Fire Brine minnows taking pike through Great Lakes ice.

Fire Brine minnows taking pike through Great Lakes ice.

By Kyle McClelland | 02/27/2013

As the brutal cold winter weather saturates the Great Lakes it’s time to put chrome chasing on hold and break out the Ice fishing gear! Whether you are hitting up inland lakes or the Great Lakes the region is filled with many great ice fishing opportunities. While I spend most of my time targeting steelhead, recently my focus has shifted to pike and walleye here in Northern Michigan.

Fishing has been good for both species. However not all baits have yielded success. Thus far this season jigs tipped with shiner minnow cured in Pautzke natural Fire Brine are producing best.

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My first ice fishing trip of the year wasn’t one to brag about. In fact, after that slow outing I reorganized and began to employ other techniques. I was curious what would happen if I used brined minnows rather than frozen minnows out of the bag and doing so changed my success overnight.

I bought a dozen Blues (type of shiner minnows) and put them in a container. I then filled the container with Pautzke natural Fire Brine, ensuing the minnows were sunk in brine and then let them rest overnight in the solution. Being my first time brining minnows, I kept the minnows in the brine as I traveled out on the ice the next day and even until I used them.

I used a variety of Swedish Pimples tipped with shiner minnows. The results were stunning. I managed to land many pike and walleye. After a phenomenal evening on the Ice word of brining minnows didn’t take long to spread. It’s quickly become the norm around here.

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Cured shiner minnows play a huge role when it comes to Ice fishing. There are many advantages to curing minnows in Fire Brine. Brining minnows does many things to them. It tightens up the bait, shines up the minnow’s scales and makes the bait last much longer. I believe salt/sugar solution in the brine also bring a scent that the fish are attracted to.

My first few outings I’ve stuck to using natural Fire Brine, but with five other colors available (red, purple, blue, orange, chartreuse) I plan to experiment more in the future. Brining minnows this way is easy. I do the process the night before fishing. After purchasing the minnows place them in a container and fill it up with the Fire Brine. Make sure all the minnows are submerged. Personally, I seal the container. Within 6-12 hours the brine will have done its job. I choose to keep them in the fridge until fishing.

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There are many different ways to bait your jig. Sometimes I fish a whole minnow hooked in the back. Other times I hook it through the jaw, use a half minnow or even just the head. Normally, if pike and walleye aren’t very active I usually won’t use an entire minnow. When they are aggressive, meanwhile, I will use a whole minnow. It’s best to experiment and let the fish tell you if they want a whole, half or pieces of the minnow. Regardless, make sure to have a portion of a minnow on your jig. The scent factor from it is huge as is brining them.

Note: Kyle has also been using this technique on minnows for steelhead.

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