Winter ice fishing Q&A: walleyes, glow, jigging spoons, and minnow heads
Ice fishing for hard-water 2016-17 has arrived! What follows is a grab bag of questions I’ve encountered during seminars across the ice belt of the northern United States in recent weeks. I hope my answers help you catch more walleyes and other gamefish as ice angling unfurls on a lake or other water body near you.
Q: Terry, what locations should I target for winter walleyes?
“Tackle” Terry Tuma: Concentrate on irregularities in breaklines, remaining weed edges, humps, reefs, and other pieces of structure. Changes in hard-bottom flats where rubble meets sand, or mud, humps, or rocks on flats will hold fish. Remember, however, if there is no food in the vicinity, there will not be walleyes. Structure or edges may look great to us, but ice fishing really demands attention towards food sources first if we want to catch quality walleyes.
Q: How far from the bottom should I fish jigging spoons for winter walleyes?
“T3”: Six inches runs about average, but start higher, say 10 to 12 inches from bottom then slowly raise it to about 21⁄2 feet. The bite drastically improves once walleyes start to rise while watching your bait. Pound the bottom occasionally as an attractor. A casual lift-drop will produce, but ticking the rod tip or flexing the rod blank by placing your forefinger ahead of the handle will be much more productive for non-aggressive fish. Couple this with timely pauses… and hang on!
Q: Please share your thoughts on glow lures.
“T3”: Using glow lures for hard water walleyes really gained momentum in the 2000s but it still works. Glow is an attractor in low light conditions such as stained water, snow cover, poor ice clarity, and night fishing. Always consider glow intensity: not enough or too much? Brightness and length of glow depends on the manufacturer and charge. Understand that heavily pressured fish on certain bodies of water see ample glow, so rely on scent, vibration, and sound first. To sum up, glow alone doesn’t guarantee walleye action!
Q: When ice fishing, where should I splice off minnow heads and how often should I change them?
“T3”: You’ll see an excellent increase in scent and taste by changing heads every five to 10 minutes, especially for non-aggressive walleyes. This may determine whether a fish bites or not. Always pinch off the head between the dorsal fin and gill plate instead of cutting. That added “meat” and jagged skin edge boosts the scent, flash and movement factor, which intensifies the strike response!
Q: On a recent tactics and tips radio segment, you mentioned “fall rates” of baits. Please elaborate on what you mean by this concept.
“T3”: A lure’s fall rate is the speed it descends in the water column. For instance, if walleyes are aggressive and you’re using jigs, increase jig weight to enter the strike zone faster and pick off more fish. If bass are in a funky mood, the drop should be slower… even in constant contact with bottom. Line diameter, bait resistance, and weight affect sink rate. Flutter or slow drop requires patience and concentration. Monitor how fish react, and don’t be afraid to switch. This applies to open water and ice fishing for all species!
Good luck this early ice fishing season and be safe!