Pike are great fish to catch when spin and fly fishing, suitable for both beginners and advanced casters. So, don’t stow away the long rod until spring just yet. If you haven’t tried catching pickerel in winter, here’s how to do it.
Slow Your Retrieve: During an ice fishing trip, an underwater camera revealed the deliberate nature of pickerel in cold water. Despite the expectation of an immediate attack, the pickerel hovered, studying its prey before making a move. This observation emphasized the need for a more subtle approach in winter. Unweighted streamers like the Double Deceiver, Mini Drunk & Disorderly, and the Dirty Hippy, presented on floating fly line, allow for a gentle twitch and extended time in the strike zone.
Use a Strike Indicator: While slow retrieves are productive in winter, weighted flies can be effective when presented under a large, buoyant strike indicator like a Thingamabobber. This combination mimics casting a soft-plastic jig under a bobber with spinning gear. Flies like the Clouser Minnow, Lunch Money Shad, and the Flash-and-Grab, featuring weighted dumbbell eyes, work well with this method. A 1-inch Thingamabobber suspends a heavy pattern and can be adjusted for depth on the leader. Cast, let the fly hang in the water column, and intermittently strip to entice pickerel.
Fish the Warm Spots: Consider factors like time of day, depth, bottom content, and structure when fishing for pickerel. Focus on spots three to four feet deep near deeper water, areas with dark bottoms, or structures like downed trees that absorb sun heat. Despite the cold, pickerel remain active during short feeding windows, often correlated with a slight increase in water temperature. Spending time on local waters helps identify winter patterns, revealing banks and cover likely to hold pickerel during feeding times.
Catching pickerel in winter requires adjusting your approach and paying attention to their behavior in cold water. Experiment with different fly patterns, retrieve speeds, and fishing locations to discover what works best in your local waters during the colder months. Happy winter fishing!