It really isn’t a secret that Lake of the Woods offers one of the best chances for an angler to ice a 40” plus pike anywhere. Now until ice out is prime time to catch these toothy gators; and the bonus is that they will never weigh more than they do at this time of year. Pike are one of the earliest spawning fish and drop their eggs shortly after ice out. Jay Urman and several of his friends know this and he has made many a trip to Lake of the Woods over the last several years pursuing these trophy pike and they have seldom been disappointed.
I asked Jay to share what they are doing, and the biggest key is to find a food shelf that is away from the crowds and start drilling holes. They usually have several people in the group and spread out until a group of fish are located. There go to rig is a tip up with an Ice Hole Tackle Big Gamefish Rig. This rig sports a pair of #2 trebles; and features double crimps on it for added strength and protection, so the rig doesn’t come apart under the strain of a trophy pike. They generally use large alewives for bait in the 12-13” range. These are available at the local bait shops. Jay did admit that on their last trip they caught so many fish that they ran out of alewives and had to innovate a replacement which wound up being bratwurst! They landed two large 43” pike on the tasty brats, although he did acknowledge that the alewives are probably the most effective bait. The other key to setting the tip-ups with the Big Gamefish Rig is to have the rig several feet off the bottom. They generally will have the bait 5-6 feet down over 10-12 feet of water. They have occasionally taken fish deeper, but still will usually have the bait only about 6 feet down.
They have also had some luck on artificial, mostly the Mission Tackle Rigged Lake Trout Tube. This bait features a jig with a 4” tube and a treble stinger hook attached to it. When marking fish on the sonar, the bait is worked aggressively. A white tube with a red top is the preferred color; although it is the activity of the bait that is triggering fish to strike. Overall, this hasn’t been as effective as the tip up rigs; but is much more active and a fun way to catch fish.
It is that time of year when let’s face it, most of us are getting tired of winter and long for spring. So, if you are experiencing some cabin fever, why not head up to Lake of the Woods and fish for pike? You might just land you personal best and make some memories before the ice melts.