August 06, 2011
During winter, a balance of food, depth, and water temperature may trigger walleye movements towards spawning locations long before the Spawn Period. When conditions are favorable in reservoirs, ice fishing walleyes may congregate near spawning areas under the ice, which often increases competition for food and creates aggressive feeding behavior.
Structures near deep water are key winter locations. Investigate steep breaks along major points and humps near the mouth of creeks and bays that extend toward the main river channel. Hard-bottom locations--shale, rock, or gravel--also attract walleyes. Secondary points and hard-bottom areas in creek arms near deep water also are good. Upstream stretches in larger reservoirs may host good fishing where numbers of walleyes have migrated in preparation for spawning.
In shallower flatland reservoirs, the lower end may be the only water deep enough for winter survival. Feeder creeks also may be deep enough to sustain a population of walleyes. Rock shorelines and riprap areas along the face of dams can be key fishing locations if the ice is safe.
Search different locations and depths, keying on spots where you see schools of baitfish on sonar. Using a sonar allows you to spot baitfish like smelt, shad, or shiners, and walleyes moving through the area, possibly suspended above bottom. In many lakes and reservoirs, walleyes often suspend several feet from the bottom, looking for food. Raise your lure up to the depth where you mark fish. Suspended walleyes seldom hesitate to strike your lure--but they're also fish you would likely miss without sonar.
The flash and vibration qualities of flash lures work for calling in walleyes along steep breaks where they may be moving through at different depths. Flash lures also attract the attention of walleyes moving through at suspended levels.
There's often a sweet spot along structures like points that attracts more fish. Walleyes generally investigate spot-on-a-spot locations because it's a place they've become accustomed to finding food. Swimming lures, designed to imitate and duplicate the swimming actions of baitfish, are ideal baits for catching walleyes hunting in specific spots for baitfish. Swimming lures, like the Nils Master Jigging Shad, Rapala Jigging Rap, or Salmo Chubby Darter, have a profile similar to the baitfish common in reservoirs, and their larger profiles make it easier for fish to see in low-light conditions.
Using a jig tipped with minnows is another good tactic when the fish seem neutral or negative toward hitting spoons and swimming lures. Suspending minnows below floats also produces. When several anglers fish together, using tip-ups to cover many different depths along structure is another popular reservoir tactic.