5 Tips on How to Ice Fish for Walleye: Mastering Ice Fishing Techniques


Before heading out to the ice, it’s critical to equip yourself with the proper gear and knowledge on how to ice fish for walleye. Familiarize yourself with the best times and locations to fish for walleye during the winter months.

In this guide, you will learn how to locate walleye in various ice fishing conditions and discover the most effective techniques, which include jigging, selecting the right bait and lures, using sonar, and more. With this information at your disposal, you’ll be ready to embark on a successful walleye ice-fishing adventure. Let’s dive in.

What is Ice Fishing?


Ice fishing is a popular winter activity that allows you to pursue fish through a hole drilled in the frozen surface of a body of water. This unique form of fishing offers a serene, yet thrilling experience as you patiently wait for a fish to bite, all while surrounded by the beauty of nature in its coldest season.

Here, you’ll need some essential gear to help you on your journey. This includes an ice auger or drill to create a hole, a lightweight, portable shelter to protect you from the elements, and specialized ice fishing rods and reels. You should also acquire suitable clothing and footwear to keep you warm and dry.

One key aspect of ice fishing is safety. Always check the ice thickness before venturing out; a minimum of 4-5 inches of solid ice is recommended for a safe ice fishing experience. In addition, always let someone know where you plan to fish and carry safety equipment like a whistle or rope.

When you go ice fishing, it’s essential to be patient as you wait for a fish to bite on your lure. The type of bait or lure you’ll use depends on the fish species you’re targeting – for example, walleye ice fishing often involves jigging and using bright, flashy lures to attract the fish.

Remember that successful ice fishing requires a balance between persistence and adaptation. Keep in mind that fish may become more or less active throughout the day, and adjusting your techniques based on their behaviour can lead to better results.

Tips on How to Ice Fish for Walleye

Location and Setup

To effectively target walleye, it’s crucial to locate their hotspots beforehand. During early ice, walleyes can be found near shoreline structures. Mid-season, however, they move to offshore structures like reefs, flat crowns, and rock piles.

Drill multiple holes in these areas for versatility. Aim for at least 15 to 20 holes, spaced across different depths and structures to cover a broad area.

Additionally, utilize efficient power augers to expedite the drilling process, ensuring you can explore various locations effectively.

 Popular ice-fishing locations for walleye include Lake Erie, Lake of the Woods, and Lake Winnipeg. 

Jigging Tactics

Active jigging with bright flashy lures or those that produce erratic movements, like the Rapala jigging rap, is the key to attracting walleyes.

The flashy colors and jerking motions trigger the curiosity of passing walleyes, enticing them to investigate.

Once you identify the strike zone, typically 6 inches to 2 feet off the bottom, start by dropping the lure to the bottom, then execute slow, 4 to 5-inch lifts.

Emulate a live minnow with a gentle swimming motion. If the fish are elusive, experiment with larger sweeps to attract their attention, incorporating pauses for increased effectiveness.

The pause in jigging often entices walleye to strike, making it a crucial element of your strategy.

Adaptation and Experimentation

Versatility is the key to success when ice fishing for walleye. Experiment with your jigging techniques, lures, and bait throughout the day. Adapt to the walleyes’ preferences by trying different combinations of:

  • Lure colors-Explore an array of lure colours to see what captures their attention, from vibrant and flashy hues to more subtle tones. 
  • Jigging styles- Experiment with different jigging styles, ranging from aggressive movements to subtle twitches or strategic pauses, to determine the tactic that resonates most effectively. 
  • Live baits- Diversify your live bait selection by considering smaller sucker minnows, chubs, or fatheads, tailoring your presentation to the ever-changing preferences of the walleyes beneath the ice.

Proper Clothing and Gear

For a successful ice fishing trip, use quality gear and wear appropriate clothing to protect yourself from the cold. Layer up with appropriate clothing, paying attention to footwear that keeps you warm and dry. Essentials include:

  • Insulated Boots: Opt for boots designed explicitly for cold and wet conditions. Insulated boots with waterproof features offer the necessary protection to keep your feet warm and dry throughout your ice-fishing adventure.
  • Thermal Clothing Layers: Embrace the layering strategy with thermal clothing that provides effective insulation. Thermal layers trap body heat, ensuring you remain comfortably warm despite the frigid temperatures on the ice.
  • Gloves: Protecting your hands is paramount in cold conditions. The best ice fishing gloves should be insulated, to balance warmth with dexterity, allowing you to handle gear and bait with ease while keeping your hands shielded from the cold.
  • Hats: Retain heat and shield yourself from biting winds by wearing a suitable hat. Opt for a thermal hat that covers your ears to prevent heat loss from these sensitive areas, ensuring overall warmth during your ice fishing excursion.

The Dead Stick Approach

Another popular technique is the “dead stick” approach, where you use a motionless bait-fishing setup. Here is how: 

  • Setup:
    • Equip dead sticks with vibrant green glow jigs for enhanced visibility.
    • Pair these jigs with live minnows to entice walleyes with realistic and enticing movement.
  • Adjustment for Activity:
    • Tailor the minnow attachment based on your current activity. If actively jigging, ensure the minnow complements the jigging motion.
    • When leaving the setup stationary, adjust the minnow attachment to provide a natural and enticing presentation, maximizing the dead stick’s effectiveness.
  • Utilizing Slip Bobbers:
    • During midday or late-night bites, elevate the dead stick’s effectiveness by incorporating slip bobbers.
    • Employ slip bobbers to keep the dead stick bait at an optimal depth, increasing the chances of attracting walleyes during periods of reduced activity.
  • Using Flashers

Flashers are valuable tools to help you monitor the position of your jig and the movement of walleyes.

Keep an eye on the flasher to identify any signs of fish approaching your bait. By observing these signals, you’ll be able to adjust your techniques and lure the walleye closer.

Final Words: How to Ice Fish For Walleye

In conclusion, successful ice fishing for walleye requires careful consideration of key tips. Start by pinpointing the right location, focusing on underwater structures like hills and shoreline points. Timing is crucial, with the early ice season offering better chances in shallower waters. Prioritize ice safety, ensuring a minimum of 4-5 inches of ice.

Selecting the right gear is paramount. Opt for a medium to heavy action rod with a fast taper, paired with a baitcasting or spinning reel featuring a smooth drag system. Use braided or fluorocarbon line in the 8-12 pound range for optimal results. Additionally, get proper clothing; insulated boots, thermal clothing layers, ice fishing gloves and a hat.

When setting up, employ a mix of jigging and tip-ups to cover diverse depths. Experiment with lures and live bait like minnows and jigging spoons to adapt to changing conditions. Monitor fish behavior closely and be patient, making necessary adjustments for a successful walleye ice fishing adventure.

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