How to catch iced up ’eyes

The “mood” of the fish–aggressive, neutral, negative–is a major consideration in successful ice fishing. Good ice fishermen will find a way to trigger neutral fish into biting, and the best of them can trigger some negative fish into doing so.
Jigging walleyes is the most deadly method of all, if done properly. Proper size, colour selection, and action all come into play. For early-season fishing, I like to use a Jigging Rapala in chartreuse or silver and black, and this past year I really liked using the rainbow trout colour.
I also spend a little extra time and put on the next size bigger treble hook. This additional size allows me to put the head of a fathead minnow on and still have plenty of play in the hook to jig a natural action, and increase hookups with additional space between the shank and the barb.
It is a good idea to keep your jigging action down to a minimum. But you also have to respond to the mood of the fish. If I find that the fish prefer to have a tempting morsel just quivered in front of their face, then I’ll do that.
Other times, the fish might be attracted to the jig slamming into the sand and making a “plume action” that stirs up the floor of the lake.
When the Genz Worm is on the bottom, impart a tapping movement to your rod. This causes the lure to “stir up” the bottom. Then raise the Genz Worm slightly. This works best on mud flats where the rising mud plume imitates natural baits, attracts fish, and triggers strikes.
The constant jigging or jiggling will keep the lure from spinning. If allowed to merely hang, line twist will impart an unnatural spin to the lure.
This is usually a method when you are fishing transitional areas where sand meets rock or mud.
Jigging action combined with sound of rattles also has been a new innovative method that’s really worked well. For this I will put on a Rattling Hooker from Lindy Tackle. This added sound and vibration many times attracts fish when they are turned off with other bait presentations.
Always remember these walleyes want an easy meal.
Light conditions and weather are two overlooked aspects of early ice fishing. Weather and time of day affect walleye activity in winter much the same way they do at other times of the year.
As you probably already know, most walleyes feed during low light conditions in the summer. The light gathering qualities of the walleyes’ eyes are far superior to that of the baitfish they prey upon so naturally thy use this as an advantage.
Likewise, they tend to bite more on overcast days than during high skies and bright sunshine.
Weather also is just as much a factor as it is in the summer time. When a storm is hitting the surface of the frozen lake, the fish will turn off and usually go through a “cold front” condition after the storm stops.
Walleye like to feed during stable weather so if you are planning that early ice-time walleye trip, check the weather before and during your stay.
Sometimes the approach of a winter storm will trigger a feeding frenzy because of the advancement of low light conditions.
Fish small lakes at the beginning of the ice fishing season, then move to larger lakes later on. This is governed by oxygen in the water. In addition, smaller lakes freeze sooner thus extending your ice fishing season.
By far, the best winter angling on Mille Lacs, Lake of the Woods, Rainy, Leech, and countless other Minnesota lakes occurs from first ice through mid to late January.
Fall is a great time to “pre-fish” for ice fishing spots. Use your electronics to locate concentrations of suspended fish–they’ll usually be there later under the ice. On larger bodies of water, use your GPS to mark these spots (a GPS is useful for marking spots you might not return to for some time).
As ice fishing guru Dave Genz has said many times, ice fishermen have to continue “thinking fish” during the winter. Don’t put your “fishing knowledge” away with your boat in the fall.
Most summer anglers have progressed beyond their grandparents’ ways of fishing, however, many of them revert back to it when they get on the ice.
Following these suggestions, and jigging more next time you hit that frozen lake, will help with success on iced up walleyes.

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