By Steve Carney
The early-ice walleye bite has been excellent so far, as lakes in northwestern and northern Minnesota have locked up with good, clear ice.
Last year was a disaster on the ice. An early 14 inches of snow on top of 5 inches of ice really wrecked the whole ice season. So far this early ice season, things are shaping up for near-perfect ice conditions. The recent cold snap is creating more ice each day – just what we need to get a good base. Now it can snow and the impact will be minimal in terms of travel on the ice.
The walleye bite has been mostly a near-shore affair in depths from 11 to 13 feet. Anything deeper has resulted in fewer fish.
Walleyes at this depth are hard-charging and are feeding heavily. They wouldn’t be in water this shallow if they weren’t active. The bite has been a quick window of about 45 minutes, and the fish seem to feed along shoreline breaks and roam through on their way to other areas.
I’ve been fishing along a breakline with no obvious holding areas such as inside turns or quick drops. I just catch the walleyes on the move as they feed randomly along the shorelines. Most of the walleyes have really small panfish in their stomachs.
This shoreline bite should continue for another couple of weeks, and then the action dies. Then it’s time to move deeper and concentrate on midlake structure.
Aggressive jigging spoons in gold patterns are working well. At this time of the early season, it doesn’t seem to matter what bait you go with because the fish are on the feed and are not being picky about color or style of bait.
A heater tip
The past two seasons I’ve been using a travel case for my portable heater. Twice last year I got some snow on the ceramic part of the heater and it wouldn’t start. You always pick up some water or snow when trailering on the ice, whether you have a canvas sled cover or not.
The travel case keeps the ceramic face dry. It’s no fun getting to your destination, getting set up, and the heater won’t start.