Late winter and early spring is the best period of the year ice fishing for Northern pike around Montreal. You can usually find safe ice until the season closes on April 1st, although the surface often tends to have a thick layer of slush or even water on it due to warming temperature above freezing. A good pair of waterproof boots and snow pants are essential to keeping dry.
Pike spawn during or immediately after ice out, in extremely shallow, weedy bays. By the end of March, they have usually started the migration toward the spawning grounds, and can often be found congregated near those areas.
Despite the ice cover usually being about 2 feet thick that time of year, we routinely manage to catch them in 3.5 to 5 feet of water, which translates into a shallow 1-3 feet of space to present the bait. In that narrow range, the bait is presented right in front of cruising pike.
As Quebec no longer allows the use of live bait, we use a mix of store bought frozen smelt or mackerel, which in addition to being readily available, also diffuse a strong, oily scent trail under ice.
Fished under flag mechanism tip ups such as HT Big Game or Polar Thunder models. Once the lines are set it's just a matter of time until the hungry pre-spawn pike find your offerings.
The season closes for most game fish species next weekend, and with warmer sunny conditions forecast for the next 7 days, I hope to get out again for one last shot at some ice fishing before the open water season begins.