You came in early all week, banking hours for a premature exodus on Friday. It’s 2 p.m., the cubicles won’t clear for another few hours, but you’re good to go, and free to go. The nosy nerd next door leans over and asks where you’re off to so early. You simply smile and say “I’ve earned it…” He recoils back into the carpet-walled cell. You holler down the hallway for someone to hold the elevator door. That oh so familiar “I’m going fishing” tingling starts.
In the overflowing parking lot your pre-packed SUV glows with anticipation and a sense of readiness. In the rear rests a systematically packed portable fish house, arm and arm with a power auger. In the backseat, lies your FXE Snosuit and companion boots just waiting to be filled.
Vehicle starts on cue. GPS draws a line to the local lake of your choosing. Live bait to be procured on the way. It’ll be lines down within the half-hour.
Winter daylight wanes and time is precious. You’re an ice-fishing fool but don’t always have vacation days and full weekends to break down entire chains of lakes. No, in our hectic work world, fishing comes in glimpses and small windows. So it pays to be the organized opportunist.
From an ice-fishing perspective, ice-fishing for walleye is No. 1 when it comes to maximizing brief bursts of time, especially at either end of the day. Walleyes are classic low-light feeders, which coincides with the average first-shift schedule. Additionally, the ‘eyes are often planted in volume on urban and suburban waters. And with consideration for location, walleye feeding habits during timed milk runs are quite predictable.
Begin at the beginning — earmark a couple of lakes. Select one that’s a known ice-fishing producer; some lakes fail miserably as summertime candidates, yet inexplicably light up in winter. Choose a body of water that has fishy-looking spots you can walk to. You might not have time to mess around with a snowmobile or ATV, and plowed roads are typically for the after-dinner partying crowd.
See that one of your selections is a smaller lake, one less traveled. There are sleepers out there. State wildlife department and fisheries’ reports don’t always tell the whole story, although they do provide excellent online reconnaissance. Personally, one of my keenest first-ice walleye waters is rather petite and best known for its bass and crappies. Keep your ear to the ground.
When pre-mapping, either on a physical topographical or modern GPS map chip, there are clearcut structures and covers to seek for short run, heavy-hitting action. First on the list are weeds. Vegetation provides safe haven for baitfish by day. But when the sky darkens, and the vision advantage goes to the walleye, weeds become fields of massacre.
Beds of coontail moss are No. 1, with an exclamation point! Rolling mounds of thick coontail mats are magic at dawn and dusk. Look for the deepest coontail available, distinct edges, and any cuts or openings.