I’m having a really good winter for walleyes this year. So good actually, that I felt it was worth some time at my desk to write about it. You know as they say, you’d rather be lucky then good…but knowing where to start really helps. Learning how to catch walleye in the winter isn’t really rocket science. It’s really a lot like open water fishing really. I often scratch my head when guys fish spots in the winter they would NEVER fish in open water…why? They really have the same traits, in my opinion, all year around.
Best Time to Fish For Walleye
In the wintertime, you’re typically going to have your best luck early and late ice. Now that doesn’t mean January and February are dead, because they’re not. I’ve just found walleyes to be the most active during the months of December and March.
And normally during a 24-hour period, you’re going to get the most action at first and last light. That means don’t sleep in…fish for walleyes early and late. As a general rule of thumb, if the water is stained, they aren’t as active at night. However, I’ve fished walleyes on really clear lakes and the bite goes all night long (with a slow day bite).
I tend to fish for walleyes shallow early, move deeper midday, then return to the shallows for the evening bite. This is the classic walleye pattern that usually holds true under the ice. What those depths are on your lake is the question, take some time to study your lake maps and look for clues.
Walleye Ice Fishing Lures
I could write for hours on my favorite walleye ice fishing lures…but since I’ve already written about my TOP 5 WALLEYE ICE LURES – I will give you a quick recap. You should have an arsenal of small to large spoons, and some jigging rap style lures to start. You’re going to want to tip them with a minnow head or a full minnow, depending on what you’re using. You can buy 100 magazines on winter walleye fishing and it all really boils down to that. Experiment and experiment some more…eventually, you’ll find your own go-to lures.
Walleye Ice Fishing Gear
I could walk into my local sporting goods store and walk out broke just on ice fishing gear. The selection nowadays is endless. But you really only need a couple things to get started.
First, you’ll want a good rod and reel. Like stated earlier, the selection of ice rods nowadays is very deep. But for me, I’ve already found what I feel is the BEST ICE FISHING ROD AND REEL COMBO. Feel free to check it out in detail, or I’ll break down my choice simply. I use NOTHING but Pflueger President PRESSP20x Reels. Simply awesome reels. And my choice of walleye ice rods is the Fenwick Elite Tech Medium Action Ice Rod (36″ in length). I especially like this rod for BIG fish.
Second. you’ll want a solid fish finder (a.k.a. Sonar). A good sonar has so many uses. Before you even talk about fishing features, it can shoot through the ice and get the depth without drilling (HUGE time saver). And not only does it help to actually SEE the fish on the sonar, but you quickly learn so much more about triggering bites. How would you know what worked otherwise???
Really, that’s it for walleye ice fishing gear. A good combo, sonar, and some lures/bait and you’re ready to hit the hardwater. Looking for a shack to go with it? No worries, check the classifieds on social medias and you’ll find a used one cheap.
Walleye Fishing Tips for Finding Schools
Another walleye rule of thumb in the wintertime is to fish shallow early and late, and go deeper during the day. Of course, there’s always lakes that can produce all day or all night but that’s where I start. I like to start by finding points, sunken islands, or structure that sticks out towards the main lake basin. Walleyes tend to hang out around this type of structure because it’s where they tend to find baitfish…aka…dinner. Of course, EVERY LAKE IS DIFFERENT. With that being said, look for bottlenecks around the structure that can funnel walleyes.
Early in the winter, I’m often SHALLOW…under 10 foot of water (depending on the body of water). And depending on the lake and time of year, walleyes could be found there throughout the day. As you can see by the diagrams below on my NAVIONICS APP.
Notice any patterns to where I setup? I like to choose areas where I feel walleyes have the best chance of moving through. It’s really that simple. Spend some time studying your local lake maps for these same types of areas.
A lot of wintertime walleye fishing is a lot like walleye trolling in the summertime. You can’t be afraid to move. Fish are on the move, and you should be too, especially if you’re fishing the basin or flats. But if you’re more of a docile angler, then stick close to structure and your time should come.
I can’t stress enough how enjoyable finding your own school of walleyes can be. Learning how to catch walleye to me is the easy part, finding them is the key. You just never know where you’re going to stumble across a school of walleyes, or maybe even a rouge BIG walleye. That’s the part that keeps me going to back to the ice every winter. The relentless pursuit of a fish that I have the utmost respect for…
Tight Lines everyone!