Contributor: Jeff Andersen/Andersen Brothers Outdoors
“Where did you catch that monster?” “I would dream to catch a pike that big!” “That must be some fly-in lake?” “You caught all those huge pike in one trip!” Those are just a few of the comments I hear when showing off pike images from our winter fishing trips. What if I told you that if you truly wanted to catch the pike of your dreams it wasn’t that hard? It isn’t!
Pike fishing through the ice has been one of my favorite species to chase for over 20 years and truly one of the most enjoyable experiences throughout the ice season. It’s really about the process that makes it so special. Imagine getting a group of friends together, setting a huge spread of flags, cooking some food, enjoying some good conversation, and then a flag goes up! Someone yells, “FLAG!” and everyone runs. The best part is you just don’t know how big that fish is going to be on the other end. That’s winter pike fishing in a nutshell.
Now you might ask where and when is the best opportunity? I have fished all over the Ice Belt and I can tell you that Manitoba, specifically Buffalo Bay, has some of the best opportunities. It’s easy to drive to, there are lots of big fish, and to top it off the walleye and perch fishing can also be off the charts! Buffalo Bay is located in Manitoba on the West portion of Lake of the Woods. It’s really a small portion of what makes up this massive body of water but don’t let that fool you, it’s loaded with fishing opportunity.
Traditional pike fishing is an easy way to fish but also super effective. In short this means you don’t need to spend a gazillion dollars on catching a monster pike through the ice. A tip-up, a good quick strike rig, some dead bait, release tools, an auger and away you go. March is typically known as the best time but there is great opportunity throughout January and February. During that time frame you just have to concentrate on a little deeper water. The great part about this time of year is you can set one flag and then utilize your second line and jig for a walleye or perch. We have had some fantastic days catching walleyes, perch and pike all in one day! When asked “How deep do I start?”, I always respond with “Let the flags tell you where to go!” That is the beauty of a large spread of flags. You can cover a large area and gain information in a short amount of time.
We have seen the amazing success from ‘catch and release’ in the past years with large trophy fish. The fish we are catching are truly special and we can only encourage you to be very selective in your harvest. To add, being prepared at the ice hole means having good release tools accessible! The most valuable part of catching the monster pike is the monster pike itself, so without good release tools you are taking a chance at harming one of the gems. It takes many years for this fish to get to this trophy size so let’s take good care of them. Here is a list of must have release tools: a good hook cutter/bolt cutter, long nose pliers, jaw spreader, measuring tape, and hook out tool. With these you should be set. Have these tools ready when the flag goes up. Don’t leave them in your truck or fish house and run to the flag, land the fish, then look around yelling, “get the release tools!” Have them in a bucket or tool box and bring them with you to each and every flag. Land the fish and please don’t allow the fish to roll around on the ice. Have a plan once the fish is removed from the water. Someone is in charge of hook removal and photography. If you have a plan this will help with the chaos of when that monster comes through the hole. Also let these big fish go! You can get beautiful replicas made.
There are two main locations to stay; Buffalo Point Resort and Silver Birch Resort. Buffalo Point is located right on the Southside and has lake access. Silver Birch sits on a small lake called Moose Lake just a mile or so off of the North access of Buffalo Bay.
This winter put your hands on a big pike by heading North for an experience you won’t ever forget!