Ice fishing tactics for walleyes are very similar to catching their cousin the yellow perch; although generally speaking the walleye baits may be larger.
Probably, one of the most popular methods to ice-fish for walleye would be jigging. The objective of jigging is to have your bait imitate injured prey, which in turn, will hopefully be investigated by a predator fish. There are numerous types of ice fishing jigs available for walleye on the market.
Many folks like to tip their jigs with whole or pieces of minnow for added attraction and natural scent. Walleyes are usually jigged close to the bottom. Jigs are tied directly to the main line of the rod and usually no additional weight is required as they should be heavy enough on their own. A six inch diameter hole bored through the ice should accommodate the girth of a fairly large walleye. Eight inches diameter would be ideal.
To begin jigging, the jig can be lowered to touch bottom then reeled in a crank or two to keep the jig just off bottom although a walleye will have no problem taking the jig which would be resting on the lake floor. One way to work a jig is with a quick “lift-snap” motion of the rod using both your arm and wrist simultaneously then quickly bring the rod back down to allow the jig to fall on its own.
Before working the jig again, give yourself about three or four seconds of pause time to let the jig complete its fall and allow time for a walleye to take it. Experiment with different jigging motions. Remember, you’re trying to imitate injured prey.
It’s a good idea to switch hands while jigging so you don’t end up with a sore arm or wrist by the end of the day. When you feel a hit, set the hook hard to compensate for the use of a short ice fishing rod combined with possible line stretch - you want to make sure that the barb of the hook becomes embedded otherwise you risk losing the fish. For hook setting, ten pound test line should do the trick but I wouldn’t go less than eight.
You may want to try various jig styles and colors to see what the walleye are interested in on that particular day.
If two rods per person are allowed, one rod can be rigged with a live minnow and set in another hole while you would be jigging with the other. The live minnow may be hooked through the back so it can freely move around as walleye prefer moving bait. Some folks hook a minnow through both lips which is okay but in my opinion it may not live as long due to suffocation. You’re better off hooking it through the top lip only.
Walleyes eagerly take large minnows. Four to five inch minnows or chubs would be ideal and they’re also hardier on the hook compared to smaller ones. Your minnow rig could consist of a bell sinker and one or two snelled hooks – hook size can vary from size 2 to 3/0. Again, this would be fished close to the bottom.
Walleyes will actively feed throughout the day given the opportunity, but they’re custom equipped to hunt primarily in low light and in darkness thanks to their excellent night vision. For this scenario, glow-in-the-dark type jigs can play a big part.
A detailed depth map of the lake that you plan to fish in and a GPS will certainly help you in locating structure that walleyes relate to such as humps, points, drop-offs or rocky bottoms. If you’re new to the area, it wouldn’t hurt to ask for information from local tackle shops. Before venturing out, always make sure that the ice is safe of course.
A good day will begin with safety in mind. Good fishing!