First Ice Walleye Lessons
Montana Hunting & Fishing News|November 2019
Jason Mitchell highlights some proven game plans and lessons for targeting walleye at early ice.
Jason Mitchell 

In so many cases, the fall sets up the early ice bite. At the very least, what happens as the lake freezes sets the course for the beginning of winter. There are variables each winter that influence the location of where we find walleyes at early ice. Some of the outcomes of some of these variables can be predicted ahead while other outcomes are figured out after the fact. If there is a lesson I have learned over and over, that lesson would be that we cannot predict every outcome ahead. Just like there are upsets in World Series and Super Bowls that prove pundits wrong, there are situations in fishing that are difficult to always prove correctly. At the end of the day, we still have to keep an open mind and fish through locations and patterns with a process of elimination strategy. With that disclaimer, there are still some guidelines that serve us well when trying to figure out walleye at first ice.

Learn How to Fish Shallow Walleye

If there is a lesson that has been a hard lesson at times, that lesson would be simply not looking shallow enough at early ice. Can’t tell you how many times we found aggressive fish in less than six feet of water. Shallow is a relative term but in my mind, shallow is anything less than ten feet.

There is an art however to really dialing in shallow bites. If there is one mistake many anglers make, it is underestimating the impact our presence has on shallow fish. We wouldn’t expect to catch fish in four feet of water after driving a boat over the spot during the spring yet many anglers make the mistake in the winter of simply having too much commotion over the spot when ice fishing. You can get away with much more commotion when you get thicker ice and snow cover but plan on fishing being spooky at early ice when you are dealing with little ice or in some cases, no snow cover. Don’t drive your quad right over your fishing spot. Keep your walking to a minimum.

Over the years, I have come to the realization that I usually catch more fish if I simply plant down on a good spot and drill the bare minimum of holes and sit still.

In most cases, there are not a lot of people out right away. Pressure is light and that is an advantage. You can sit on key spots and work the natural flow of fish that wander underneath you.

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