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Fishing Articles by Colin D. Crawford

Deep Freeze Walleyes
by Colin D. Crawford

Walleyes are without a doubt the most sought after game fish in the Midwest in the summer. Now’s a good time too. Walleyes are often considered to be schoolers, but under the ice they seem to disperse into loose associations. Pinpointing them is often difficult, but catching one is like finding a piece of the puzzle.

Show me a lake with an hourglass figure and a few good walleyes, and I’ll show you fish. The key is in the narrows of the lake. Perhaps it’s the current, or maybe the bottlenecking effect. Needless to say the narrows are a walleye attractor second to none. Points with a good extension into deep water are a close second. Bays nearby are also worth plying.

With three distinct target areas to choose from. I like to pick a lake with a narrows, a major point extending out into the main body and adjoining bays sandwiched in between. It doesn’t matter what the target species is, a combination of these structural elements is going to attract some fish during ice up.

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. Light spinning tackle and 4-6 # test Tournament Strength line completes the tackle required to catch these ice bound walleyes.

Jigging walleyes is the most deadly method of all, if done properly. Proper size, color selection and action all come into play. Early season fishing I like to use a Jigging Rapala in chartreuse or silver and black and this past year I really liked using the rainbow trout color. I also spend a little extra time and put on the next size bigger treble hook. This additional size hook allows me to put the head of a fathead minnow on and still have plenty of play in the hook to jig a natural action and increase hookups with additional space between the shank and the barb of the hook.

It is a good idea to keep your jigging action down to a minimum. But, you also have to respond to the mood of the fish. If I find that the fish prefer to have a tempting morsel just quivered in front of their face then I will do that. Other times the fish might be attracted to the jig slamming into the sand and making a "plume action" that stirs up the floor of the lake. When the Genz Worm is on the bottom, impart a tapping movement to your rod. This causes the lure to "stir up" the bottom. Then raise the Genz Worm slightly. This works best on mud flats where the rising mud plume imitates natural baits, attracts fish, and triggers strikes. The constant jigging or jiggling will keep the lure from spinning. If allowed to merely hang, line twist will impart an unnatural spin to the lure. This is usually a method when you are fishing transitional areas where sand meets rock or mud.

Jigging action combined with sound of rattles has also been a new innovative method that has really worked well. This added sound and vibration many times attracts fish when they are turned off with other bait presentations. Always remember these walleyes want an easy meal.

Light conditions and weather are two over looked aspects of early ice fishing. Weather and time of day affect walleye activity in winter much the same way they do at other times of the year. As you probably already know, in the summer time most walleyes feed during low light conditions. The light gathering qualities of the walleyes eyes are far superior to that of the baitfish they prey upon. Naturally the walleyes use this as an advantage and feed during the dim light periods. Likewise, during overcast days they tend to bite more than during high skies and bright sunshine.

Weather is just as much a factor as it is in the summer time. When a storm is hitting the surface of the frozen lake the fish will turn off and usually will go through a "cold front" condition after the storm stops. The walleye likes to feed during stable weather and if you are planning that early ice-time walleye trip check the weather before and during your stay. Sometimes the approach of a winter storm will trigger a feeding frenzy because of the advancement of low light conditions.

With the cold weather I know that I am heading out to my favorite lake to see if I can get some walleyes for my deep freeze how about you? If you are in the Phelps area at all this winter stop by Guide’s Choice Pro Shop in Eagle River, WI 54521, and we will talk about where and when to catch some walleyes this winter.

This Fishing Article is brought to you by Colin D. Crawford

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