There are many ways to target walleyes at last ice but
across the board, areas that have some kind of current are
usually productive. Any kind of area that bottlenecks or narrows
down is an area that often coincides with some sort of current.
Bridges are another obvious bottleneck. The problem for the
ice angler however is that current often means bad ice or
no ice. I wouldn’t recommend any angler to fish right
next to open water or take chances on bad ice. There are times
however when anglers can play with the flame without getting
burned. Deeper troughs that run into the bottleneck area that
has current are sometimes safer as this current disperses
and slows down. Ice thickness should be checked frequently
however and I would advise you to not take chances. This is
not a scenario where you want to leave a permanent house because
good ice can deteriorate quickly where there is current. As
the days get longer, some of the first open water often forms
around bridges and other areas that force current through
a smaller channel. Other areas that often see some sort of
current come last ice are feeder creeks. Again, stay away
from the main channel where the current is going to be the
strongest and keep your self positioned on safe ice.
||Usually, there is enough safe ice close enough to where
you have to fish where you can fish safely and productively.
Regardless of bottom content or even depth, current will
usually attract walleye during this time of year. Perhaps
coincidence, these types of areas that have current also
seem to have the right kind of bottom substrate for walleye
to spawn. As the winter days become longer, fish begin
to arrive on the scene. Typically, males begin to arrive
in force before the females but most of the time, most
winters… the females are somewhere close by. There
are times where the males for example might be shallower
or more aggressive right at sunset while the females seem
to be holding deeper or move in shallow to bite later.
Sometimes both males and females are mixed together on
the same program. Often however, both sexes are doing
a similar drill but some minor differences might exist.
Often, the males are just more aggressive while the females
might have to be coaxed a little more.
Fishing current is a slightly different ball game in the
sense that you have to make some adjustments and compensate
for the current. When the water is moving, getting big fish
up through the hole can be extremely difficult. Often, seasoned
anglers will drill their holes at an almost 45 degree angle
pointing downstream. This enables anglers to turn and get
decent sized fish up the hole much easier. Another factor
to keep in mind is that current will sometimes pull your jig
or lure out of the cone angle of your Vexilar. Often, anglers
have to compensate by drilling a second hole down stream from
your lure in which the transducer is placed. Generally, fish
that are using moving water are very bottom orientated. These
fish are usually pinned right on the bottom. Often, the only
indication of a fish sliding in is just flickering or movement
within the red zone of the bottom itself.
Lure selection can become more complicated in current as
well. The wrong lure profile may have a tendency to swing
off the bottom. From my experiences, strong current keeps
the presentation very simple and straightforward. Get something
that will drop as straight down as possible and keep this
presentation as close to the bottom as possible. Often, swimming
lures and thin diameter jigging spoons won’t fit this
bill. Simple ball head jig heads are one popular presentation
for pinning a minnow close to the bottom while fishing current.
Some current situations like described above are fairly obvious
but fish location relating to current can sometimes seem not
so obvious. Narrows or necked down areas between two lakes
might not have an obvious or strong current flow but the current
might be evident by the bad ice or lack of ice in the narrow.
Many narrows are spanned by either embankments or bridges
where the ice is almost always bad. Despite this constant
movement of water and bad ice, there is usually good ice a
short distance away and while this current might not be noticible,
the bad ice near by gives away its presence. In these types
of situations, we don’t have to make any adjustments
to how we fish because the current isn’t strong enough
to alter our presentation.
There doesn’t have to be much current to attract fish
and the steadier this current, the better. Discharges that
pump for a few days might be a feast and famine scenario but
the steady movement of water that occurs between a bottleneck
happens all season. These kinds of locations are often good
fall walleye locations and this current can be attractive
to fish during other seasons as well but the use of these
spots often picks up in intensity from last ice all the way
through to the beginning of May. You can just about bet where
some walleyes will be at last ice. The question arises as
to whether or not you can reach these fish by ice.
Editors Note: The author, Jason Mitchell is a legendary guide
on North Dakota’s Devils Lake and designer or Jason
Mitchell Guide Series Ice Rods, www.jasonmitchellrods.com.