Some Pike Take Time
by Daniel Kiazyk
Well the story goes something like this: I had always wanted to catch a large Pike through the ice and I decided to make a project of this at a nearby Lake. The particular Lake in question is Clear Lake in Riding Mountain National Park in the Parkland area of Western Manitoba. The Lake has a very good reputation for some large Pike. I felt obliged to at least to give it a try and to see what kind of large Pike this Lake actually had. My approach was to take my time and to develop a strategy through experiences I would have on the lake. As with anything that is worthwhile …sometimes you've just got to put in your time.
The Lake and Its Stories
The Lake itself has an interesting history of angling for big pike. It wasn't that long ago that tournaments held on this Lake would often see some very large Pike caught and brought to the scales. Generally the folks who would win any tournament on clear Lake would be those people who could locate and catch whitefish but every once in a while someone would win with a monster size Pike.
A couple of my colleagues at work had had good luck on this Lake for Pike and would tell stories of monster Pike that had been caught by themselves or by other people they knew. Hearing the stories would even get me that much more excited about getting out there and catching one of those big critters myself.
My first forays on the lake were more or less information gathering sessions. Initially not having a knowledge of the forage based as well as what the fish were doing at different times of the year left me at a disadvantage. Over time I arrived at the conclusion that big pike move down deep in the summer months and during the winter under the cover of ice they would move all over the Lake. There are also certain periods of time when we would seem to see greater numbers of larger pike when ice fishing… early and late season. After a few forays (during early season and late-season) I basically arrived at the conclusion that I wasn't going to catch a big pike unless I was going to put my time on the ice --- I would have to have a blue-collar work ethic on the ice if I was going to catch a big pike on this lake.
The latter conclusion about having to put in my time was also bolstered by the fact that someone that I had known for some time who had fished clear Lake for quite a while had caught many of his big pike through the ice. An interesting story he always tells about the lake was that after his first big pike was pulled through an 8" hole he decided to buy at 10 auger just to make playing another big Pike through the ice that much easier. To his surprise and of course his delight he would pull a number of other large fish through the ice during the first season with that new auger.
Working with as much information as I could gather and after having built my own shack (with the view to seeing what was happening in this ultra clear world beneath the ice) I decided to put in my time and see I could catch one of those monster Clear Lake pike. My first winter on the ice was very interesting for number of reasons. It turned out that I wasn't successful catching a big Pike but I did have a lot of success catching smaller pike and numerous whitefish. Watching and catching whitefish gave me an idea about how I might catch a larger Pike. It seemed to me that there was an important relationship between these two fish. Many of the whitefish that we had caught that first winter had had bite marks on their bodies. If I was in an area where there were a lot of whites it was my impression that it would only be a matter of time until we would catch a large pike.
Well my prediction and wasn't that far off as my fishing partner was able to catch about a 40 inch Pike towards the end of that first year. He had been fishing in very shallow water, about two feet in-depth. His objective that day wasn't to catch a large pike but he was spending the afternoon having fun catching some whitefish. All of a sudden, of course, and unexpectedly, along came a monster pike…… after a brief struggle the fish was subdued, measured and photos were taken. The problem, however, with this large pike was that it had been caught in such shallow water that my friend was unable to put the pike back in the hole from which it was caught. The pike's snout would catch in the Lake's bottom and the fish could not be put through the back into the lake. The fish was finally released back to the Lake after another fellow who and then there drilled another hole further out through which the fish could be put back into the Lake.
Well when I heard this story my ambition to catch one of Clear Lake's large pike was renewed but…..
I guess it should also be said that much of the time I spent on clear Lake that second year was not necessarily put in fishing for pike --- I have this tendency to have an interest in other species. A lot of the time that second season on this Lake was spent watching its wonderful walleye. The lake is gin clear which allows the angler to do something you can't really do in very many lakes in southern Manitoba. It is an every day occurrence to watch walleye come in on your hook and take it in clear sight. I was so fascinated by the walleye bite in this Lake that after a period of six weeks of watching their different moods and the different means by which they took the bait I offered that I would end up writing an article about how walleye actually bite. The lessons that I learned watching walleye bite in this Lake actually gave me a whole different perspective on what you're doing when you're jigging and how walleye respond to that jigging.
Well to get on to the main part of this story there was still a big pike to be caught. And once again with a new season we decided to move our ice shack back out onto the Lake into an area where we believed a large pike could be caught. On the first occasion out on the ice for this third season we would set up our shack and try to get in an hour or so of fishing time. To our delight in came a couple of whitefish, and a little later as the light dropped a bit more a smaller pike came by to see what we had to offer.
Our first trip out to the lake was great but it would only be eclipsed by our second trip. On this occasion we decided to go up to the lake to spend the last few hours of the day. On this occasion we decided not to use the shack because floodwater had risen on the lake and had made it somewhat difficult for us to make use of it and to not get wet. Our plan instead was to go fish a drop-off off of a smaller flat to a point where the Lake dropped into 20 to 25 feet of water. To find this particular drop-off it is necessary to drill a number of holes. Our holes had been drilled from approximately 22 feet to that shallow were flat which rose up to about 9/10 feet. One of us decided to fish deeper, another fished the shallowest area and I decided to fish the pivot between these two areas --- a traditional fish magnet. With my Vexilar tuned in.. (and it's not necessarily the most effective device in shallower water) I was picking up the odd whitefish coming in to see my particular offering on that day. Initially I would catch a medium-size whitefish, and then had a number of other fish come into see what I had to offer.
It was just about that time when the sun was going down that I had a fish enter into the cone of my Vexilar but not in any sustained manner as you would see with the whitefish. The indication that was given on the Vexilar was that this fish would only approach my offering on the outside of the cone and then it would disappear. This particular fish was just coming in on the bait taking a swipe at and leaving the area very quickly and repeatedly over a period of five minutes. Finally the fish and yes you guessed it ---- a big pike took my offering and the fight ensued.. But what was unusual about this particular fight was that at the beginning the fish really did fight with typical pike aggression but as the fish approached the hole it started to take longer and harder harder runs. Finally and perhaps the most difficult part of any under ice battle to fish turned quite easily up the hole and allowed me to make a grab to raise the fish from the water.
To make a long story short this fish had come after some years of concerted effort. It was somewhat ironic that this particular fish came after so little effort…. But that's only appearance as we had worked hard and long to establish the where the when and the how for big pike on this lake.