I’ve fly-fished for sails off Guatemala, hand-lined grouper in Panama, surfcast for stripers in Montauk, but for some reason, nothing gets my juices flowing like chasing a tiny orange flag across the ice. Hardwater fishing elicits serious anticipation of the unknown. In the Northeast, you can always count on the pike and pickerel to provide plenty of tripped flags. Here are my 5 best ways to ensure success:
1. Work Ledges
Chainsiders will gravitate toward a sharp drop from 6 to 12 feet in a 15-yard stretch. Set your traps along the changing slope at 10-yard intervals.
2. Fish Big Baits
Jumbo shiners and 4- to 6-inch perch or small sunfish get attention from the largest of water wolves. Clip your bait’s top fin for more frantic action.
3. Find Weeds
If you mark the bottom at 10 feet and weeds come up 3 feet, set your lines at approximately 6 feet. When actively feeding, both pickerel and pike patrol just above the weedline.
4. Fish a Creek Mouth
It’s a fair bet that both pike and pickerel will stage anywhere you find a creek outflow or inflow—especially during sunlight hours.
5. Live and Let Die
These toothy predators are notorious for sucking up an easy meal—any easy meal. Therefore, dead baits can be just as productive as live ones. Suspend a dead shiner bait with a sliding egg sinker a foot off or right on the bottom.