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Submitted by Doyle Smith 

Although ice fishing probably isn’t the first thing on your to-do list once winter shows up, but for my group of friends its the number one thing on our minds. Fishing though the ice can be a blast, those first couple of weeks the temperature isn’t too low, the ice isn’t too thick and walleye fishing is on fire.

A Taste Of Gold And Ice | Ice Fishing

First things first is getting some general knowledge about ice safety. As there are several different types of ice and thicknesses of ice that determines how safe it actually is. But as a general rule of thumb 4 inches of ice is what most people have deemed to be safe for a single person to walk. It’s important to mention that if you are in a river, a spring fed lake or even a pond that the ice is not likely to be a uniform thickness so it’s important to proceed with caution. There are tools made for the purpose of ice safety such as a spud bar, ice cleats, float suits and spikes. But for my first few years if ice fishing all I had to use was a solid fireman axe, a hardy life jacket and a rope. When you are on or checking for safe ice its important to communicate with people when, where you are going and who you are going with and that this person you trust with your life. You are in a potentially dangerous situation and if either of you needs to be rescued there is nothing you should need to be second guessing.

A Taste Of Gold And Ice | Ice Fishing

Although my friends and I break these rules occasionally in the early ice fishing season, its never without caution and we have learned our limits in the past and are extremely comfortable on the body of water we are fishing. We have a rope on hand, float suit is on and my pal Ryan is fishing with a life jacket and we are fishing with minimal gear.

A Taste Of Gold And Ice | Ice Fishing

Now let’s get to the fishing, there can be weeks where it takes a particular body of water to freeze, and of course rivers end up freezing slightly later due to the moving water. Which means that walleye in these river systems can sometimes go weeks without any fishing pressure, and that can cause a drastic change in fish location and behavior. Various minnow species remain shallow in early winter, spawning in late fall and favor weed beds over shallow structure and unless something pushes them away the walleye tend to also remain in the area. I have found walleye in as shallow as 4 feet in the early ice fishing season, but ice thickness and amount of snow factor into the light penetration and the fishes visibility. But I find fishing points, breaks and weed edges anywhere from 7 to 12 feet of water is the sweet spot. The fish aren’t as easily spooked yet, so aggressive baits and presentations are the first things I grab from the tackle box. You are limited to vertical jigging in the winter, so the lures I choose to use are a variation of the same style of fishing. But don’t be fooled, you can present lures in several different ways in order to coax a fish to bite. My favorite lures are the Acme Tackle Hyperglide, Frostbite Dinner Bell or if the fish are really aggressive a Berkley Vibrato will attract any fishes attention. I like these lures because you can fish them slow, fast, you can jig long and high or fast and steady all completely change the action of the bait.

It’s only a matter of time before you learn what the fish like, but I generally stick to these methods. If things aren’t working out you can always try and use the chase method (slow raise or a fast drop) and worst comes to worst live bait should work. I have been lucky to find fish in these first few weeks of the season, searching various areas to find the freshest new ice to chase those early season fish.

Now get out there, catch some fish and above all stay safe!