Ice-fishing guru and Lakewood Products Elite Pro Staff Member, Lee Tauchen tells all about pulling pike through the ice.
By Jace Bauserman
When it comes to ice fishing, few species pull anglers into a frigid landscape like pike. What’s the big attraction? The fish’s geographic location for one. The species is widespread across the United States, inhabiting countless bodies of water. Anglers can also choose to go after numbers of lesser-sized fish or try their luck at tricking a trophy. Not to mention the fact that pike fight like crazy, taste great and are incredibly beautiful creatures.
One fisherman with a serious through-the-ice pike addiction is Wisconsin’s Lee Tauchen. Lee is an avid fisherman, and along with his partner Robbie Jarnigo, hosts of the Today’s Angler YouTube Channel.
According to Tauchen, when it comes to pike, anglers wanting to make an ice assault need a pre-determined plan.
“The first thing you need to do is find a body of water that has good numbers of pike,” Tauchen noted. “If you are really new to pike fishing through the ice, I highly recommend finding a good impoundment or mill pond that has lots of pike. If you find a spot like this, you can often catch 20-30 fish a day. River backwaters are also great place to find large numbers of pike. They often won’t be big pike, but these can be great spots for a pike newcomer to start to learn the necessary skills.
“Another option is to visit with local bait shops, state DNR agencies and check local fishing reports in newspapers and online. The goal is to find a body of water that holds pike, or if you’re specifically looking for trophy fish, a body of water that holds fish with some size.
“Once you select your body of water, you will want to get a lake map that is easily accessible on your phone. A lot of DNR websites have these. You can also use a map app like Navionics, which will give you one-foot contours of your lake and tell you right where you need to be.”
Just where do you need to be? Tauchen had a couple of solid recommendations.
“Look for places where there is an abundance of pan fish,” Tauchen said. “Pike are aggressive feeders and if you can get around bluegill, crappie and the like, you will find pike. Be sure to pay attention to big bays with abundant weed growth.
“Once you locate one of these areas, a good plan of attack, where legal (be sure to check local DNR regulations), is to put three lines in the water. We really like to run one line that is super-shallow. This line may only be in two-feet of water. The second line will be a little deeper hanging over the weeds, and the third line will hang over the drop of the weed line or point. It’s common for us to have lines covering water from 2 feet all the way out to 25 feet. So, go shallow, deep and somewhere in between.
“As far as bait, we really like a golden shiner. We rig our golden’s on what’s called an Automatic Fisherman Snapper. This is a great product that sets the hook for you and makes sure the fish is hooked right in the side of the mouth. Pike have a tendency to swallow the bait, which makes catch-and-release fishing sometimes difficult. This product prevents that. However, tip-ups work just fine as well. It’s also important to know that the Snapper is not legal in all 50 states, so be sure to check your regs.
“We really like a 33-inch medium Automatic Fishing ice rod spooled with 10-12-pound monofilament. Off the mono we run a section of 20-pound single-strand titanium brand Terminator wire. This wire has no memory, so it allows you the ability to catch a ton of fish on it and it won’t kink. A size 6-8 treble hook hangs off the bottom of the rig, and we run the hook through the front-third of the shiner towards the top of the fish. Dead baits like smelt and mackerel also work well.
“Depending on the depth of water you’re fishing, be sure to keep your bait up in the water column. The eyes of a pike are located on top of its head, and they feed looking up. During cold fronts, especially when we get outside of break lines and are fishing deeper water, we will shift the baits deeper to the bottom. Fish just aren’t as willing to come up during these conditions, but most of time, our baits are elevated in the water column.”
When it comes to locating big fish, Tauchen says to stay in the weeds, but to locate some rocks as well.
“I’ve really noticed that big pike seem to like a mix of weeds and rock. Our average fish size goes up when we find a blend of rocks and weeds. Typically, these are points. You might not find the numbers, but you will likely find some big fish.”
A few more tips …
“When it comes to prime hours, mornings are tough,” noted Tauchen. I really, really like the hours between noon and 2 p.m. This is the heat of the day and is really primetime. Moon rise and moon set are also good things to pay attention to.
“Always drill more holes than you need. If you don’t have any action after an hour or so on the ice, don’t be afraid to start jockeying around and putting lines in different holes.”
Ice fishing for pike requires a litany of gear, and Tauchen highly recommends Lakewood’s Ice Pack for any ice-fishing adventure.
“This thing is great,” Tauchen said. It’s stable and has a pair of backpack-style straps. The Ice Pack holds rods and reels, pliers, spreaders, hooks, wires, tip-ups, Snappers and the list goes on. This pack also makes a great seat. It puts you a little less than bar-stool high, is comfortable and solid. Plus, it protects all your gear so well and makes getting everything out on the ice really easy. Enjoy!