Riege: Changing Conditions for Iced Walleyes

Published 7:55 pm Wednesday, February 1, 2012

As winter ice fishing progresses some tactics have to be changed. Early in the season the action is fast and as the ice gets thicker and the days colder the fish have a tendency to slow down and move. In fact, in most bodies of water mobility is crucial if you want to stay on fish. Fish small lakes at the beginning of the ice fishing season and move to larger lakes later in the ice fishing season, where there is more oxygen in the water. In addition, smaller lakes freeze sooner thus extending your ice fishing season.

Structure is as much the key to success for the ice fisherman as it is for the open water angler. Structures take many different shapes, but they have one thing in common, and that is that they differ from the surrounding bottom enough to be noticed by the fish. The most common and most recognizable piece of structure is the point of land that extends from shore out into the water. Points create a raised portion of land beneath the water’s surface, making them different from the surrounding bottom. These points extending from shore may be classified also as bars or reefs. Sunken islands and rock piles can also be ideal fish holding areas, and areas where you want to concentrate your efforts. Pieces of structure found in a migration route created by current from a nearby river that flows into a lake, can offer a choice hunting ground for walleye seekers, in winter as well as summer.

When I am looking for a lake to ice fish, I like to go to a lake that I am familiar with. I know where the dropoffs are and the weedbeds, but probably the most important structure are the rock piles. The early winter pattern will have the fish moving around in the shallower water and they are still aggressive and feeding, but it’s not like you can just drill a hole anywhere and catch fish. Therefore, I also use a handheld GPS to find the location during the summer and fall months and mark these areas so that I can return to them during the wintertime.

Effective scouting may require drilling a lot of holes. If you fish a weedline early in the year it might take several holes to find the area the walleyes are in, and of course they move along the weedline so it is important to stay with the fish as they cruise the shallows in search of food. Fish the Lindy’s Veg-E-Jig™ along weedlines, weed edges and pockets. The front eyelet position and slender profile allows the Veg-E-Jig™ to slip through all weed vegetation without the frustration of snags.

Jigging ice-time walleyes is the most deadly method of all, if done properly. Proper size, color selection and action all come into play. Early season fishing I like to use a Lindy Pounder jig in chartreuse or silver and black and this past year I really liked using the rainbow trout color. I also spend a little extra time to put on the next size bigger treble hook. This additional size hook allows me to put the head of a fathead minnow on and still have plenty of play in the hook to jig a natural action and increase hookups with additional space between the shank and the barb of the hook.

It is a good idea to keep your jigging action down to a minimum. But, you also have to respond to the mood of the fish. Jigging action combined with the sound of rattles has also been a new innovative method that has really worked well. For this I will put on a Rattl’r spoon. This added sound and vibration many times attracts fish when they are turned off with other bait presentations. Always remember these walleyes want an easy meal.

Light conditions and weather are two over looked aspects of early ice fishing. Weather and time of day affect walleye activity in winter much the same way they do at other times of the year. As you probably already know, in the summertime most walleyes feed during low light conditions. The light gathering qualities of the walleye’s eyes are far superior to that of the baitfish they prey upon. Naturally the walleyes use this as an advantage and feed during the dim light periods. Likewise, during overcast days they tend to bite more than during high skies and bright sunshine. Keep in mind that small diameter line will work best in these light conditions especially Stren 2-4 lb. test line.

Therefore, Lindy Little Joe has added the fish-attracting power of glow fluorescence to its popular Fat Boys, Flyer and Genz Worm ice fishing jigs. Available in four living colors, these Techni-Glo™ jigs are essential for fishing dingy water, at night or when fish want that “something extra.” Techni-Glo™, give them a try, you will up your odds by trying something the fish have not seen.