Ice fishing for walleye is a popular winter pastime enjoyed by many anglers. The thrill of catching a big walleye through a hole in the ice is a unique experience that every angler should try at least once. To help you get started, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to ice fishing for walleye.
Before you head out on the ice, it’s important to understand the habits of walleye. These fish are known for being finicky eaters and can be difficult to catch. However, with the right gear, bait, and techniques, you can increase your chances of reeling in a big catch.
Our guide covers everything you need to know, from the essential gear you’ll need to stay warm in cold weather to expert tips for finding the best spot to catch walleye. We’ll also share the top 5 baits to use when ice fishing for walleye and important safety precautions to take while on the ice.
So, whether you’re a seasoned angler or a beginner looking to try something new, this guide has everything you need to know to make the most of your ice fishing experience. Keep reading to discover the ultimate guide to ice fishing for walleye!
Understand the Walleye’s Habits to Catch More Fish
Walleye is a prized game fish that is notoriously difficult to catch, even for experienced anglers. Understanding the walleye’s habits is crucial if you want to increase your chances of catching this elusive fish.
The walleye’s behavior and habits change depending on the time of year, water temperature, and weather conditions. By knowing where and when to fish, you can improve your chances of catching a walleye.
Walleye are known for their nocturnal feeding habits. They are most active during low light conditions, such as dawn and dusk. During the day, walleye are more likely to be found in deeper water, near the bottom, and in areas with cover such as weeds, rocks, or drop-offs.
- Walleye have excellent vision and are attracted to bright colors and flashy lures.
- They feed on a variety of prey, including minnows, crayfish, and insects.
- Fishing during feeding periods can be highly effective in catching walleye.
Walleye spawn in the spring, usually in shallow water near rocky shorelines, sandy flats, or gravel beds. The males arrive first and establish territories before the females arrive.
- Walleye prefer to spawn in water temperatures between 42-50°F (5.5-10°C).
- Their spawning behavior can create a feeding frenzy, making them easier to catch.
- However, anglers should avoid fishing in areas where walleye are actively spawning to avoid disturbing them.
Walleye behavior changes throughout the year, and knowing these patterns can help you find them.
- In the summer, walleye prefer cooler water temperatures and can be found in deeper water.
- In the fall, walleye feed heavily in preparation for the winter, making them easier to catch.
- In the winter, walleye are less active and tend to stay near the bottom in deep water.
Understanding the habits of walleye can make all the difference in catching more fish. By knowing their feeding, spawning, and seasonal habits, you can improve your chances of success on the water.
Essential Gear for Ice Fishing in Cold Weather
If you’re planning on going ice fishing for Walleye, it’s important to have the right gear to stay safe and comfortable in cold weather. Here are some essential items to consider:
Ice Auger: A good quality ice auger is necessary to drill holes in the ice quickly and easily. Consider getting an electric auger if you’re looking for convenience.
Shelter: A shelter is a must-have item to protect you from the harsh elements. You can choose from a variety of portable shelters, including flip-over shelters, hub shelters, and cabin-style shelters.
Ice Fishing Rod and Reel
- Ice Fishing Rod: Choose a rod that’s sensitive enough to detect light bites and has a fast action for quick hooksets. A 24 to 30-inch medium-light to medium-power rod is ideal for Walleye.
- Ice Fishing Reel: Choose a reel with a smooth drag system and a high gear ratio for quick retrieval. Look for a reel that can handle 4 to 6-pound test line.
Ice Fishing Lures and Baits
Lures: Jigging spoons, jigging Rapalas, and blade baits are effective lures for Walleye. Choose lures that are 1/4 to 3/8 ounce in weight.
- Baits: Live minnows, wax worms, and mealworms are great live baits to use for Walleye. If you’re using dead bait, consider using frozen shiners or herring.
Clothing and Accessories
- Layered Clothing: Wear layered clothing to stay warm and comfortable in cold weather. A base layer, insulating layer, and waterproof outer layer are recommended.
- Ice Cleats: Ice cleats are essential to prevent slipping on the ice. Look for cleats that are easy to put on and take off.
