One of the most sought after game fish here in Michigan could be easily argued to be Walleye. Michigan has many favorable hotspots to catch these marble eyed water dwellers. Early ice and late ice are the recommended times to target Walleyes during hard water. Mid-winter however is the lull as most Walleye anglers would refer to it. Most walleyes by this time, mid-January to late February, have moved to deep water and have begun to almost lay dormant. That does not mean you cannot catch them. It simply requires a little more attention to detail and planning.
After the early ice action most anglers jump to in December and a minute part of January, the walleyes will tend to move outward into deep water basins. Depending on the lake, this can be 15 to 60 feet of water. Targeting Walleye in the deeper parts of a lake is a matter of finding structure. This could be a reef that extends from shallow waters or even the slightest depth change in 30 feet of water. I have targeted walleyes in smaller lakes where they will hang out just far enough from a 20 foot drop off. You can find Walleyes on even a 2 foot break line seven miles out on a big bay. The point I’m getting to is Walleye like structure. They are a predator fish. Although they are not very active during the Mid-winter lull, they will still feed.
Walleye use break lines for cover and as ambush point. A walleye using a sharp twenty foot drop just off a reef will feed actively during the morning and evening hours. The bait fish seeking nymphs and other organism in the soft bottoms near those shallow water reefs will now become the food for the Walleyes. These are great areas to fish during the low light periods of the day. Once the sun gets over the tree line, the Walleyes will move to deeper water. If you don’t feel like moving with the walleyes to deeper water through mid-day, you can capitalize on some good perch action.
When fishing for Walleyes in the deep water basins, you are going to have to be patient. For one, you are going to have to get almost right on the fish. Once the Walleyes get to the deep water for the day, they are not going to be as active as say a lake trout, which spends the day cruising and looking for food. You may have to drill ten to thirty holes before you find the fish. Walleyes will tend to stay within a couple feet of the bottom out in these deep water basins. I have find that locating the fish is only half of the equation. Getting a mid-day Walleye to bite is a trick in its self.
I almost always start out with something noisy or flashy, or a combination of both. Jigging baits that rattle or put off a lot of flash will get the Walleyes attention and coax them into coming in to get a closer look. At this point I will put a second rod in the water, with a more subtle jig or spoon or I just real up one line and drop the other down. Getting the Walleyes in close can be easy most days, getting them to bite requires attention to detail. I have marked ten walleyes that came in to my rattling spoon before one actually hit the bait. Knowing what the fish want on that particular day comes down to a lot of tying lures and sifting through favorable colors.
I know this has been very short and to the point but I have been getting a lot of questions from fishermen who have a hard time putting Mid-winter Walleyes on the ice. There are far more informative articles out there but I wanted to give my two senses. Just remember, think like a Walleye, study them and please don’t forget, Walleyes have a brain the size of a pea. Do not over think Walleye fishing. If you are not marking fish under you, move. If they will not bite when you are marking them, change the bait. It’s all a matter of finding the fish, and finding what they like. I sure hope this helps. If you have any more questions, email us and firstname.lastname@example.org or message us on facebook. This is Alvin Sitkiewicz signing off! As always, Stay Wild!