Ice fishing’s winter walleye doldrums? There’s no such thing!
The late-ice period for walleyes has arrived, and many anglers are asking me what they should use to pursue these fish during the “winter doldrums.” Well, first of all, like the “dogs days” of summer, winter doldrums do not exist. You’d better believe I always fish through the end of the season.
This time of year, if you mark and locate aggressive fish, vertical jigging spoons and Jigging Raps – both tipped with minnow heads – work well. But, as I've said before, never forget to vary your jigging action.
In a tougher or neutral bite scenario, stick with jigheads tipped with whole minnows or minnow heads. Vary the amount of meat you place on a treble tine based on the mood of the fish. Under a negative bite window, which we can encounter any time of year, deploy a bobber system. Have different kinds of live bait available – suckers, shiners, and fatheads. And always remember, you need to change that bait and keep it fresh, active, and alive.
We see people fishing bobbers of all sizes. Don’t forget the important concept of bobber movement. Some guys just plop it down there and forget about it. Move it around the hole; that little bit of occasional movement may produce a bite!
Walleye locations really begin to vary during this transition season. You can drop down deep – 30 to 40 feet is not uncommon. In other lakes, walleyes may be shallow, thanks to transitioning food sources or fishing pressure.
Finally, people often ask me “how should I jig?” If you’re marking fish with your flasher or graph, work with the jigging action. You’ll see walleyes and whether or not you’re spooking fish. If you’re getting no response, you’re doing something wrong and need to change it up.
Snow cover and ice means the witching hour is changing rapidly as the days lengthen. For walleyes, those prime, low-light conditions are earlier, so you can have a delayed bite in morning and an earlier bite in afternoon. Even in winter, walleyes aren’t always 6 inches off the bottom!