- Hand and Foot Warmers: Hand and foot warmers are great for keeping extremities warm in cold weather.
Having the right gear is essential for a successful ice fishing trip. Make sure you’re prepared with the right equipment and clothing to stay safe and comfortable on the ice. Happy fishing!
Top 5 Best Baits to Use When Ice Fishing for Walleye
If you’re planning to go ice fishing for Walleye, using the right bait can make all the difference. Walleye are known for their picky eating habits, so it’s important to choose the right bait that will attract them. Here are the top 5 best baits to use when ice fishing for Walleye:
Why Jigging Raps work:
- Jigging Raps have a lifelike swimming motion that mimics real baitfish
- They have a built-in rattle that attracts fish from a distance
- They can be fished in a variety of ways, making them versatile for different fishing conditions
Why Live Minnows work:
- Walleye love live bait, especially when it’s presented in a natural way
- Minnows can be fished using a variety of techniques, such as a bobber or jigging spoon
- They are readily available and can be purchased at most bait and tackle shops
Why Blade Baits work:
- Blade baits have a unique vibrating action that Walleye find irresistible
- They can be fished vertically, which makes them perfect for ice fishing
- They are easy to use and great for beginners
Why Bucktail Jigs work:
- Bucktail jigs have a natural hair-like appearance that mimics real baitfish
- They can be tipped with live bait to increase their effectiveness
- They are versatile and can be fished in a variety of ways, such as jigging or trolling
Why Soft Plastics work:
- Soft plastics come in a variety of shapes and sizes, which allows for versatility in fishing
- They can be rigged weedless, which makes them perfect for fishing in weedy areas
- They are durable and can be reused multiple times
Using the right bait is essential when ice fishing for Walleye. By using one of these top 5 baits, you’ll increase your chances of catching that trophy fish you’ve been dreaming of.
Tips for Locating the Perfect Spot to Catch Walleye
If you’re planning on going walleye fishing, it’s important to know where to find them. Walleye can be found in a variety of locations, but certain spots tend to be more productive than others. Here are some tips to help you locate the perfect spot to catch walleye:
First, look for areas with structure. Walleye tend to hang out around structure such as drop-offs, weed beds, and rocky points. These areas provide cover for the fish and make it easier for them to ambush prey.
Pay attention to water temperature
Water temperature can play a big role in where walleye are located. During the summer months, walleye tend to move to deeper, cooler waters. In the spring and fall, they can be found in shallower waters that have warmed up from the sun. In the winter, walleye can be found in deeper waters near the bottom where the water temperature is warmer.
Consider the time of day
Walleye are most active during low-light conditions such as dawn and dusk. This is when they are more likely to be feeding and can be easier to catch. However, walleye can still be caught during the day, especially in overcast conditions or when the water is murky.
Look for baitfish
Walleye are predators and feed on a variety of prey, but they especially like baitfish such as minnows and shad. Look for areas where baitfish are abundant, such as near weed beds or along drop-offs. If you find baitfish, chances are that walleye are nearby.
- Look for structure like drop-offs, weed beds, and rocky points.
- Pay attention to water temperature and look for walleye in deeper, cooler waters during the summer and warmer waters in the spring and fall.
- Consider the time of day, as walleye are most active during low-light conditions.
- Look for areas where baitfish are abundant, as walleye like to feed on them.
Expert Techniques for Reeling in a Big Catch
Walleye fishing requires more than just the right bait and location. It also takes skill and finesse to reel in a big catch. Here are some expert techniques to help you bring home the trophy walleye:
Master the Jigging Technique
Jigging is one of the most popular and effective techniques for catching walleye. It involves moving the bait up and down in the water column to entice the fish. To master this technique, try experimenting with different jigging speeds and depths until you find what works best.
- When jigging, try to mimic the movements of natural prey such as minnows or insects.
- Use a light, sensitive rod and reel combo to detect even the slightest bites.
Use Live Bait
Live bait such as minnows, leeches, and nightcrawlers can be extremely effective for catching walleye. Using live bait not only makes your bait more appealing, but it also adds movement and scent to attract fish.
