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Extending the Walleye Bite
By Jason Mitchell
Usually, ninety percent of the fish are caught during ten percent of the time we are actually on the ice. There are windows of opportunity. More often than not, the low sun of morning and or evening signal this opportunity.
There is a prime time when everything happens so to speak… that window where walleyes are on the move and eating. When this opportunity does present itself, traditional and aggressive presentations can work better than anything. A fish that is running a predictable route is easy to find and fish that are eating every thing they can catch are fairly easy to catch. Real aggressive presentations like Chubby Darters or blade baits might shine in this scenario. For tweaking some of the somewhat aggressive fish, some of the more traditional swimming lures and spoons tipped with a minnow head maybe all you need many days. The actions and moves may be pretty straightforward as well. Hard rips and snaps might bring fish in for example while hard pounds and other subtler bobs get the treble hook to rock and stop spinning just long enough to get gulped down. The bites feel like punches at the lure. The bottom line is that when the bite is on, the hits are easy to distinguish and the fish often seem to react fairly positively to any move you make.
The reality is the bite is never on forever. At best, we might have a two-hour window in the morning or evening where the fish are fairly aggressive. What we have found is that many anglers are geared and can catch aggressive walleye during this prime time but are often too stubborn to make the adjustments as the sun gets higher. We can catch many more walleye by extending the bite beyond when the fish are cruising and eating during low light conditions.
The morning bite on the water we fish for example can often taper in intensity. The action just doesn’t flip off like a light switch but rather tapers off. The fish will be hot and aggressive for a short period of time before you enter a period of time where there are fish still lingering around, showing up on your electronics but just much harder to trigger. Often, the aggressive presentations still bring these fish in but these fish seem to put on the brakes just at the moment of truth before sinking back down to the bottom.
There is another window of opportunity for catching fish that revolves around the manic movements of sunrise or sunset that shadows the prime time event. Before or after the mayhem, we can often continue to catch fish by making the right adjustments. These adjustments are using presentations often associated with perch or panfish. Many anglers have a hard time mentally making this adjustment. A teardrop packed with wax worms for example can be the hottest ticket on the ice once the sun gets higher. Some anglers catch walleyes on these panfish offerings and assume the fish is a fluke, wrong. We have found that we can fool fish into gulping down these tiny offerings when they ignore traditional walleye tackle that is 'suppose to work.' Basically, we can extend our window of opportunity. Instead of picking off a few aggressive fish at sunrise and sunset, we can continue to trigger fish over a longer period of time. We can often catch fish much later into the morning for example. A Lindy Fat Boy for example tipped with a minnow head is my go to bait when fish start showing up and not eating. The small stuff isn’t a cure all presentation or even a presentation to start the day with. But when you are on fish and have passed through that prime time so to speak, you can often pick off a few more fish by scaling back and down to presentations often intended for panfish.

Editors Note: The author Jason Mitchell is a highly respeced ice angler and legendary guide on North Dakota's Devils Lake. Mitchell has also designed a premium lineup of ice rods endorsed by Ice Team, www.jasonmitchellrods.com.

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