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Updated 2012
Ice Fishing WALLEYE!

By John A. Vance, Environmental Eng. Tech.,
& Outdoor Writer (member Outdoor Writers of Canada) All of the information here, including pictures is covered under copyright law by John A. Vance.
Reproduction by any means is prohibited except with the express written permission  of John A. Vance. Clubs wishing to use this in their newsletters for free may do so by contacting John A. Vance and getting written permission and inserting my name and www in the newsletter!

Ice fishing for walleye is perhaps ONE OF the most favored of all winter ice fishing - yet more folk fish for and catch panfish than walleye, simply because more waters hold them ( panfish) - never-the-less WALLEYE are the most desired of  the ice fished fish!
  Walleye ice fishers would be wise to read up on crappie because these fine finned fish have similarities, and if both these fish co-exist in the water you're fishing, to be successful at one or the other, there's a good chance you'll catch both. Though, SIMPLY DUE TO THE SIZE OF THE LURE AND BAIT OFFERING, AND JIGGING ACTION, crappie fishers are far more likely to catch a walleye than a walleye angler is to catch a crappie!
Hard water walleye, like under ice weed-line crappie will be in the warmest water they can find - and that ain't any too warm once water's frozen over!  Walleye will be in this warmer water as close to structure and feed as they can be. The 'feed' aspect is of primary concern - they have to eat, despite temperatures or depth. This may mean they are in water up to fifty feet deep, perhaps suspended - perhaps not. A fish finder makes your job immensely easier finding 'em, but nothing beats the actual fishing of any given hole at various depths as the final determining factor - that's fishin'! I've lots of times had a totally blank Vexilar ( ice fish-finder) screen - and dumped a jig/bait down the hole - to suddenly have fish appear from seemingly no-where on that screen - and fish-on! Walleye, especially walleye in shallow won't move much during the day, especially if they hear you on the ice! ...continued – scroll down!

If you are contemplating a trip to Northern Ontario waters, then I have a second book  on ice fishing walleye here in the north. It's called "Northern Ontario Ice Fishing" and is for both northerners - and those coming to the north Ice Fishing!

2012 Update! New for 2012 are my audio Cds on a variety of topics including both open water fishing and ice fishing. Topics such as ( Open water) Walleye Fishing Inland Lakes: Walleye Fishing Rivers;

Walleye Fishing Precambrian Lakes: and a host of others....(Ice Fishing) Ice Fishing For Everyone ( set of 2 Cds):

Ice Fishing for Bluegill, Crappie & Perch: Ice Fishing for Walleye: Ice Fishing For Seniors...and a host of others...

Also new for 2012 – come to my neck-of-the-woods here on the North Shore of Georgian Bay for a variety of workshops – including ice fishing workshops! We have a clean & tidy campground here with access onto the Serpent River which flows into Georgian Bay ( approx a half mike away). So you can bring your own boat if you wish. They have RV hookup as well as tenting and cabins. There is also a small mom/pop Motel ( with Kitchenette Facilities of you wish) here for those not into camping.

Bring along your entire family – or fishin' buds and learn while on your holidays. My prices are reasonable, and I'll tailor a workshop to your schedule on most fishing and ice fishing subjects. Email me for pricing of my various workshops and details as well as any other questions you may have.

We also have superb ATV trails here, and a wonderful night sky-scape – campfire smoke – a true northern experience...John A. Vance



Northern Ontario Style walleye – where live minnows can be used!

As discussed in the crappie section, minnows are perhaps responsible for taking more fish than any other bait - and for sure 'so' in regards to walleye. Personally though, I rarely use just a plain minnow, and instead opt for using  a minnow on an ice  fishing jig which gives better action and sight appeal, especially necessary in stained water, as well as weight to get the presentation down into the 'kill zone'. If the water is clear and or the walleye are in a neutral or negative bite mode ( see ICE FISHING BASICS book) then ( and perhaps, only then will I) use a plain minnow -and only if fish are plentiful with a high population in the water I'm fishing.
More often you'll find me using an ice fishing jig with a live minnow tagged onto one of the hooks. For these 'tag on' minnows I like them to be about three inches long as the maximum, and if using only a minnow, perhaps a minnow up to four inches long as the maximum - walleye like most fish don't want a big piece of bait during ice fishing time! Indeed, with this in mind, I'll use as small a jig as I can for walleye - which depends too on water depth etc. OF COURSE these will be larger than what I use for crappie and other panfish - but not as large as what I'd use for pike or musky. I like jigs to weight roughly in at the eighth oz to quarter ounce range as my own rule of thumb. I like ice lures such as the Ice Fishing Rapala, Mr. Champ lures and it's 'take off' the Hex Wobbler, The ice fishing model of the William's and Miller Spoons and Swedish Pimples - the list could easily go on and on and on... In my book "Northern Ontario Ice Fishing" where walleye fishing is popular, I describe how to use a 'wind jigger' attachment ( easy/cheap/homemade) and a dropper spoon set up to foil walleye. It works superbly - after you've found the 'eye's, that is!
A tag ( two to three inches/max) of crawler is also fine... but in some areas you will have to find out if live bait can be used - so check with the fishing regs for the area you intend to fish first! 


