There's just something about ice-out Pike fishing that gets me excited. Is it the thought of hooking a monster toothy critter towards the end of winter? Is it the thought of the upcoming soft water season? Is it knowing that spring is in the air? Is it knowing that my boat will be in the water permanently for another season soon? Well it's all the factors listed above.
The last couple of weeks have brought some unseasonably mild temperatures and with these temperatures come not only the melting of the ice, but the accessability to vast spaces of open water, which until now have been hidden. When and wherever you can find open water, chances are you'll find fish. Even if it's in winter. I have been monitoring the ice out conditions for some time now and I have been excited to dust off my Shimano Citica Crucial baitcasting combo to start throwing crankbaits for another year.
Yesterday presented the perfect opportunity to do just that. With the temperature in the mid single digits and just enough open water to make some long casts, it was time to start hunting some ice out pike! My favourite spots at this time of year are in and around The Big "O", Lake Ontario.
Most of the spots that have brought me success in the past all have a similar habitat. Shallow flats that drop off into deep pools with lots of rocks. The rocks are great for pike that are coming into the flats to stage and feed as they absord the suns rays and they retain heat.
After taking a few casts it quickly became clear that the 2010 fishing season had officialy begun, even though I went ice fishing a month earlier.
My bait of choice today was a suspending crankbait (Rapala Husky Jerk) Gold colour. I was using various retrive methods until I found one that worked. After about 10 minutes, I gave it a couple of jerks and I paused. I let it sit there for what seemed to be an eternity, when all of a sudden as I was ready to give it another couple of jerks, I hooked into my first ice-out pike of the season, a nice 30"er. The battle didn't last long as they are slow and sluggish, but having said that it's still exciting and it put on a show as it came to the surface. A small dance and a few rolls later I managed to reach into the icey water and land it. Wow did it ever feel good to get the proverbial monkey off my back, as many a fisherman get skunked while trying their hand at ice-out pike fishing.
Another hour and twenty mintutes passed before I saw any signs of life in the chilly waters. I looked to my left and I saw something swimming as it came out from under the large ice sheet that was yet to thaw. It looked rather fat and at first I thought it was a carp but then a closer look revealed that it was a rather wide and fat pike that was cruising along the outer edge of the ice just under the surface. It crawled along at a snails pace. This gave me 3 chances to flip my crank in front of it's nose but it wasn't interested at all. It turned and headed under the safety of the ice. A few minutes later, after another eternal pause I managed to hookup with another pike in the range of about 30" but this time I lost the battle as a few head shakes shook the battered crank from it's toothy jaws a few feet from my grasp.
The winds along the shores of Lake Ontario at this time of year are generally anywhere from moderate to strong. After spending a couple of hours outside, I quickly realized how fast the temps can drop as the sun goes down and the winds increase. I had a very enjoyable time on the water and it beats sitting indoors. If you are serious about fishing, then this time of year presents the perfect oppurtunity to hunt pike. You have to be dedicated enough to find open water, and strong enough to brave the elements.