Walleye are known to be finicky eaters, and winter only makes this worse with the extremely low water temperatures. It also means much less structure for them to seek shelter and food as during the warmer seasons. Ice fishing for walleye employs some of the same warm weather techniques to entice a bite, as well as some new ones.
Finding walleye under the ice can be a long and tricky process. Walleye are still mostly found in areas that they were in the summer like slopes and rocky drop offs. During the early ice fishing period and right before thaw, walleye will be found in the shallower water just offshore in many lakes where the bottom has a slope or drop off. During the middle of winter walleye tend to migrate to the middle of a lake and stay close to the elevation changes there. When testing allocation, it is important to drill several test holes in varying depths to locate fish, also fish finders can be used to locate the fish more quickly.
Jigging is the best choice when ice fishing for walleye. Live bait such as minnows, leeches and night crawlers are used on a light weight jig head and bounced off the bottom. Repeatedly letting the jig land on the bottom then pulling it up 6 to 12 inches then letting it fall back down will often trigger strikes from walleye. It is a good idea to let the bait rest on the bottom for short periods every couple minutes as the walleye will sometimes prefer a sedimentary bait. Lures such as small spoons and spinners also work with moderate success through the ice. The lures have to be used vertically through the ice since the lure can't be casted out like normal, so the angler must pull the lure up then let it fall back down slowly.
Walleye are a medium size freshwater fish so your tackle should be heavier than standard pan fish ice equipment. It will require a medium action ice spinning setup that usually will range in length from 2 to 3 feet. Line weight should be from 4 to 8 pounds as lighter line can be used than what's used in summer because the fish are less aggressive due to the cold temperatures. Many anglers use line that is invisible even at shallow depths to lessen the likelihood of spooking the fish. Tip ups are a device that trips a flag that sticks vertically when something has taken the bait. It uses a standard line wheel and is baited normally. These allow anglers to cover a wide area especially to find walleye then they can concentrate on smaller areas.
Article Written By Matthew Knight
Based in Southwestern Michigan, Matthew Knight has been writing outdoor and technology articles since 2008. His articles appear on various websites. He holds a bachelor's degree in computer information systems from Western Michigan University.