Ice Fishing and Walleye Survival

Ice Fishing and Walleye Survival

Science in Action—While survival of walleyes caught and released during the open-water season has been studied in-depth, little is known about post-release mortality of walleyes released by ice anglers. Researchers recently evaluated post-release survival of walleyes caught and released by ice anglers at Lake Nipissing, Ontario.

Angling was conducted in January and February using active and passive techniques. The active fishing method was jigging with1/4-to 3/8-ounce Northland Buck-Shot and Macho Minnow spoons and Cabela’s jigheads baited with dead emerald shiners. Spoons had treble hooks. Anglers used medium-to light-power rods with 6-pound-test monofilament. Passive angling methods included tip-ups and setlines with #4 Gamakatsu Octopus and circle hooks baited with wild emerald shiners and weighted with a 1/4-ounce sinker. All hooks in the study were barbed. Walleyes were caught at water depths ranging from 20 to 41 feet to assess the effects of barotrauma on post-release mortality.

Upon capture, the hook was removed, and hook location and signs of barotrauma noted. For walleyes hooked deeply in the esophagus, gills, or tongue, the line was cut or the hook was removed with pliers. Air exposure didn’t exceed 45 seconds. After hook removal, fish were placed in nets suspended in the water column and mortality was assessed after 24 hours.

Angled walleyes averaged 14 inches. Overall post-release mortality after 24 hours was 6.9 percent. A higher percentage of walleyes were deeply hooked when caught using passive (50.4 percent) than active (9.3 percent) techniques, and deeply hooked walleyes had higher mortality (14.8 percent) than shallow hooked fish (3.0 percent). Mortality of walleyes caught using active (2.8 percent) or passive (9.8 percent) techniques wasn’t significantly different, nor was it for fish caught on J-hooks, circle hooks, or treble hooks. Air temperature and depth at which fish were caught didn’t have a significant effect on mortality. Mortality was higher for deeply hooked fish when hooks were removed (22.6 percent) compared to when the line was cut (11.1 percent).


Results from this study indicate a relatively low rate of mortality within the first 24 hours for walleyes released after ice angling. A high proportion of walleyes were caught using small baited hooks on passive lines, resulting in frequent deep-hooking.The researchers note that while mortality from deep-hooking was modest in their study, larger hooks should be tested to see if they reduce deep-hooking. Overall, they say walleyes were resilient to capture and handling, including handling in air and on ice prior to release, and even fish that showed signs of barotrauma had high survival. They suggest it may be prudent for anglers to cut the line on deeply hooked walleyes intended for release.


*Twardek, W. M., and 8 co-authors. 2018. The post release survival of walleyes following ice-angling on Lake Nipissing, Ontario. N. Am. J. Fish. Mgmt. 38:159-169. 

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

In-Fisherman Calendar Periods

In-Fisherman Calendar Periods

In-Fisherman staffers target all fish and key on the revolving season calendar periods to maximize the the likelihood of catching more and bigger fish.

Frigid Water Smallmouths

Frigid Water Smallmouths

Doug Stange swims jigs with precision for frigid-water smallmouths.

Travel Destinations on Ice

Travel Destinations on Ice

The In-Fisherman staff targets all fish during each and every season, with many of our favorite winter option are on the ice.

Spawntime World Class Crappies

Spawntime World Class Crappies

Doug Stange and Brandon Fulgham illustrate spawntime crappie patterns on one of North America's most famous fisheries.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Pole lines illustrate the paradox of catfishing. At a time when excellent rods, reels, and other Catfish

Catfish Pole Rigs

Richard Peterson with In-Fisherman - April 28, 2016

Pole lines illustrate the paradox of catfishing. At a time when excellent rods, reels, and...

Catfish are simple creatures that can be caught using the best catfish rigs. Catching them is simply a matter of putting a good bait in the right in front of them. Catfish

8 Best Catfish Rigs - When, Where and How to Use Them

In-Fisherman

Catfish are simple creatures that can be caught using the best catfish rigs. Catching them is...

Several methods are available to estimate the weight of a fish. Some use length as well as girth measurements. Biology

Walleye Length To Weight Conversion Chart

Dr. Rob Neumann - January 03, 2017

Several methods are available to estimate the weight of a fish. Some use length as well as...

Walleyes spawn in spring and understanding spring walleye migrations, whether you live north or south, will help you pinpoint their predictable locations year after year. Walleye

Understanding Spring Walleye Migrations

Gord Pyzer - June 02, 2018

Walleyes spawn in spring and understanding spring walleye migrations, whether you live north...

See More Trending Articles

More Critical Concepts

Largemouth bass behave rather similarly throughout their natural and introduced ranges. Critical Concepts

Bass Calendar Periods: Late Summer through Fall Coldwater

In-Fisherman - September 12, 2019

Largemouth bass behave rather similarly throughout their natural and introduced ranges.

Do UV lures have “brightening” benefits under ice? Critical Concepts

UV Light on Ice and Open Water

Dr. Rob Neumann - November 21, 2019

Do UV lures have “brightening” benefits under ice?

Fishing gets difficult under such conditions, but fortunately, Turnover lasts only about a week on any one lake. Critical Concepts

Understanding the Fall Turnover Period

In-Fisherman

Fishing gets difficult under such conditions, but fortunately, Turnover lasts only about a...

Here's some important information regarding holding trophy bass. Critical Concepts

Holding Bass the Right Way

Ralph Manns - September 12, 2019

Here's some important information regarding holding trophy bass.

See More Critical Concepts

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All In-Fisherman subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now