Perhaps the most important aspect of catching walleye is finding them – no matter where you fish. In large lakes such as the Great Lakes they may be suspended, but more commonly they'll be closer to the bottom. I now, in most water other than a few larger lakes, fish them starting in shallow water and work out deeper as I go until I find fish!

OFTEN walleye will be in quite close to shore. And are not deep at all. You must use stealth to catch these fish – walleye are a timid fish!

It's common to find walleye in water in the ten to twenty foot depth range, and occasionally down at the forty foot mark. If you are a serious walleye fisher, I'd urge you to get my audio Cd on walleye fishing..it gives you a lot of tips enabling you to become consistent at finding/catching walleye!

Once you do find walleye, I like to use a jig with a small tag of dead(real) live bait if I have it, along with a Berkley GULP minnow, and use rhythmic jigging action. I always allow for my bait/lure to sit motionless as part of my rhythmic jigging presentation as walleye are often lethargic in cold ice-water


I like to use a hut for walleye fishing simply so as to get out of the elements!
I like a portable hut so I can hunt out fish and set up once I find fish. If weather's bad I set up hut, then return to it to 
warm up and move hut to walleye once I locate them.

Don't overdo it  when jigging for walleye when ice fishing. Walleye, like all fish are cold blooded and just aren't able to move as fast in ice water as in warmer months. If you find the walleye are suspended, you'll be wise to learn how to use a slip bobber rig for your fishing  strategy ...and a thread bobber stop/depth-line marker. These are effective and inexpensive ways of fishing exactly at a determined depth.

 If you like what you've read here - you'll  be well served by buying either my Ice Fishing Basics book which goes into great detail on all the items here - and why, or my newest book, "Northern Ontario Walleye Fishing"!

Water-body size can make a huge difference when hunting out walleye. They will be closest to where they can find the easiest meal. I've taken them in water under ten feet deep, especially late winter - whereas overland and into a smaller lake, walleye are being taken down at sixty feet, consistently. It should be mentioned here that on the overall, walleye DO NOT like being that deep. These deeper dwelling fish were primarily feeding on smelt, whereas the shallow walleye were feeding more on shoreline minnows and small fish found there. MOST OFTEN you'll find walleye in water from 12 feet deep to 25 feet deep during the winter - and just off a rapid break ( where the water 'breaks' away into deeper/shallower water, quickly) can prove superb.

A faster jigging presentation will sometimes draw in walleye, but for the most part, walleye are NOT aggressive bitters - and one might even think it's a perch. My favored jigging action is a slow and continual movement of the bait/jig, and the wind powered jigger is great for adding movement to a second rod. Many jurisdictions allow for a second rod whilst ice fishing - best check the regulations for where you intend on fishing!
I will also 'pound the bottom' with my lure - or my 'shit disturber' ( also available on this web site - or contact me for more info - I have inexpensive kits available to make these) to get a cloud of dispersed silt going - for great cover - and this now also adds sound - and site appeal to the total presentation!
In decent walleye water, especially when they are scattered - use my Feeding Minnow Flash Attractors - to draw them in. This system that I developed works well - and better than chum as well as making you 'pro active' at what we're doing out on the ice. Do email me if this appeals to you - that's what I'm here for, now I'm semi retired - I often take the time to answer questions and trouble shoot for people.

- see blue side bar for much more ice fishing info - much fishing technique can be found in the Ice fishing jigs - 'how to' section!

Author: John A Vance
Copyright © 1998 John A Vance. . . 

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