Fishing & Boating News

Early Ice Walleyes

by: Ron Anlauf,

Ron Anlauf made time for this nice early ice walleye
Photo by courtesy Ron Anlauf
(Nov. 04, 2013 - Braham, MN)

There is plenty to be excited about when it comes to early ice walleyes. Reports about red hot action last fall were abundant with Lake of the Woods and Red Lake topping the list and a good fall bite means good ice angling. Both are on my radar, along with Winnie and a number of less publicized lakes that shall remain that way.

Smaller bodies of water typically develop good ice sooner than the bigger deeper variety with Red maybe being an exception. My guess is that the lake is so shallow that it cools faster and ice develops more quickly than say a Lake of the Woods or Winnibigoshish. The bigger deeper lakes have more masse to cool down and take longer. Then there's ice shifting which can really slow down the whole process and can mess things up for a big part of the hardwater season. It's a condition less likely to affect smaller lakes and something less expansive may be your only option for an early ice excursion.

Mobility is of course the key and why my posse and I use portable shelters and ATVs or snowmobiles to get around. Getting to where you want to go is a big key and has become so much easier with GPS and high definition electronic mapping. My Humminbird 597ci Ice combination Sonar and GPS was invaluable last season when it came to finding spots as well as finding fish. The bigger screen was perfect for revealing the detailed information on my LakeMaster Chip that I could see and then navigate to while running a sled at moderate speeds to potential hotspots, some of which paid off and some that didn't.

Even with all of that high tech gear you still have to find fish that want to bite and why once again it pays to be mobile. It's also why I spent most of my season in the new Eskimo Wide 1 which is a roomy and comfortable one man shelter that is super quick to set up and tear down. The less time it takes to move the more time you have to make some moves and to find the fish. New for this year is the Wide 1 Inferno which is fully insulated with even more room and you really do have enough space to work two holes and fit in your heater and fish finder.

Early ice hotspots include quick breaks on hard bottom but isn't the only option, especially when it comes to the smaller less popular bodies of water. Some of the better ones may be those that receive a fair amount of stocking and are more likely to be considered a bass/walleye/panfish lake. That type is likely to have plenty of weeds and could be where it's at for first ice. The deep weed edge near a hard bottom break is a likely hotspot as long as the weeds are still standing and haven't lain down. Weed beds along quicker breaks with harder bottom are where you're likely to find the greenest weeds. Weed beds in a soft bottom are more likely to lay down and die and be void of what you're after.

When you find the deep edge it would be a good idea to cut some holes up and down the break line and along the weed edge before it hits the fan. Working a weedline also means shallower water and keeping commotion to a minimum by precutting holes is a good idea to keep from spooking fish. Most of the action will probably occur just before dark and into the night and might be short-lived so it would be a good idea to be prepared. I did almost all of my drilling last season with the new Ion electric auger and it was amazing. Even when cutting through over two feet of ice the super electric never bogged down or ran out of juice and did it every bit as fast as the gas jobs.

Hot weed line producers include a jigging spoon like the Buck-Shot Rattle spoon tipped with a minnow head and is almost always the first bait down the whole when I'm looking for fish. Swim baits like the Jigging Rap and Northland Puppet Minnow are also phenomenal weed line lures and can produce more fish than the real thing. You can tip the bottom treble hook with a minnow head but you might not have to. Fish move to the weed edge for one thing and that's to feed and can be surprisingly aggressive.

The opportunities for getting in some good early ice walleye action are abundant and I can't wait to get it started! See you on the ice.

Ron Anlauf