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Ice Fishing Guide - Finding Fish

| Bluegill | Crappie | Perch | Largemouth Bass | Northerns | Walleye | Trout |

Northern Pike

The northern pike is probably the best suited to ice fishing of all Nebraska gamefish. Northerns feed often and aggressively, giving fishermen a good chance of hooking one. They grow large, with 10- to 15-pounders common in some lakes, and they make fine eating.

Northerns are fairly well distributed across the state, but most Nebraska pike fishing occurs in Sandhills lakes and Box Butte Reservoir. Sherman, Swanson and Elwood reservoirs and Alkali Lake, where fewer but bigger fish are taken, are also popular.

Most fishermen use a fairly large hook, such as a No. 1 or No. 2 short-shanked single hook or a No. 1 or No. 1/0 treble attached to a steel leader one to three feet long. The steel leader keeps the northern's formidable teeth from cutting the line.

Tip-ups are the nearly unanimous choice among pike fishermen, although their rigs vary. They usually fill their spools with heavy braided line in the 20- to 50-pound-test range just in case they tie into one of the lunkers they dream about.

The best bait is a lively chub or large shiner hooked beneath the dorsal fin or a bluegill of about four inches. In some Sandhills waters where live bait is prohibited, a piece of red meat, a dead minnow or a piece of smelt is used.

Most pike fishermen have the best success by keeping their bait about one foot off the bottom. On occasion, pike prowl just beneath the ice, and it is a good idea to set one or two lines to hold the bait about three feet below the ice. If the deep rigs have been unproductive all day, give the shallow setting a try on all tip-ups.

When a novice sees the flag on a tip-up spring up, the natural first reaction is to run to the hole and haul back on the line as quickly as possible. But experience has taught veteran anglers that is a sure way to lose a fish.

When a pike first grabs a bait, it swims off with it a short distance. At that point the fish doesn't always have the bait completely in its mouth and any attempt to set the hook may jerk it free. When the fish begins its second run, set the hook with a firm jerk.


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