Sac, I usually use cut bait. Smelt cut into pieces works fine. The lakes I fish I usually find them in 7 to 16 feet of water and fish at various depths. Usually start at about a foot off the bottom and stagger my depths to about about 2 feet below the ice.
It's fun and cheap. I have tip-ups but usually just put a roll of line, hooks, and sinkers in my pocket. Cut some maple switches off the shoreline and I've got my rods. It's pretty easy to tell when you have a fish. I've also tied pieces of flagging tape onto the line so the wind moves the bait when the fish are being picky. An old fellow I used to see fishing had a secret that he used to catch fish when no one else was. He'd put a few drops of canned milk in his holes to give the fish the impression that fish were spawning.(that was his explanation) Seemed to work for him. I've dumped the oil off sardines down the hole to chum which at times pulled in the pickerel.
for ice fishing pickeral i use a couple technics. i run tip ups with whole live or dead smelt (depending on area and rules) and some times minnows or chub, similar to the guys above, anything from just off the bottom to just under the ice, in 2' minimum of water to the deepest of the channel. i'll often do a run of tip ups across an area of water, then concentrate where i'm getting the most hits. i also will work a swim bait, like a 5-6" storm in firetiger, to see which spot is hot. other times i'll use spoons, again for the hot bite (or just to do something to keep warm....).
hmmm, i don't like to mention my secret weapon, but if you'll keep it quiet...lol! - an airplane jig! use a big one, the size for a striper, and work it through the whole water column. this can get hits when nothing else will, but also gets a lot of smaller fish, which is why you need to use a big one.
just like in soft water season, time of day and brightness of day makes a big differance. pickeral like it bright, even in winter, and the bite definatley drops off after mid-afternoon - they still hit, just no where nere as often.
ps: i'll confess, i have another trick. it's called an auto jigger, but that's just what it's called. it's a battery powered thrummer that slowly works the gear up and down about 1.5" (so no actual jigging, it's just the name of the device - honest!). anyway, it can be a real pain to keep working, but it definatley attracks hits, often to the tip up closest to it too....just to make it interesting! great for using dead bait.
Thanks for the info fella's.... the dirty four letter word beginning with S will be here soon enough... just thinking ahead. Ipop.. your idea seems like alot of exercise lol.. i'm more the style of sitting beside the heater in the shack drinking coffee and a hot meal listening to the generator purr
so basically , chum the waters with a 1/4 inch hole in the sardine in oil can on line for a shake now and then and retrieval at days end, firetiger spoons with mini dead smelt, or burkley gulps for restricted waters for non native dead baitfish.... only way the canned milk will hit the hole is if i miss my coffee cup
Portable shacks are great, may take me a bit to find the proper depth for where i'm thinking of heading this winter ( hurts just saying that word ), but i'll find some 28 inches on a lil smelt rod.... I hope the reel blows up and the rod explodes on the first big Pick, i'll likely fall out of my chair laughing.. and thats what it's all about eh
Tight Lines Guys
sac, we had one hit a regular fishing rod we had set up as a tip up, held at a 45* angle by a pile of snow. when the big pickeral hit it, the rod flexed, popped up out of the snow...and headed down the hole!! jim did a running dive and saved it, with a nice 29" pickeral on the end. i've done this sort of thing myself, and i find pickeral hunting with tip ups a lot like playing baseball in the rain - wet with a lot of running involved! lol
i do wait in comfort if it's slow. i have a lap-o-luzury 2 man portable ice shack that is it's own sled - a great place for a hot fish meal while waiting for the next bite.