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Walleyes on the Ice
By Sam Anderson
Walleyes are without a doubt the most sought after game fish in the
Midwest in the summer. Now’s a good time too. Walleyes are
often considered to be schoolers, but under the ice they seem to disperse
into loose associations. Pinpointing them is often difficult, but
catching one is like finding a piece of the puzzle.
Show me a lake with an hourglass figure and a few good walleyes, and
I’ll show you fish. The key is in the narrows of the lake.
Perhaps it’s the current, or maybe the bottlenecking effect. Needless
to say the narrows are a walleye attractor second to none. Points
with a good extension into deep water are a close second. Bays nearby
are also worth plying.
With three distinct target areas to choose from,
I like to pick a lake with a narrows, a major point extending out into
the main body and adjoining bays sandwiched in between. It doesn’t
matter what the target species is, a combination of these structural elements
is going to attract some fish during ice up.
I am not one of those ice fisherman that will sit
and sit waiting for a bite, in fact, one might say that I am really aggressive
when it comes to ice fishing. Oh, it is true that fish are sluggish
in the winter and you often need to tease them into hitting. Perch,
walleye, northern pike, bluegill, crappie, and trout are attracted to movement.
They respond to it automatically. In the warm months, trollers and
casters tend to catch more than stillfisherman. In the winter, about
the only movement you can create is a vertical hop or jig, but that is
better than letting your bait hang there like so much wet laundry.
Panfisherman especially like to wiggle those tiny
ice flies and teardrops tipped with grubs or waxworms. Originally,
most panfishing was done with light lines and small bobbers. Anglers
bounced the bobber up and down on the water, then waited for the fish to
bite. Many of these fisherman could tell you that they often times
have been bit and couldn’t have detected even the slightest nibble.
Always adjust your ice fishing presentation to the fish. For instance
if you have all the right conditions for a good bite (fish showing on the
sonar, stable weather, and rumors that fish are biting) use a technique
that will work on aggressive fish.
Crappie minnows fished near the bottom provide some of the finest mid-winter
perch fishing to be found anywhere. On good days, fish from 11 to
13 inches can be caught two at a time, as fast as the angler can get rebaited
and back to the bottom.
The typical "perch rig" two #6 snelled hooks attached
to the line 8 and 16 inches above a 1/2 ounce bell sinker, works well.
Some anglers use tiny spinner blades and beads on their hooks to serve
as additional attractors. Hooking a crappie minnow either through
the lips or behind the dorsal fin works equally as well.
The style and shape of the Techni-glo Genz Bug allows it to flutter as
it falls. This will simulate a wounded minnow and turn those inactive
fish into active ones.
||The perch aren't fussy sometimes striking bare hooks. Light spinning
tackle and #4 test Trilene Micro Ice is the smallest, strongest mono you
can fish. Its low stretch design gives you much better control of your
jig and increases sensitivity for quicker hooksets. This line is perfect
for fishing small baits with its ultra small diameter, is still strong
enough to pull a big northern through the ice.
Another type of lure that suspends the rate of fall is the the Jigging
Rapala. These types of jigs have a swimming action and they dart
as they fall. This will give the fish the impression that minnows
are darting and swimming towards them and escaping from them and it will
trigger a response from those finicky walleyes.
Remember to be conscience of the size of your bait.
The old adage that the "larger the bait, the larger the fish," will hold
true, but if the fish turn off, try a smaller size and you might be surprised.
Of course at this time of year it is hard to troll
to find active fish, but in a sense you can apply the methods that you
use in the summertime. Drill holes from the shallowest portion of
the structure you are fishing and then continue to drill holes at various
depths as the structure drops off into deeper water. Then instead
of “trolling” along the structure you can use tip-ups to cover from the
deepest to the shallowest point. Tip-ups enable you to cover more
water than you could with a minnow and float. A flag can be seen
from several hundred feet away. Most states allow you to use two
lines and if you have a number of fishing buddies with you, you can cover
the structure at various depths and in effect troll the edge of the structure.
When it is freezing outside and the walleyes are
biting drop me a line at www.samanderson.com
and we can compare notes and some techniques.