- When using live bait, be patient and give the walleye time to take the bait.
- Try using a slip bobber to keep your bait at the right depth.
Troll with Crankbaits
Trolling with crankbaits can be a great way to cover a lot of water and locate schools of walleye. Crankbaits come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and the right one can make all the difference.
- When trolling with crankbaits, vary the speed and depth until you find what works best.
- Use brightly colored crankbaits in murky water and natural colors in clear water.
By mastering these expert techniques and combining them with the right bait and location, you’ll be well on your way to reeling in a trophy walleye.
Stay Safe While Ice Fishing: Important Precautions to Take
Ice fishing can be a thrilling and rewarding experience, but it is important to take necessary precautions to ensure your safety while out on the ice. Here are some important tips to follow:
First and foremost, it is important to check the ice thickness before heading out. At least 4 inches of solid ice is needed for foot traffic, while 5-7 inches is needed for snowmobiles or ATVs. Use an ice auger or spud bar to test the ice thickness in multiple locations.
- Wear appropriate clothing for the weather, including a warm hat and waterproof gloves
- Invest in a quality pair of ice cleats for traction on the ice
- Wear a life jacket, especially if you are fishing alone or in an unfamiliar area
Ice Shelter Safety
Many ice fishers use ice shelters to protect themselves from the elements. Here are some safety tips:
- Ensure that the shelter is properly ventilated to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning
- Position the shelter away from potential hazards such as cracks or pressure ridges
- Keep the shelter zipped up when not in use to prevent falls or injury
Even with precautions, accidents can happen. It is important to be prepared for any situation:
- Carry a first aid kit and emergency supplies such as a flashlight and cell phone
- Let someone know your fishing location and expected return time
- Be aware of nearby landmarks or buildings in case you need to seek help
Remember, safety should always be your top priority while ice fishing. By following these precautions, you can enjoy a safe and enjoyable day on the ice.
Frequently Asked Questions
What should I look for when ice fishing for walleye?
When ice fishing for walleye, it’s important to look for areas where the water depth changes quickly. This could include drop-offs, points, or weed edges. Walleye are known to feed in these areas because they provide cover for their prey. Another thing to look for is the presence of baitfish such as perch or smelt. Walleye are known to feed on these smaller fish, so if you see them on your sonar, it’s a good sign that there may be walleye nearby.
What kind of bait should I use when ice fishing for walleye?
When ice fishing for walleye, live bait such as minnows or nightcrawlers are often the most effective. Jigs tipped with minnows can also work well. Another popular option is to use artificial baits such as jigs or spoons. These can be effective, especially if they imitate the natural prey of walleye, such as small fish or insects.
What is the best time of day to ice fish for walleye?
Walleye are most active during low light conditions, such as early morning or late evening. However, they can still be caught throughout the day. It’s also worth noting that walleye tend to be more active during periods of stable weather. If the barometric pressure is changing rapidly, it can make fishing more difficult.
What kind of gear do I need for ice fishing for walleye?
For ice fishing for walleye, you will need an ice auger to drill a hole in the ice, an ice fishing rod and reel, a depth finder or sonar unit to locate fish, and appropriate cold-weather clothing. You’ll also need some basic ice fishing tackle such as jigs, hooks, and sinkers. It’s important to have a good quality ice fishing rod that is sensitive enough to detect bites, but also has enough backbone to set the hook on a larger fish.
How deep should I fish for walleye when ice fishing?
The depth at which you should fish for walleye can vary depending on the time of year and the specific body of water you’re fishing in. However, walleye are often found in deeper water during the winter months when they move to deeper parts of the lake to stay warm. Typically, walleye can be found in depths ranging from 20 to 40 feet during the winter.
What are some safety precautions I should take when ice fishing for walleye?
Ice fishing can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it’s important to take safety precautions to avoid accidents. Always check the thickness of the ice before heading out and wear appropriate clothing to stay warm. It’s also a good idea to bring a friend or let someone know where you’re going in case of an emergency. Finally, make sure to have the proper safety equipment such as ice picks or a safety rope in case you fall through the ice.