Skip to main content

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

Drop-Shotting For Smallies

Drop-Shotting For Smallies

The In-Fisherman crew head to Lake Erie to catch smallmouth bass.

Hobie MirageDrive 360 Kayak Propulsion: Amazing Control and Power

Hobie MirageDrive 360 Kayak Propulsion: Amazing Control and Power

The Hobie MirageDrive 360 pedal propulsion system is the pinnacle of kayak control with more efficient fin designs, glide technology and allows the boat to be moved in any direction.

Lake Superior Whitefish on Ice

Lake Superior Whitefish on Ice

Doug Stange joins Capt. Aron Kastern on Lake Superior near Ashland, Wisconsin where they go after whitefish on ice.

Channel Cats on Ice

Channel Cats on Ice

The In-Fisherman staff reveals some of the hottest action of the winter season, as they show how to ice 20-pound channel catfish.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

The big discussion is over the legality for the public to wade in or walk alongside rivers.Understanding Riverine Rights Today Catfish

Understanding Riverine Rights Today

Dan Anderson - October 28, 2020

The big discussion is over the legality for the public to wade in or walk alongside rivers.

Across the Walleye Belt, big water often equals big opportunities to enjoy some of the continent's finest walleye fishing.Staying on Big-Water Walleyes Walleye

Staying on Big-Water Walleyes

Dan Johnson - September 09, 2019

Across the Walleye Belt, big water often equals big opportunities to enjoy some of the...

Ned Kehde breaks down the finer points of the Rabid Baits GobyRabid Baits Goby Midwest Finesse

Rabid Baits Goby

Ned Kehde - October 09, 2020

Ned Kehde breaks down the finer points of the Rabid Baits Goby

Their fighting ability is far superior to the largemouth bass—more par with muskies.The Case for Super Bass (AKA Snakeheads) Other Fish

The Case for Super Bass (AKA Snakeheads)

Steve Ryan - July 06, 2020

Their fighting ability is far superior to the largemouth bass—more par with muskies.

See More Trending Articles

More Critical Concepts

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

Understanding the Fall Turnover Period

In-Fisherman

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

Researchers recently evaluated post-release survival of walleyes.Ice Fishing and Walleye Survival Critical Concepts

Ice Fishing and Walleye Survival

Gabe Gries

Researchers recently evaluated post-release survival of walleyes.

Deep panfish are especially susceptible to vertical presentations at this time of year.Vertical Tactics for Fall Panfish Critical Concepts

Vertical Tactics for Fall Panfish

Steve Ryan

Deep panfish are especially susceptible to vertical presentations at this time of year.

Largemouth bass behave rather similarly throughout their natural and introduced ranges.Bass Calendar Periods: Late Summer through Fall Coldwater 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.

See More Critical Concepts

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the In-Fisherman App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

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

Phone Icon

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