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.
When looking for a productive perch lake, I usually look for
a lake that is large. It seems that in order to grow the jumbo
perch you need a lot of water. For example, Mille Lacs Lake
in Central Minnesota is perfect for these dandy jumbo perch.
Also lakes like Devils Lake in North Dakota are great because
the large lakes are not subject to fishing pressure and anglers
will not really hurt this prolific fish. These fish are so
prolific that on a normal large lake anglers probably won't
make a dent in their population.
Never spend too much time in one place. When it requires some
effort to make a move sometimes it's just easier to sit and
wait for the fish to come to you. With all the innovations
in ice-fishing gear, making anglers more versatile and more
mobile, it makes sense to have an attitude that will have
you moving, searching for active fish.
The key to ice fishing as it is in any fishing is location.
For perch and other game fish, try long tapering points; inside
channel turns; rock humps, neck downs, and structure near
spring spawning areas. Use the sonar to spot fish. Try submerged
brush piles and blow downs for crappie and bluegill. Watch
the screen or flasher. You can actually see fish appear on
a graph. Sensitive sonars track your lure so you can put it
right in the fish’s face. I have seen a mark appear
on the sonar screen while reeling in a lure. A pause and the
mark moved closer to the bait. A twitch of the wrist brought
a powerful strike. A heart-racing fight put a nice jumbo perch
on the ice.
After about five minutes of this type of action I was ready
to move to a new location, when all of a sudden I noticed
a wide flash at about 20 feet. I quickly released the spool
and watched the Minnow Spoon sink to about 18 feet. The perch
immediately rose to the lure and I tightened the line and
set the hook. A nice jumbo perch poked its head into the hole
in the ice and I was off to a great day of ice fishing.
What I try to do is to drill a series of holes along a particular
structure. I will start shallow and drill a couple of holes
about six feet apart. Then I will move along the breakline
of this structure until I reach a depth of about 22 feet or
so. Depending on the weather I usually like to start in the
shallow areas to see what type of activity is there first.
Then I move along my series of holes until I reach a productive
hole and the active depth.
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 perch aren't fussy sometimes
striking bare hooks. Light spinning tackle and 8# test Original
Stren line completes the tackle required to catch these delicious
Your lure selection might also have to change. Right now on
many lakes Techni-Glo Frostee Jigging Spoons are hot. The
style and shape of the Frostee Jigging Spoons allows it to
flutter as it falls. This will simulate a wounded minnow and
turn those inactive fish into active ones.
Another type of lure that suspends the rate of fall is the
Lindy Flyer. These types of jigs have a swimming action and
they dart as they fall. This will give the fish an impression
that minnows are darting and swimming towards them and escaping
from them and it will trigger a response from those finicky
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
to 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 bee
seen from several hundred feet away. Most states allow you
to use two lines and if you have a number of fishing buddies
you can cover the structure at various depths, and in effect
troll the edge of the structure.
Late season ice fishing for walleyes can be tough, but with
a little practice and mobility you will find fish and success
if you keep these tips in mind.
For more tips on fishing walleyes on the ice look me up on
the web at www.walleye.info. Hope to see you on the water