The top lake trout was a 34-inch, 11.4-pounder brought in by Rick Scholl. Second place in that division went to Steven Parnaby for a 31-incher that came in at 9.99 pounds, followed in third place by Rob Parks with a 6.9-pound, 29-incher. In the northern pike division of the event, first place went to Jeremiah Millington for a 39-inch, 14.9-pounder, followed by Chris Clarke with a 36-inch, 12.1-pounder and Rob Parks with a 34.5-inch, 11.5-pounder.
Ed Harrington took first place in the salmon division with a 4.6-pound, 24.5-incher. Second place went to Jason D'Angelo with a 4.3-pound, 25-incher; and third went to Louis Galarza with a 3.8-pound, 22-incher.
The largest perch prize went to Joe Knizek for a 1.9-pound, 15.5-incher and the top pickerel was a 4.8-pound, 26.66-incher taken by Stacy Pruesser.
Door prizes were won by Mike Shaw, Douglas Padgett, Ethan Tyrrell and Jim Maher.
Despite the statewide walleye, northern pike, tiger muskie and pickerel seasons having closed five days ago some anglers may still have a strong urge to head back out onto the ice for perch, crappie or other panfish. My only advice is to stay off unless you're convinced the ice is perfectly safe. We've had some warmer days and in some areas the ice will soon become too porous to be safe any longer. Ice lasts longer here in the North Country, but it doesn't last forever.
Northern pike normally begin spawning as soon as the ice begins to break up in earnest, generally in March and April, and that's why May, when the season reopens, is considered the best month for big northern in most North Country waters. Walleyes, on the other hand, generally begin their spawning activity when the water temperature reaches 40-45 degrees.
I'll give you a few quick hints that may prove helpful when bait fishing for early season northerns. This hint has proven its validity over years of fishing, chartering and note taking: if you catch a northern in a given area, don't abandon that area just because you've taken that fish; quietly give the spot at least 30 to 45 minutes to rest and then resume fishing again. There's a better than even chance you'll catch another one. I've found pike often run together in pairs (a male and a female), even after the spawn, and if one is caught the other will remain in the area for a while.
BAIT IS BEST
Also, the optimum size of bait for any northern is a minnow (preferably a sucker but even golden shiners will work) that's approximately one-third its own size. Hence the adage that the larger the bait, the larger the northern. Use a 12-inch minnow for bait and any northern you catch will likely be 36 inches or better. However, that's not to say that you can't catch a large northern on a smaller minnow. It just means you're more apt to catch a larger pike on a larger minnow. There are few absolutes in fishing but you can draw some generalities like I have if you take notes and/or have a good memory.
In most area lakes few people use bait for northerns, preferring to use buzzbaits, spinnerbaits, daredevles or similar lures. In Great Sacandaga, where I learned to fish for northerns and where I chartered for a few decades, fully 90 percent of my truly big northerns (over 40 inches) have always been taken on bait and I've found that's the best technique. Most bait shops in the area stock large suckers in May for that very purpose.
BUT NOT IN CANADA
On a Canadian northern pike fishing trip several years ago we used strictly lures. I didn't mind because it's an exciting way to fish for northern, but I asked our guide if anyone had ever tried using bait. He laughed and said, "Very few. For one, bait is very expensive hereabouts and secondly it just doesn't work as well as artificials."
I've had other Canadian guides tell me the same thing so when I'm heading up north of the border to do any fishing that may include northerns, I'm always sure to bring a goodly number of adequately sized artificials. Incidentally, my favorite lure for those critters is a buzzbait. No particular reason except I just like to see the strike of a northern as it explodes to the surface after one of my buzzbaits.
I suppose it's like seeing a flag go up on one of my tip-ups while I'm ice fishing.