Tips for Ice Fishing for Walleye

Learn the Body Language of the Walleye

Yes, fish have body language, passive, aggressive, kind of the way humans do, and knowing that body language will enable you to use it to your advantage. With walleyes, knowing their body language will be instrumental to knowing if you’re in the right place at the right time and what tactics to use to manipulate them to take your lure. When watched with an underwater camera, walleyes will show up as either “aggressive” or “passive”. When in the aggressive stance, their fins are up and backs are arched, signally they are on the hunt for food. Cruising and alert walleyes, as with other species of fish, are the ones that will jump on a lure. To get a clear picture of what’s going on down a hole, devices such as a Vexilar can provide a clear signal that lets you picture the posture of fish swimming underneath you.

Primetime or Not-so-Primetime

Most anglers know all too-well that sunrise and sunset are primetime in that walleyes are typically aggressive and ready to pounce during these windows, making them much easier to catch. Because of this you don’t need to drill as many holes to find where walleyes are most active. Just a handful will do on the fingers and top of the structure, and at prime inside turns. When fish are on the move, they require less effort and time to catch, because they essentially come to you, versus the other way around. During this golden time, you want to drill your holes surgically in prime locations and jig aggressively to pull fish in.

What about after you’ve exhausted that great spot you set up at sunrise or sunset? This is the time to switch strategies and shred the ice. By drilling a lot of holes in an area, you can bounce around and move your lures to catch the fish that are now in a more passive state. Just because the fish are no longer cruising, doesn’t mean the game is over. In fact, by simply stirring up things in their neck of the woods, you can create the kind of activity that can lead to more aggressive postures.

There are two ways to work fishing through primetime and not-so-primetime, either: a) drill a lot of holes ahead of time, or b) drill a few strategically and then more later. Then as the sun rises and activity slows, you can make lots of small moves to fish a spot through.

How Low Do You Go?

The depth at which you first caught these fish is the depth you want to stick with throughout the day. Walleyes don’t delve into deeper waters as their activity slows down, contrary to popular opinion. Rather they just “go limp” becoming less aware of, and therefore responsive to, lures in their vicinity. Stick with the zone and depth you had when you caught during primetime, that’s your starting point.

Also, don’t think you need to “go limp” to fool fish into taking your bait; rather it depends on each situation. In fact, if you are in the area of a passive/indifferent fish, jigging aggressively will often turn that fish around. This is especially helpful when you are behind a fish, because they simply can’t see you or the lure and by causing vibration above them, you can get their attention.