Top ice angling tip: Remember late-season tip-ups for walleyes
Minnesota’s ice fishing season for walleyes on inland waters already is down to its last four weeks. Why and when should we use tip-ups for our state fish? We’re entering that part of the season when walleyes begin moving out of the deep water and onto the flats during the witching hour, so use tip-ups now.
How many times have you and a buddy caught a couple of nice walleyes around 5 p.m./dusk, then the bite mysteriously switches off? You’re encountering deep fish moving up to their nighttime food shelf during low-light conditions. Here’s how you should approach this opportunity:
First, drill your holes early along that structure. Start on the deep edge with jigging lures and set your second line via tip-up in the mid-depth range. You’ll catch fish with your active rod, but watch those tip-ups close. As soon as those flags flare, reel in, but don’t reset them, land your fish and let that tip-up lay on the ice.
Now move shallower with your jigging rods. You’re following that pattern into shallow water, almost like casting.
As for your walleye tip-up setup, attach a black barrel swivel, then make a leader or livebait rig of four feet of mono line with 8-pound-test. Add a colored hook and a bead with opposing colors. On the mono end, attach a clip, then take and store these (pre-make them at home and use a snell holder) just like you would for open-water fishing.
Rig the setup with different beads and hooks, and try experimenting with blades sizes 0 or 00. That size won’t spin but if you’re using healthy, live bait they’ll move a bit. The blade simply adds a splash of color and vibration.
This technique works with suckers, shiners, and fatheads. Generally speaking, I’m using 3- to 4-inch shiners. Once you land fish, continue jigging with your flutter spoons and minnow heads. As that bite moves shallow, move your jigging setup, too, to take advantage of feeding movement.
Finally, don’t forget to add a splitshot 14 to 16 inches above the hook. You want top action out of that minnow, and the splitshot becomes a pivot point to keep the minnow local.
Expect a short, dusky bite window when walleyes move shallow under the ice, but you can extend it by moving with the fish.