By Dan Kiazyk
We have all read the articles on when, where, and how to ice a favorite quarry, ‘ol marble eyes. Information as a whole has been desseminated as never before with regards to ice fishing walleyes. In effect, anglers are more effective than ever on the ice. There is even a new “humility”, present when major publications are saying that at certain times of the year and in certain types of lakes, walleyes are going to be hard to catch no matter how good an anger you might be. It is in light of this huge “opus” that I would like to make a few suggestions that might enhance your attack on any given lake.
Having a knack for ice fishing does come all at once. Being able to do it well comes as a result of years of being chilled, frostbit, frozen, blown around etc. But herein resides a good point... there’s always something to learn. I like to look at ice fishing in a four-fold manner. Each of the first three components; location, presentation and bait will be conditioned by the “time” of the ice season. This approach to frozen water is somewhat less than revolutionary. With regards to the first factor “location” I really feel that movement is a good thing and if you don’t have a snowmobile, which enhances your mobility enormously, you can at least drill 20 holes and run a “trap-line” while angling. Another component that I’ll include as a part of this component will be a tip up, set at the hole furthest from where I’ll do the majority of my angling. Having a different presentation is a key on most days; some days the fish show a real preference for one presentation as opposed to another.
Undoubtedly modern electronics and knowledge of the species has made the location part of the game a bit more predictable. But let’s say you don’t have a $400.00-$500.00 dollar ice unit, moreover you don’t ice fish that often – which suggests a subtle critique counter the proponents of the capital intensive fishing approach. Where do you go? Firstly, look for other shacks…. Fisherman are there for a reason. Moreover, with reference to other anglers and their locations; sometimes I’ve done well locating away from them but still in proximity to the “pack” – try be a red herring once in a while...it might work for you. Secondly, look for other distinguishable elements on shore that might suggest appropriate structure elements: points, neck downs, outlets, inlets, and islands. Any or all of these will give you a decent point of departure. Points have a tendency to offer structure favorable to walleye. Islands offer structure where little or none exists
Presentation, the second component will be a significant consideration, if you are to have a successful day on the ice. Some very well known authors have suggested that there are three groups of tackle, which if used in different situations will certainly increase your odds at icing walleyes. Flash lures, jigging lures and jigs are the three types of lure possible in any given time of the ice season . One suggestion with regards to these groups is that they may be understood as being far more fluid than just the three categories mentioned above (variations and hybrids exist --- and the action imparted to a lure will also change its effectiveness in any given season). At the beginning of the season, more active lures will shine while in the middle of the season the slowest will be best. The Rapala style of jigging lure can bridge the gap between the two. Of course any of these can be used to produce an effect that the other is capable of producing. The difference however is that each has a strength that needs to be capitalized upon. The time of day can also require the use of a particular piece of the tackle. Early in the morning and late in the evening will be when walleyes are most active. Almost any lure applies. Tipping with a minnow head or adding a live chub will also enhance bites. During the day a two-fold approach will most often be the most productive - a jigged line and a still line. Having both will give a reading on the fish’s mood and what they want. That perhaps is central to a successful approach: the fish will tell you what they want... adjust or go home!
Bait, finally, will make a difference in some instances and in others it will be of no import. The trick is to hook up bait in ways that triggers fish to bite. Try tail hooking or a hook through the back just behind the dorsal fin and in some instances lip hooking works just fine. If your bait is large enough, trimming will change the motion of your bait, perhaps making it act like a wounded fish, fish they often prey upon. In those places where a stinger hook is not illegal, two tail hooked minnows, one from a jig and the other from the stinger hook seems on occasion to elicit aggressive strikes from fish. On other occasions, the difference might be a salted minnow – the salt being the different factor appealing to another sense. Maribou and plastic are the last two materials that remain possibilities for enticing fish to bite. They are not commonly referred to in ice fishing circles but they do have qualities that anglers have known for years as being attractive to fish... Why not give them a try? Bait during the ice season is definitely an important component in the success of an outing.
Icing 'eyes remains a task at once simple, but complex, fraught with challenge or unusually easy. Your challenge, however,
rests within the angler and what level of investment you are willing to put in at any given time. Most important is giving the fish what they want and avoiding giving them what you want. Finally if you do happen upon a hot bite, it is important to be selective with your catch - let some go… remember those walleye have survived an incredibly hostile environment and those are genes that are worth keeping in that lake’s gene pool! We all want to go back next year and catch some more!