By Steve Carney
The early-ice period of fishing has finally arrived with walkable ice in at least most of the northern portion of the state. I’m thankful that we have a great ice base with no snow to foul up early fishing.
Last season, we were hit with a 14 inch snowfall that was disastrous for ice-making, and we suffered most of the winter. It looks like we should have enough ice this week to allow for ATVs and side-by-sides to get to anglers’ midlake destinations.
I have been walking out on various lakes this week and have been finding a pattern of shallow walleyes during low-light periods. I’ve been staying away from the typical early depths of 16 to 19 feet and concentrating on shallow water in the 8- to 14-foot range. So far, walleyes have been plentiful at those depths.
Every season, this pattern starts at first ice and lasts for a good two to three weeks, depending mostly on angling pressure and human traffic. As the hard houses come out and ATVers start blasting around, this shallow pattern fades entirely.
Crappies and bluegills can still be had at those shallow depths, but the walleyes just won’t tolerate the shallow-water, above-ice traffic.
We also have super clear ice this year, making the walleyes a bit spooky and you have to approach these areas on foot with stealth. You also have to be careful about your interior lighting in your portables because this light will radiate into deeper water with the ice clarity.
Another key factor is finding weed growth. While poking around in shallow water you should look for green, healthy weeds – not dormant, brown weeds.
Green and healthy weeds have been concentrating small crappies, which walleyes have been feeding on. Use your underwater camera or use your electronics to find those little green lines on the bottom to indicate weed growth. Little green lines on the electronics don’t move, signifying weeds on the bottom.