Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ice Out Walleyes

Here in the Midwest, thousands of anglers eagerly await the first opportunity at getting their boat back in the water.  Typical winters last until late March, which also happens to be the time that spawn minded Walleyes are on a voyage to their spawning grounds.  Rivers are the first to open up since the current of the spring melt eats the ice before the lake ice has a chance to honeycomb and sink. 

Safety at this time is very important, since at any time an ice flow could come down river and cause problems.  If anchoring at ice out, make sure that you can see upriver a good distance and also be able to quickly retrieve your anchor.  I also suggest heading upstream from the boat launch so that you will be able to surely make it back.

Every river is slightly different, but the same techniques will produce anywhere.  At this time the fish are migrating into the current looking for suitable spawning areas.  The fish are not thinking about food at this time, which can lead to tough fishing if you don't serve your bait to the fish exactly how they want it.  The river water is also very cold, which makes the fish somewhat lethargic and light biting when they do decide to bite.

Some guys believe that this is an important time to use a stinger hook on their jigs to catch those light biters, however I look at it differently.  I have noticed that I will get three times as many bites on a plain jig and minnow vs. one equipped with a stinger hook.  Rather than using a stinger hook I prefer to downsize my bait, which increases the odds of the fish eating the hook portion of the jig.  

Inside bends of the river where the main current bypasses to the outside, slack water areas, and deep holes can all hold fish at this time of year.  Each situation calls for a different presentation.

When fishing shallow, inside river bends, a technique known as long lining is used.  This technique is fairly simple once you get the feel for it, and can be very productive when a school of fish is moving through the area.  For starters, you need to anchor the boat sideways in the current and fish on the downstream side of the boat.  The biggest key with this technique is jig size.  You need a jig that will be able to just barely touch bottom on the drop out from the boat a distance.  If your jig is too heavy it will drag along bottom on the pump and also snag up easily.  If your jig is too light, each pump will raise the jig higher into the water column away from the Walleyes.  Once you have determined the right jig size, you may now make a short cast and pump your rod.  You will feel the jig raise off the bottom on the pump, and touch the bottom on the fall.

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