Ice fishing 202: Hooking for live bait for walleyes this winter
When hooking minnows, fatheads, small shiners and suckers for walleyes, most people hook them horizontally under the dorsal fin. Here’s how I do it: Take the hook or jig and place along the dorsal fin with point forward. Now it’s a natural-looking food source. Too many guys still hook through mouth like they’re open water live rigging.
I also like to hook through the tail section. Now that minnow is struggling like injured baitfish, so predators will target it.
As for hooking minnow heads to a vertical jigging spoon, or jigging Shad Rap, I put the minnow on first, then pinch the head off. Use just one minnow on a treble. Consider the distance we pinch it off. If you need more bulk, then behind the dorsal fin. If less, then just behind the gill plate.
That skin is important. It’s a moving, flapping attractant in the water, and the entrails provide added scent. Don’t use a knife because we don’t want an even, surgical cut. When hooking a minnow head, you can hook it through the lips, or in through the mouth and out through center part of head. The latter arrangement provides a smaller profile. If those fish, even perch are just nipping and you’re missing, try in through the mouth out through the head.
Follow the same rule with grubs! For tough bite fish, go with a smaller bait, because fish get intimated by large bait. Aggressive fish want to fill up quick and want bigger bait, so give it to them!
Some final thoughts on line color in winter. A lot of people like fluorescent line because they can see it, but fish can see it, too. My advice: Don’t worry about watching your line; that’s why you have a spring bobber and graphite rod.
Use clear line in clear water and gray or green line in stained water, and fluorocarbon in ultra-clear water. And remember, all fish can see all line, especially on a bright day with minimal snow cover. Don’t overthink your fishing line. When in doubt, just go as light as possible.