Upon arriving to Brian's house, the night before, I was eager to hit the ice and try out this technique that was catching big pike. I had read a few articles about this presentation and after seeing some of the pics that accompanied the articles and I was impressed. I mean sure I was questioning the technique just because most of us know that you can use a hot dog for a few species of fish but Northern Pike? Really? So Brian and I prepared for the next mornings adventure on the ice on his home lake located in Northern Illinois.
The next morning we were stoked. We got all the gear loaded up and head to the local grocery store for some hot dogs and snacks. I already knew I wanted to get some Vienna Beef hot dogs ($5.63/pack) because they tend to be a greasier type hot dog and I thought since the pike love Alewife and Smelt due to their oily scent and taste this was the right choice. I also wanted to get some cheaper hot dogs that were of the bargain bin variety as well to see if there was a contrast between the 2 different types come game time. I ended up getting some turkey hot dogs ($1.67/pack) and almost considered getting a cheese center brand but decided against that in the end and bought the Vienna Beef and cheap turkey hot dogs. We loaded up and headed to the launch.
We arrived at the launch in anticipation and unloaded rather quickly and parked the truck. Brian headed out 1st to drill a couple holes to check the ice for our walk to the potential spots on the lake. After reviewing the ice and seeing that the ice is at least 6 inches thick we headed in the direction of the spots that we were looking to hit first. There was some variance for the most part from 6 to 8 inches but the ice seemed alright. There was some slush on the top of the ice in spots that were a bit disconcerting at times when you encountered them since it would give you a feeling that your foot was going through the ice but that was just the top layer. In some spots you would actually feel your heart stop for a quick second until the hard surface of the top sheet of ice came in contact with your boot. Luckily we were both wearing waterproof boots and from the looks of the weather forecast it would get worse as the day went on reaching into the 40's(f). Of course warm weather makes for a comfortable experience when ice fishing but works against you since when ice melts it becomes water and can be unsafe at times. Moving on...Brian had drilled a bunch of holes around this point that had a depth of about 5-7 ft. We already knew that there was some grass beneath us and that was a good place to start for pike. Brian was fishing for crappie and bluegills to fry up later. I on the other hand was hell bent on getting a pike on a hot dog. I quickly set up a tip-up near one of the points at the farthest position in about 5 feet setting the hot dog about a foot off the bottom. I set my other tip-up about 50 yards to the left off the point where it gets a bit deeper in about 7 feet of water at about a foot off the bottom. Brian headed out a lot further to a spot that was about 20ft deep. I could hear him yelling out, "Fish!" at a steady rate after a while so I decided it would be a good idea to move the tip ups. I worked my way towards where Brian was since he obviously has located the schools and I'm sure there are pike following them. I set up in a spot not too far from the ice shanty and sat with the gear for a while and them moseyed on over to the ice shanty to hang out with Brian since it was bit warmer in the ice shanty. I kept my eye on the tip-ups form where I was through this 4in x 4in screen for air to circulate and of a sudden I saw my rod in the hook set position and I ran quickly to the tip-up. I carefully removed the rod from the tip and made sure that there was still weight on the line and there was. I tightened the drag and swiftly set the hook and the fight was on. At first it was easy to bring the pike up but once it saw the hole it took some drag and boy did it. The pike took a couple runs and I could feel that this was a good size fish. I got it up to the hole and finally saw it and was excited. It was a 26in pike that had some weight and looked like it was gorging on the smaller schools of bait fish. I was excited that the hot dog actually worked and we could have pike tacos for dinner. It kinda reminded me of being a kid again. These are the moments that I chase as I search for species in the depths. I'm always willing to try different techniques and when one of them works its a great experience. Hot dogs will indeed catch pike on the ice.
By Jay Randall