Catching walleye through the ice means knowing how fish move during the day
Have you ever wondered how two people can fish the same lake and only one catches any fish? What’s the difference between those two people? In some cases, it’s luck. But, in most cases, it’s knowledge.
Knowing where walleye want to be at different times of the day is crucial to catching fish during the winter.
Walleye like to spend time in particular types of places. One such place is a point—a finger of land that juts out into the water. Walleye will often hang just off the point or to the sides of the point where the water breaks sharply. Another place walleyes like to spend time is near underwater structures such as large rock piles and bars. The edges of flat areas of the lake, particularly where there are steep drop-offs, often attract fish.
But, by mid-winter, walleye get harder to find. Walleye tend to scatter throughout a lake or flowage. This is when an angler has to think like a fish.
Throughout the year, during both the open water season as well as the ice fishing season, walleye have a daily movement from deeper water to shallow water and back again. At night, walleye tend to spend time feeding in shallow water. During the daylight hours, walleye tend to stay in deep water. During the “in-between” periods of dawn and dusk, walleye are on the move between shallow and deep water. This cyclical movement happens on nearly every body of water—winter, spring, summer and fall.
The walleye angler can use this knowledge to his advantage. Midday fishing should be focused on finding schools of walleye near deepwater structures. As shadows lengthen, anglers should set tip-ups in areas that fish are likely to pass through as they head toward shallow water—narrows, steep drop-offs and lines of underwater structure are good bets. By the time the sun has set, you should be fishing in the shallows. If you start fishing before the sun comes up, the process is reversed, with fish moving from the shallows to deeper water.
If you really want to maximize your chances of catching walleye, be sure to be ice fishing in the hours before and after dawn and the hours before and after sunset. This is when fish are on the move and feeding most heavily. Fish still bite at other times of the day, but less frequently.
So, start thinking like a walleye, and you’ll enjoy some good mid-winter walleye fishing.