Last week I was sharing with you the steps we are taking to get ready for when the pheasant season ends on Jan. 1. That was getting our spearing houses ready to hit the ice.
Trying to spear a pike is a low probability effort. Many times, you will expend lots of energy and never even see a fish.
Cutting a 3-by-5 hole in the ice is not very hard when the ice is six inches thick, but it is a bugger when it is 28 inches thick. You can use a gas ice auger and drill lots of holes. Then you use an ice tongs to pull the ice chunks from the hole.
Some spearers will use a chainsaw with no bar oil in it to cut holes. This also works, but small 2-cycle engines and cold temperatures are a challenge for me. Others will drill a few holes and then use a manual ice saw to cut between the holes. This also works OK if you are in good physical condition.
So, when the hole is open and a big house or portable tent is set over the hole, the fun can begin. Spear houses are also called dark houses. There are no windows and the doors are constructed so no light can peek through the hinges or opening. By keeping the inside of the house completely dark, your eyes adjust to the darkness and this allows you to see better down into the water. Most dark houses are painted black on the inside.
Once you are set up, you will be able to better tell the clarity of the water. Most spearing takes place in very clear water. If you don’t have that, you can compensate by dropping some egg shells or potato peels down the hole. With those on the bottom of the lake you can get better depth perception and can see the outline of the fish with the lighter colored backdrop. Please check local ordinances, because this tip is not legal in all states.
So, the house is set up and you can see the bottom. Just how do you get a pike to swim under your house so you can try to poke him in the head with a spear?
Three distinct methods are used, and there is a large separation of opinion between these three methods depending on who you ask.
The first and the most traditional method utilizes the use of a store-bought or hand-made spearing decoy. These are generally plastic or wooden replicas of small fish attached to a string. By pulling the sting, the decoy will move upward and then glide slowly in a circular motion until it comes to rest again just above the lake bottom. Pike will swim over to check out the new intruder in their living room. Some will come in slow. I call those submarines. Others will attack and try to eat the decoy. Those I call a hot fish.
Hot fish are harder to spear as they don’t tend to hang around the hole for very long.
The second method is a sucker harness. This is a special rig that holds a 10-12-inch-long sucker chub with no hooks in it. They swim around in the hole and this also attracts pike. I see lots of decoys used but not many sucker harnesses. Keeping large live bait fresh in super cold temps is challenging.
The last method and the one most hated by traditional decoy users is called a teaser. This is a battery-operated unit that, when rigged up slowly, spins a dare devil or other flashy spoon. It rotates the spoon very slowly. Fish seldom attack these spoons. They just inch in ever so slowly again with the intent of checking out what was not there just a minute ago.
Fish attracted using this method are generally slow-moving submarines. The fish might hang out several feet away for extended periods of time. When they do come in close they tend to be almost stationary. This makes a successful throw of the spear easier to complete. I have watched fish for 20 minutes that never did come in close enough to make an attempt.
Spearing has been equated to sitting in a tree stand with a bow waiting for a giant white tail deer to show up. Lots of preparation and many times not much action.
In the southern pike zone of Minnesota, you can only harvest two pike per day, and they have to be more than 24 inches in length.
The spearer has to be careful not to kill a fish that is too small. There are lots of other interesting aspects of spearing, and I will share some of those with you next week.