Friday, January 9, 2009
Use circle hook and dead bait for spring pike
If you are booked into camp the first couple of weeks this season, you should try some circle hooks and frozen ciscoes for northern pike fishing.
This system for catching pike is known as dead bait fishing. It works wonders for catching these huge fish early in the season when the water is very cold.
The theory behind the system is that northern pike after spawning are exhausted and go looking for fish and minnows that died over the winter and then were frozen in the ice until spring ice breakup. These dead fish fall to the bottom once the ice melts and make an easy meal.
The idea that the pike are looking for dead prey has merit because the dead bait system works far and away better than live bait at this time of year.
There are a few ways to fish with the ciscoes. Most often anglers use one-half of these 6-inch long frozen minnows. Half works better than a whole ciscoe. They put it on a 5/0 circle hook which is attached to a nine-inch steel leader and fished three feet below a bobber or float.
Another system is to not use a bobber but to sling the ciscoe (sling is the right word because if you "whip" the rod as in casting the ciscoe flies off the hook) away from the boat, let it settle to the bottom and then alternately reel in a bit and let the ciscoe sink to the bottom. You know when a fish has picked it up because your line starts going out.
A third system is to let a gentle wind move the boat along and "troll" the ciscoe. This last technique might require a sinker to keep the bait near the bottom. In the first two techniques no sinker is used.
The circle hook requires some instruction if you haven't yet used one. Unlike conventional hooks, you cannot "set the hook" when you get a bite. If you do, you will whip the hook right out of the mouth of the fish.
Instead, just reel in the line and this slower tightening results in the hook catching the fish right in the corner of its mouth. You can experiment on how fast to tighten the line but I would suggest giving it 3-5 seconds.
Upon landing the fish the hook can quickly be removed and the fish released, and you'll want to release most of the fish caught this way because they tend to all be big ones. They're a blast to catch but are too big to ethically keep to eat. Eat the fish under the slot size which is 27.5-35.5 inches. They taste better. The big ones are the prime breeders, are virtually all females and are the ones we all want to catch again and again.
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