Outdoor Alaska: 'Pike hunting' with a spear taps into a sportsman's primal instinct

Published: Dec. 26, 2019 at 4:11 PM AKST
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Although shelters may look the same on the outside, inside of some tents, sportsmen are not using rods and reels but a spear to harvest northern pike.

Unlike traditional ice fishing where an angler drops a line down a hole around 10 inches wide, spearing for pike involves cutting an opening about two feet wide so that the sportsman can both see into the lake and drop the spear on a fish.

"We actually call it pike hunting, so I would honestly say it's more like hunting," said Gavin Gaffney, an avid northern pike fisherman. "I guess you could say there's something almost primal about it. Kinda bringing you back to your roots, as far as going after the animal with the least amount of gear."

Gaffney uses a decoy handmade in Alaska to lure pike to the opening in the ice.

The shelter is similar to standard ice fishing shelters but is designed to block out even more light.

"When you have light above you, it's going to make it extremely hard for us to see down to the bottom. Then at the same time, any shadows that may be created up top here are going to spook fish away," Gaffney said.

Gaffney says the method has become more popular in recent years, but it can still be difficult to find some equipment like ice saws locally.

"I think for somebody to see it opposed to just hearing about it can really light a fire under you when you see how much fun it can be," Gaffney said. "It's kinda like opening somebody's eye's for the first time to something new, but at the same time it's something they've been doing their whole life. It's just a different way of doing it."

In Southcentral Alaska, northern pike are the only fish in freshwater than can be legally speared. Many lakes have no limit for northern pike and have a mandatory kill when caught.

In parts of Interior Alaska, whitefish, suckers and burbot may also be taken with a spear. ADF&G regulations and emergency orders detail which fish can be taken legally with a spear.

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