No doubt that by the time you are reading this article, ice fishing season will be well underway throughout most of walleye country. Ice fishing is a great and popular winter sport, but it can be a frustrating for many avid walleye anglers. Sure, species like panfish and pike are active and relatively easy to catch in mid-winter, but walleyes often prove tougher to catch with any consistency. It’s not that the walleyes are any less active under the ice than those other species, but, as it is in many cases during the open water season, finding these fish and using the right presentations is key to putting ‘eyes on the ice.
There seems to be two schools of thought when it comes to what approach is best for catching mid-winter walleyes. Basically you’ve got the “Sitters” and the “Runners”. Sitters are a patient lot ... staking out a particular spot on the lake, drilling a few strategically placed holes, setting a few tip-ups and with jig rod in hand, wait for the fish to come to them. Then there are the Runners; the ones that approach their ice fishing like a wolf pack with a mission. These anglers systematically turn potential hot spots into Swiss cheese-like slabs of ice, drilling hole after hole. Their mission is to hunt down the walleyes in their wintry lair with a “run-and-gun” attitude. Armed with power ice augers, plenty of gas, jigging rods and lures, these anglers are looking to cover water and trigger bites.
Is one of these groups going to be more successful than the other? The answer is yes and no ... the secret to consistent success is being versatile enough to do both, each at the right time.
When it comes to ice fishing for walleyes, there’s a time to be a “Sitter”, and a time to be a “Runner”. Walleyes are not much different under the ice than they are during the warmer months of the year ... that is to say; they are generally most active during the low light periods around dusk and dawn. When the fish are active and on the move, that’s the time for anglers to be “Sitters”, waiting in key areas to intersect the walleyes as they forage. These areas may be a saddle area between islands, the edges of sunken humps, or on a point ... anywhere where anglers are likely to catch fish moving from deeper water to feeding flats.
As the day progresses, walleyes will become less mobile, and relate closely to structure not far from their feeding areas. These types of spots could include irregularities on breaks, cups, or deep transition areas. This is the time to become a “Runner”, because now is the time to take the game to the fish, searching out these holding areas to contact and trigger biters. Since it’s rare to find a good concentration of fish that’ll bite at this time, you’re likely to only get one fish here, and one fish there. That’s why the “run and gun” approach gives you the best chance at finding numbers of walleyes.
Regardless of whether you’re a “Sitter” or a “Runner”, gearing up right is imperative to success. Electronics have