some of the smaller, shallower inland lakes, I have caught them in five to eight feet of water, while out on Lake of the Woods, it could be 15-20’ of water. It’s all relative to the lake you’re fishing. Usually the first “drop” into deeper water coming out of the shallow spawning areas are the best spots.
I seldom use anything but a spoon tipped with a minnow head for walleyes but a jig tipped with a minnow works well to. Finding the fish is the most important thing, they are usually not to hard to catch. One thing I will tell you is walleye faithfully like the “prime time hour” just before sunset the best.
Crappies, lake trout, whitefish, burbot and perch all seem to amp up their activity in March when the sunlight starts to penetrate the ice as the snow melts off. Not only is the fishing usually better than any other time of the season, being on the ice on those nice March days is so enjoyable.