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Northern Pike remain active during the winter and they are one of the most popular species to fish for in the winter. The first 2 or 3 weeks after the ice freezes can provide some of the best ice fishing of the winter. In early winter, you can find pike in shallow, weedy bays. If you can find green weeds, you will have more success. In mid-winter pike fishing gets tougher. They usually move out of the bays, but some bays will hold fish all winter if the water is deep enough. Most pike are positioned off of deep points and drop-offs in the mid-winter. As the weather warms up and the ice starts to thin, pike will move back into the shallow, weedy bays and they will feed heavily until ice-out.
In rivers, you can find pike in the backwaters and in weedy bays. The fish will be in these backwater areas as long as there is enough oxygen. If the ice becomes too thick and the oxygen starts to sag, pike will move into areas with some current because of the higher oxygen levels.
Most anglers use tip-ups for winter pike. In states where you can use multiple lines, fishermen will use tip-ups while they jig with another line. Some anglers will fish in groups and they will set up tip-ups all over to cover an entire bay or sunken island. Popular baits are live bait fish in the 6 to 12 inch range. Dead bait fish will also produce good results during the winter. When fishing with large bait fish, you should use a quick-strike rig to avoid gut hooking the pike. Dacron line or nylon-coated line tends to work best because these lines won’t soak up water and they won’t freeze when the line is above the water.
Anglers that prefer to move around should try jigs. You can cover a lot of different holes quickly when you are jigging with one rod. Flashy or bright colored jigs work best. If the fish are biting short, slow down and try using smaller jigs.