Walleye are one of the most sought-after fish that you can catch under the ice. There is no doubt that one of the top fish on any ice angler’s checklist is walleye. There aren’t many fish out there that make for great eaters, but also give anglers the chance to find a monster catch as well.
Most of the time when you are fishing for walleye, they can be as big as 12 to 15 inches long. Other times when you hit the ice, you have a chance to find a monster 20 to 28-inch walleye. While size may matter with other ice fishing trophy fish, you can’t go wrong with any sized walleye you catch. Be sure that your ice auger can carve holes big enough to fit large walleye through.
However, walleye are one of the trickier targets to fish for under the ice, and you’ll want to make sure that you are fully prepared before you set out. Throughout the season walleye act differently, whether it’s their activity levels or the depth they live at.
Once you start to understand the feeding habitats and other behavior of walleye, you will have a much easier time fishing for them. Catching walleye will become a lot easier once you learn how to exploit some of their behaviors.
Walleye Ice Fishing Tips
Best Time to Catch Walleye
The best time to fish for walleye is during the low light periods of the day. Fish for walleye about an hour before and after dusk.
This timing can depend on the type of ice that you’re fishing on though. If you are fishing on stained water lakes it is best fish while it is still light out, while on clear water lakes its best to fish after dark. This is because light flow is very important in fishing for walleye. Dusk, overcast days, and times where light is being disrupted are the best times to fish for walleye.
Times of low light are the best time to fish for walleye because this is when they feed. Try setting your bait in areas where their prey might congregate during these hours to try and get a bite. You can also try ice fishing at night to catch walleye. Night time is also a great time to ice fish for crappie, so you can find both species at once.
Where to Catch Walleye
To determine where to catch walleye you must first understand where they congregate during the winter months. It can be tricky, but walleyes placement in the lake can be determined by three different periods: early, mid, and late ice.
During the early ice, you will be able to find walleye in areas with deep water access and major structural elements. Since the whitefish and cisco haven’t finished their spawning yet and there is still a forage base, there is no reason for them to move yet. During this period, walleye prefer areas like flats that have points and drop-offs with rocks and pea-gravel.
Afterwards, during mid-ice the walleye will start moving out to the middle of the lake. Try looking in deeper water since it will be warmer. Mid-lake humps are the best places to look during this time of year.
Lastly, during late ice you will want to look for the places with the warmest water. Look for places like connecting rivers, streams, and runoffs, because they will be bringing in the warmest water. The reason why you want to find warm water is because walleye spawn during late ice and tend to do so in warmer waters.
Best Lures and Bait for Walleye
Jigs are a good place to start when fishing for walleye. Ice fishing jigs are great for attracting walleye, especially when tipped with a minnow. Tip the minnow right behind the dorsal fin to create a natural presentation to trick walleye into biting.
Use spoons by jerking the ice rod, quickly moving your line up a few feet then letting it drop back down. This should end up catching the fish’s eye and attracting them over to it. Try to tip these with a pinched minnow head.
A jigging Rapala lure works similarly to a spoon, but it is the more aggressive lure out of the two choices. Rapala jigging lures have a unique action when jigged that is known to attract walleye. If fish are biting aggressively then you may be able to use the lure un-baited, but it works well with bait too.
This is our most aggressive choice of lure for walleye. Without a bill, this lure can be jigged very aggressively, but it will always return to its horizontal orientation. For those who are fishing in darker or murkier water, you may want to get a lipless crankbait with a rattle to further attract walleye’s attention.
You can use live bait on its own, or tipped on the hook of an artificial lure. Real bait works great when ice fishing, because the scent helps to attract fish. When ice fishing for walleye, try using bait like minnows, minnow heads, small shiners, worms, and grubs.
Walleye Fishing Techniques
In most states you can use two line, which most people utilize when fishing for walleye. They will use one line to jig and one line will be more stationary. This is an effective method that can help attract fish and offer more opportunities for a catch.
One tried and true method for catching walleye is to pound the bottom. To pound the bottom of a lake, you want to bounce your lure off the floor of the lake. This process will not only attract fish because of the vibrations that it puts off, but also because of the sand it will kick up. This will make it look like common prey are nearby and will attract nearby walleye.
It is best to set your bait around 4- 8 inches off the bottom when you are fishing in murkier lakes. If you are fishing in clearer lakes, then you can set your bait anywhere from 6-20 inches off the bottom.
Walleye may be the perfect fish to target when you are ice fishing. They are usually abundant in most lakes, you just need to know where to find them. While they may change locations in the lake throughout the season, that doesn’t mean that they have gone away. With the right tips you will catch enough walleye to feed the whole family.