Ice fishing walleyes during the early ice period is a productive sweet spot between the fall feeding period and the late winter doldrums. McKeon Roberts explains how he locates productive walleye spots through mapping and forward-facing sonar — mapping gets you to the spot and live imaging determines if they’re worth fishing. Roberts then targets walleyes using spoons and a minnow head. The formation of safe walking ice marks this productive fishing period, and walleyes are still vigorously biting with a heightened metabolism.
KEY TACKLE AND EQUIPMENT
- LURE – VMC Tumbler Spoon, 1/8-pounce Glow Blue Shiner
- ROD – 13 Fishing Widow Maker (out of stock)
- REEL – 13 Fishing Kalon C 1.0 Spinning Reel
- LINE – Sufix Invisiline Ice Fluorocarbon, 5-pound
- ICE FISH FINDER – Humminbird ICE HELIX 7 G4 Series
- LIVE IMAGING – Humminbird ICE HELIX 9 MSI+ GPS G4N MEGA Live Bundle
- MAPPING – Humminbird LakeMaster Plus Digital Charts
- MOBILE MAPPING – Humminbird FishSmart App
Walleyes, being low-light feeders, typically become most active at dawn and dusk when they can see better than their prey. Low-light windows are also when you get the best sense of whether they are actively using an area. When there are many spots to choose from, you need to pick one and wait to see if the walleye show up — if they don’t, there’s usually little time to relocate with the bite window closing. Forward-facing sonar allows you to effectively run from hump to hump, quickly checking entire areas to locate forage and predator fish.
In summary, here are McKeon’s 4 tips to locate and catch early ice walleyes:
- Use mapping to identify productive spots.
- Employ forward-facing sonar (if equipped) to quickly scan spots looking for life (baitfish and predator fish).
- Focus fishing efforts during low-light periods — this requires getting out early enough in advance of prime bite windows so you can apply steps 1 and 2.
- Use baits with glow finishes to add attraction to your presentation.