W A L L E Y E   H U N T E R
Fishing Articles by Sam Anderson
Late Ice Fishing is the Best
By Sam Anderson
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.
Structure is as much the key to success for the ice fisherman as it is for the open water angler. Structures take many different shapes, but they share one thing in common, and that is they differ from the surrounding bottom enough to be noticed by the fish. The most common and most recognizable piece of structure is the point of land that extends from shore out into the water. Points create a raised portion of land beneath the water's surface, making it different from the surrounding bottom. These points extending from shore may be classified also as bars or reefs. Sunken islands and rock piles can also be ideal fish holding areas, and areas where you want to concentrate your efforts. Pieces of structure found in a migration route created by current from a nearby river that flows into a lake, can offer a choice hunting ground for walleye seekers, in winter as well as summer.
Although many structures ( such as points) can be visually located even in winter, others like sunken islands or underwater rock piles can be difficult to find because of your limited mobility. The need to drill holes to fish greatly reduces the amount of area that the winter angler can cover in a set amount of time. This is where technology is helping the ice angler out. The use of a depth finder and a GPS unit is essential for fishing on the ice. I know that I spend a great deal of time on the water in the summer time and when I find a piece of structure that has all the elements of good ice fishing structure, I will put it in my LCX-15-MT. When late season walleye fishing gets tough I will use a hand held GPS Lowrance iFinder unit and find that specific piece of structure. Some companies even have a hand held depth finder that will shoot through the ice and eliminate the need for drilling unnecessary holes.
Your lure selection might also have to change. Right now on many lakes the favorite is the Pounder and the Fat Boy (both made by System Tackle, a Lindy-Little Joe Company), which have a flat profile that reflects a sonar's signal easily. They are also made a bit heavier so you can stay in contact with the bottom. Attach a head of a redtail chub, or a shiner and it will have a natural scent as well as added flash. This will simulate a wounded minnow and turn those inactive fish into active ones.
One more type of lure that suspends the rate of fall is the Jigging Rapala. This type of jig has a swimming action and it darts as it falls. 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 walleyes.
Another tip to remember is 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.
Line becomes an important variable in late season ice fishing. Light line is good in early ice, but I prefer to switch to the heavier line in late season, due primarily to abrasion on the ice hole. Also because northern pike frequent walleye hangouts and this added tensile strength will give me an edge. I usually use Berkley Trilene XT 8 lb for these late winter excursions spooled onto a good spinning rod that allows me adjustable drag, because one never knows what monster will decide to take your lure.
Late season you will experience reduced prices on tackle and
lodging, uncrowded lakes, a slower pace and more personal services. The
ice may be a little thicker but the walleyes are going to be to hot to
handle. If it does get to hot to handle, let me know by dropping me a
line at www.samanderson.com. Hope to hear from you soon.
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Since August 1, 1998