Mouthing The bait

Mouthing The bait

Mouthing the Bait – Northern Pike

Limited Edition of 200, 20″ x 24″ – $160.00

Open Edition  8″ x 10″ – $30.00


The silence is broken by the sound of an ice auger drilling a hole through ice formed over the water’s surface during freezing temperatures. As the auger pushes through to the water below, the engine revs then settles back to an idle as the throttle is released. As the auger is withdrawn from the hole, water, snow and ice overspill the opening. The icy sludge is cleared from the hole as the water within the cylinder moves up and down and finally comes to rest. Now the opening connecting the water beneath the ice with the air above is ready for line and bait.

Above the weight on the line a steel leader with a treble hook is attached. The sucker minnow is hooked with two barbs penetrating as deep as the lateral line. The barbs are rotated upward just beneath the dorsal fin. The line with the bait is lowered through the hole until the weight reaches the bottom, and with the line taut, the bait floats above the bottom. Several wraps of the line are put around the neck of the beer bottle which is placed as the edge of the hole. The line from the neck of the bottle is attached to a wooden dowel which has several more wraps of line around it. The dowel straddles the hole on the surface and causes the line coming from the bottle to course downward into the water from the center of the hole. The line and bait are ready, and all again is still and quiet.

Northern pike most often wait in ambush. With water temperatures cold in winter, the pike’s metabolism is slowed considerably. Rather than striking from and then withdrawing to a patch of weeds with speed and force, the pike in winter often approaches slowly first mouthing the bait. Like a dog with a bone clamped crosswise in its mouth, a pike grasps the minnow bait in the middle and by the back, closing shut its powerful jaws. Often the pike holds position with its fins slowly treading water as the body floats close to the bottom like a suspended log. For some time it may remain relatively motionless as it mouths the bait.

In the composition, “Mouthing the Bait”, the northern pike subtly pulls on the line causing the bottle to topple into the hole and the line around the neck to uncoil. The slack in the line takes the pressure off the line so the baitfish seems less encumbered and more natural. Under this condition, the pike is less likely to be alerted and drift away. Undisturbed, the pike will eventually release the baitfish and swallow it head first. When this happens, the pike will often retreat to its hiding place with several powerful strokes, and the line reels off the dowel as it spins and jumps on the surface. The toppled bottle indicates that the pike has mouthed the bait. The spinning dowel signifies that the pike has hold and is running with the bait. Ownership is to be contested. Will the pike steal the minnow, or will the pike itself become the prey? The outcome is never certain. When played to a draw, the baitfish is retrieved and the pike goes free. Neither pike nor man gains the wanted ownership.

Mouthing the Bait