For the 2016 ice fishing season, one of my goals was to do a bit of research on fishing water bodies in other regions of the province of Quebec, that aren't too known for their pike, but that have had confirmed catches of big trophy sized pike in 20 lbs range. These waterways do exist, it's just a matter of doing a fair bit research, getting in touch with people that you know have caught some big pike in those regions, and last but not least, checking the regulations.
Some regions in Quebec are completely closed for fishing during the ice fishing season, but have exceptions for certain lakes where it is permissible. Other regions have open seasons during the winter, but many lakes in those are the exception and are closed to ice fishing. Yet other have certain rules for certain species that differ from the given zone. Basically, make sure you are fishing within the regulations, and better yet, print up the rules for the zone you plan to fish and bring them along just in case...
Though I typically target pike under ice towards the end of ice fishing season when they are easier to find, we decided to give it a shot at the end of January. Having never been to the waterbody we planned to fish, we didn't know what to expect, as far as parking, depth, structure, etc. Makes it all the more adventurous.
After drilling to confirm the ice was safe (about 11 inches), we made our way to a nearby shoreline, and drilled our holes at various depths. Having never targeted pike this early in the season, we set our tip up lines with big dead minnows at various depths ranging from 5 to 15 feet in depth, and then drilled some deeper to allow us to jig for panfish while waiting for the pike to hit our lines.
The perch action was decent, with most in the 7-8 inch range. We weren't planning to keep any under 9 inches, and did manage a couple over that size, as well as a couple 8 inchers that were throat hooked and wouldn't have survived. Most perch were caught jigging small spoons and Rapala Jigging raps.
Shortly before 11 AM, our first pike line finally for hit. Though I had explained Ari what to do, he had never fished a tip up before, and fumbled the hookset completely. I was a bit frustrated with him, but we reset the line hoping the pike would come back. It never did.
We decided to change spots after 12:30 PM, due to the lack of any more pike action. Walking close to shore, I found a small feeder creek feeding into the ice, and drilled to find we were on a shallow flat. As the first pike had hit our bait in 6 feet, we concentrated most of our lines near that depth, mainly 5.5 to 7 feet.
As we were still drilling some deeper perch holes, one of our line got hit. Ari and I rushed over, and this time, he made no mistake, getting a solid hookset with the quick strike rig I made. Handlining a big pike if quite different from catching one on a rod, you really need to be ready to release pressure between your fingers when it decides to make a powerful run. Luckily for him, it only made on strong run, before Ari managed to bring it's big head up to the hole. Next, I coached Ari on how to ever so carefully guide it's head up the hole with snagging the ice or horsing out the hook. When he finally got the big pike's head up the hole, I was ready with a pair of fishing gloves, and grabbed the jaw, hoisting out the biggest pike I had ever seen landed on ice.
We measured the big pike at 39 inches, though a bit on the thin side at only 13.5 lbs.
We released the pike in good shape, it kicked it's tail and swam off instantly, hopefully back to fight another day when it's had time to grow some more.
We didn't manage any other pike hits for the rest of the day, but our mission was accomplished, as we had managed a bit bite and made it count.