By Bob Jensen
Interest in fishing for walleyes is growing and diversifying. One thing that remains the same when it comes to walleye fishing is that lakes in some regions are going to freeze over in the winter months. The walleye enthusiasts that live in the areas that see ice get especially excited about fishing through early ice for walleyes. When you’re sure that the ice is safe, here’s how you can catch walleyes early in the ice fishing season.
Start looking for early season ice walleyes in the same areas where you caught them late in the open water season. If the walleyes were there in late open water, they’ll usually still be there, at least for a while. Points, sunken islands, and the edges of flats will all produce.
If you’re fishing shallow water, a quiet approach will be most productive. Shallow water walleyes, and fish in general, can get spooked by too much noise or commotion overhead. On the other hand, if you’re fishing deeper, say fifteen feet or more, you can move around without as much risk of spooking the walleyes. However, it works best to pop a bunch of holes along and over the structure before you start fishing. Get the noisy activity out of the way before you drop a line.
Different anglers have different ideas about walleye fishing through the ice. Some like to sit on a spot and hope the walleyes come to them, others like to move around and try to find the fish. Here’s a good rule-of-thumb: Early in the season sit still or move a little. Wait’em out. As the season progresses and the ice gets thicker and the snow cover increases, the angler who moves around will get more action.
A spoon of some sort is what many anglers use for early ice walleyes. Actually spoons are a big part of a walleye angler’s arsenal the entire ice season. But spoons have different characteristics, and those characteristics appeal to walleyes in different ways.
Rattling spoons are very popular. In stained water, the rattling noise helps fish find your bait. In clear water, the rattle will attract fish from farther away. The new Rattlin’ PT Spoon has a painted hook that adds to the flash.
A spoon’s design and material that it’s made of will affect how it falls. Spoons like a Ribbon Leech Flutter Spoon, as the name suggests, has a distinct flutter as it slowly falls. A Pinhead Spoon is built to fall faster with less flutter. Both have a very important role in fishing through the ice for walleyes.
There’s no doubt that sonar will enable us to catch more fish. There are times when a walleye will come in and look at your spoon but not eat it. The sonar reveals this. When the fish looks at your spoon but doesn’t eat it, it will often eat a minnow on a plain hook. When you initially set up on a spot, drill two holes. Work the spoon under one hole, put a minnow under a bobber down the other hole. When the walleye comes in and looks at but doesn’t eat the spoon, they’ll often eat the minnow. Vexilar makes several units that enable an angler to see an expanded area of the water column, and that is going to help us turn the lookers into biters.
Some very accomplished ice-anglers feel the early ice period is best for ice fishing. Find out for yourself how good this early ice action for walleyes can be.