As early January temperatures of minus 30 edged upward to plus 37 on january, many folks fishing on Juanita Lake, near Grace City, North Dakota, were finding success in their pursuit of northern pike. Except for a short pause, that is, on Sunday and Monday when fishing results throughout the region were, to say the least, mixed.
Two Methods Commonly Used for Fishing on the Ice for Northerns
Although there are other methods, the two primary methods in use now at Juanita Lake are jigging with frozen bait or by spear fishing.
Often one will work when the other fails to land the northern. January 10, was a day when spearing was landing the pikes, according to Kent and Blake Johnson of Grace City, Other than seeing one big northern pike pass under one of their six holes, the two had no luck on Sunday.
Days earlier, however, the two indicated several nice five- and six-pounders had been caught.
The fish that were being taken Sunday were primarily by spear instead of by baited hook, according to Kent Johnson. “The guy in the house next door got a couple nice pike.”
By the time Sunday’s temps in the low-20s had given way to Wednesday’s mid-30s fishing was reported to be picking up for both methods.
Although, as Jim Capossela states in his book Ice Fishing, northern pike are democratic in the type of bait these predator fish will strike and also are generally unconcerned with presentation methods. When using bait only, frozen smelt on treble hooks is probably the ideal method for jigging and seemed to be the common method in use at Juanita Lake.
Although northern pike are a bit more laden with bones than perch or walleye, they are usually larger and will put up a more interesting battle than other panfish. Fishermen and women seen at Juanita Lake east of Grace City and at Warsing Dam at Sheyenne in cold, windy weather during January, while wind chill was reportedly lower than minus 30 were testimony that this predator fish is worth suffering some anguish.
So far as bones go, Caposella offers an intriguing solution in his book. To avoid the ‘Y-bones’, “…fillet the fish, cut out the rib bones, and then grind up the meat for fish cakes or loaf.” Doing so will chop the remaining bones up so fine as to render them not noticeable.
Sources used for this article, in addition to Capossela’s Ice Fishing were conversations with Kent and Blake Johnson, an anonymous person spearfishing and reports provided daily to 7 Happy Bears in New Rockford, ND.