Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

By Ron Anlauf

Late season walleye fishing through the ice has its rewards,
though few step up and claim the prize. By late January, most
anglers have thrown in the towel. A couple weeks of tough fishing
can do that. It’s easy to write the rest of the season off, and
besides, it won’t be long before you get a chance at some open
water. The real diehards, however, never say die.

They know that those who stick it out find some serious action.
One of the keys to late season action is retracing your steps, and
looking in the places that held good numbers of fish earlier in the
season. Those are shoreline-related hard bottom areas, like
rock-covered bars and humps, and the spots that anglers used as
soon as the ice was safe.

Early season action is more like a race. Anglers try to stay
ahead of next guy and beat them to the next hot spot. Staying ahead
of the crowd is one of the keys to really hot ice fishing action.
The first anglers to arrive at a spot can get their lures in front
of fish that haven’t been bothered yet. They also have the
undivided attention of all of the biters, and don’t have to share
them with anyone else.

When the rest of the crowd shows up, things change, and not for
the better. How many times have you heard about the action getting
better after a mob of anglers arrived on the scene? Probably
never.

More anglers mean more lines and more baits for the biters.
There are only so many willing fish, no matter how good the spot.
Hordes of anglers also bring lots of noise.

Holes being drilled and cars create a tremendous amount of
noise. When a car or truck passes in the distance, you can hear the
ice cracking long before you hear the vehicle. Whether fish can
hear it or feel it, they definitely react by shutting down,
changing periods of activity, or finding new water.

Combine all of these factors with the general seasonal slow
down, you end up facing some pretty tough fishing conditions. Those
are the very same conditions that send anglers packing, never to
return until the next hard water period.

Sometime between then and the season’s end, walleyes show up on
those aforementioned areas and are definitely catchable. The same
techniques that produced earlier in the season still do the job.
That means using jigging spoons, set lines with floats, and tip
ups.

Jigging spoons are a go-to bait and always have the potential
for putting walleye gold on ice. Spoons, tipped with a minnow, or
piece of one, can be extremely deadly in the right hands.

When the walleyes are really going, they’ll fall for just about
any jigging technique you show them. But when they slow down, you
may need to change up a bit, to keep getting your pole bent.
Instead of a hard snap on the lift, you might try tiny lifts of the
rod tip, followed by long periods of remaining perfectly still,
especially if you have a fish staring down your bait.

If your bait is getting a serious look without any commitment,
quiver the rod tip from side to side, instead of up and down. You’d
be surprised by how much action you impart to the bait with so
little movement.

One of the keys to successful spooning is sticking with it.
Jigging a spoon all day without any takers can be incredibly
monotonous. Lack of success may be as simple as where you’re doing
it rather than how.

Even if they don’t get the appropriate response, spoons will at
least draw fish in close enough to see on a depth finder. By
keeping your eyes on the Vexilar while jigging, you’ll see if there
is any sign of life down below. If fish are showing up but turning
away, you may have to offer something more to their liking.

Options like suspending a minnow below a bobber, or tip-up, may
be in order. Spoons can attract and nail the aggressive fish, while
bobbers and tip-ups may coax some of the slackers. Slackers are not
inclined to move very far, or work very hard, to take a bait. The
key is keeping a bait in front of them long enough to get a
response.

To help even further with the “slacker factor,” replace a plain
hook with a smaller jig head. Active minnows can swim up and out of
the tiny strike zone that may exist, while the weight the of a jig
head will pin the bait in place.

See you on the ice, one last time.

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