Lake of the Woods Late Ice Pike

Water Body

One of the best things about taking part in In-Depth Outdoors is the constant and free-flowing exchange of fishing knowledge passed about the website forums, TV, and YouTube. Whether Pro-staff or a member with only 5 posts, everyone has some nugget of fishing experience to share. This past week, I had the chance to observe just a slice of that in-person, as IDO headed up to Lake of the Woods en masse to film our final ice-show of the season. I won’t ruin any surprises, but we were a group of 10-strong, including: James, Cal Svihel, Will Roseberg, Dave Koonce, Quintin Biermann, Bryan Meyers, Ben Brettingen, Ben Larson, Pat McSharry, and myself. We all took the ice together in pursuit of giant late-ice pike, and we ate, slept, and drank hardcore fishing every waking moment.

Not everyone can know everything about every bite, but everyone coming together can really solidify a gameplan. My experiences with big pike are scattered from Lake Pepin and backwaters fishing, up to Upper Red Lake for bruiser summer fish up against the reeds chasing walleyes. However, the only pike I’ve ever caught on Lake of the Woods have been by accident. Enter Pat McSharry. He got called “Bemidji’s native-son” on Facebook last week, so I’m going to run with it, and his proximity to Lake of the Woods has him with many years’ experience chasing big pike through the ice up there. Pat got a hold of his favorite large dead-bait, and with James’ help, we had some pretty dandy Pike rigs with which to adorn our offerings. All of them were hand-tied, and will be shown on the episode, but basically they consist of two equal-length sections of 80lb Sufix Floro leader material (, tied off to a swivel at the top, and each attached to a #2 VMC Sure Set Treble ( We added beads and blades for some extra flash/color, but for the most part, that completed arts and crafts hour at the cabin before heading out to chase pike the next day.

The best part about tip-up fishing quickly turns into one of the worst. Nothing gets your heart racing more than flags flying on-ice, but setting the hook and hand-over-handing trophy pike can be tricky. These fish run, and have tons of power, giving you the choice of extremely heavy line (Pat uses Masonry Twine, think rope more than line) or something a bit smaller in diameter that digs into your hands which never heal. We gave a new product called the I-Fish Pro a try, and couldn’t have been more impressed. The system relies upon fighting the fish with your own fishing rod, and consists of a tip-up-like piece of equipment. You first put on a bobber stop, and slide that to the desired depth of the rig, then attach their clip just below the bobber stop, and the other end of the clip to the flag trigger. Put the rod in the holder with an open bail and the trap is set. As a fish takes the bait, the attached clip trips the trigger and the flag flies while the pike is able to take as much line as he wants. Get to the hole, flip over the bail and “grease-‘em” as James would say. I can’t imagine a more fun way to tackle giant pike than with laker rods and a singing drag!

The other part of the equation is always location, location, location. We fished several pieces of structure, and they all had a number of things in common as it relates to pike activity this time of winter. Spawning pike are making their way from main lake structure towards the shallow river inlets and back bays where they spawn, though it’s not a mass exodus of any kind. These fish make their way to these locations over the course of weeks, and just like finding a good hunting spot, deciphering pinch points, ridges, and edges that concentrate travel are what it’s all about. The pike were definitely following contours, and the tip of an underwater point in 8-10 feet of water certainly would push them out around the end of it. That made these points perfect ambush areas for us to set up a spread of our baits. We had even heard of fish being caught up next to some of the more popular pike spawning rivers, so as long as you were somewhere in the vicinity within a few miles and on a travel route, you were likely to be bit. The best part? This pattern gets re-lived on every great pike fishery known to man previous to the big spawn up and coming.

For now, I’ll have to leave it at that. If you’ve ever considered tackling trophy pike during late ice, make sure to check out the show this weekend, Sunday 8AM on FSN. There’s quite a few surprises I left out, and the sheer size of the fish we catch should turn some heads!



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Joel Nelson

From the big water of Chequamegon Bay in Northern Wisconsin, to the prairie ponds of the Ice Belt, to the streams of Yellowstone, Nelson has filled an enviable creel with experience, reeling in bluegills to lakers, walleyes to stream trout. Full Bio ›


  1. pike fishing has been and most likely will be a sickness that I will not get over, and being from north central Indiana its a fact are fish don’t get near that large. I have read everything I could get my hands on if it related to pike my goal is a 20+ pound fish from home waters to many 18/19s to count but I have only been at it for 35 years or so, you can bet I,ll watch this one

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