By Mike Frisch
A great time to catch winter walleyes is during the month or so after when safe ice first forms. Walleyes now are often still feeding aggressively before the tougher bite of mid-winter usually sets in. Here are some suggestions for finding and catching walleyes during this often-productive period.
Finding walleyes is obviously a key to fishing success, regardless the season they are pursued. I target lakes at early ice that had a good fall walleye bite as the fall open-water action usually continues to early ice. On some of the shallow “prairie lakes” I fish, that usually means walleyes holding on the edges of flats with remnant weed growth.
On bigger, deeper lakes it often means targeting the points and turns along flat edges that drop into deeper water, or classic off-shore structure like sunken humps and islands. Some of the same GPS coordinates that mark productive spots from fall open-water fishing trips can often be used at first ice as well!
The afternoon “daylight-to-dark” period, is usually when the best fishing action occurs, regardless the lake chosen. If possible, it is best to try to get on the ice as early as possible to get holes drills, houses set, and lines in the water to avoid spooking shallow walleyes when they get active. Incidentally, this year I will be fishing from the revolutionary new hybrid wheel/skid CORE ICE house when pursuing walleyes through the ice. These are hard-sided houses, yet very lightweight so I can fish from the comforts of a “permanent” ice house while still having the light weight and maneuverability of a portable ice shelter.
Being on the right spot at the right time and fishing comfortably will up the odds for angling success considerably. The use of the right fishing lure is also important. For me, the right lure is a jigging spoon tipped with a minnow head. The always reliable Buck-Shot® Rattle Spoon is a “go to” jigging lure at early ice. The Super-Glo Perch pattern in the 1/8-ounce size has long been my favorite.
The last couple years, however, I have experienced days where spoons with a more fluttering action work well. Last winter I had a chance to sample the all new Glo-Shot™ Spoon. This spoon has a fluttering action when it falls, but comes with interchangeable Glo-Shot™ Sticks that add to the spoon’s attraction during low light periods, times when walleyes often bite best.
Regardless the lure chosen, both can be fished on medium action ice rods and I prefer line that handles well during winter’s cold. Floroslik is fluorocarbon coated line that resists freezing and stays limp and manageable in freezing conditions. Spooling with 8-pound Florosilk line is a good choice when jigging winter walleyes.
Jigging spoons are most productive when fished in conjunction with a winter sonar unit as fishing success and enjoyment go up when I can “see” bottom, the jig, and any fish that approach it. This allows me to raise or lower my bait and adjust the jigging cadence to the fish’s liking.
I’ve been using the new FLX-20 flasher sonar unit and am extremely impressed with its features and ease of use. Early ice walleye in shallow water can also, however, be caught by anglers using a more affordable unit like the classic FL-8SE unit. This unit does everything the early ice walleye angler targeting shallow water needs at a more affordable price.
This is a great time to head to your favorite walleye lake and target still-biting early ice walleyes. The suggestions just offered can, in fact, help anglers score big when it comes the early ice walleye fishing success!
Mike Frisch is a western Minnesota fishing guide and co-host of the popular Fishing the Midwest television series. Learn more by visiting www.fishingthemidwest.com or following Fishing the Midwest on Facebook.
Photo – The new Glo-Shot™ Spoon is proving to be a good producer of early ice walleyes!