Small Lake Success for Early Ice Eyes


Each year I look forward to hunting season. Early mornings followed by early evenings at deer camp leave us with time to relax, share stories and talk about what else…fishing! The topic tonight is early season ice fishing for Walleyes. Smaller lakes tend to freeze up much faster than larger, deeper basins and lakes, so if you are headed out soon you may want to try your luck on smaller bodies of water first. It can be easier to locate schools of Walleye and you can find them in shallower depths versus early season on a large body of water such as Lake of the Woods, etc.


We plan to do some exploring this winter on small lakes in our area. With each different lake our strategy to locate packs of Walleye will be the same; we call it the 1-2-3 approach. First, try the deeper edge off of extended points or shorelines. As I have mentioned in most of my previous articles, extended points are one the best places to start looking for groups of fish on any new body of water. Secondly, move around and explore different areas on mid-lake structures, try to find the “spot on the spot” where the Walleyes may group up. Last but not least is number three, soft bottom flats. When fishing flats spread out and drill a few holes in different areas so you can cover water and increase your success.

The best time of day to try for Walleye is right before sunset, and at sunset. Each day this will be the peak time to catch them. Early season ice conditions can be dangerous and unsafe, never travel alone and be careful when you head out on the hard water, especially when you are scouting new and unfamiliar lakes.


Tackle selection doesn’t need to be complicated; a few small lures with a slow presentation and you are set. A jig with live bait or a 3-4 inch soft plastic minnow bait like such as the TriggerX Minnow can be one of the best applications for enticing finicky Walleye. This will work all year round, not only early season. When you are using soft plastics make sure you experiment with many different colours until you find the colour that works on that particular day. I am a big believer that colour is important. I have personally seen days in open water and ice fishing where one person has caught at least double the amount of the fish than everyone else, while using the same lure, just in a different colour. Sometimes when a certain colour works well we all put on the exact same thing. When working the bait we first try it on the bottom, and then we try jigging it one foot off bottom which can trigger them to bite.

Light spoons, with or without a rattle, in bright colours have brought us success as well. I usually tip the end with a piece of salted minnow or a piece of scented soft plastic for extra appeal. Favourite colours would be chartreuse and pink. Small lipless crankbaits such as the Rapala Rippin’ Rap or Rattlin’ Rapala can be great if the fish are active, and it is also a great way to get their attention and attract them in. Once you lure them in a great “closing” bait is the Jigging Shad Rap. It is my go-to bait year after year for Walleyes through the ice, all winter long, they love it!



About Author

Amanda Keszler is an avid angler who enjoys spending every minute she can in the outdoors, fishing and hunting with her family. She has been contributing to Hooked Magazine for almost three years now. Recently Amanda was featured on an episode of the Lund Ultimate Fishing Experience television show where she fished alongside her mentor, her father Alex. She regularly competes in Bass and Walleye tournaments across Manitoba and Ontario with her boyfriend Logan. The final year that she was eligible to fish as a youth in the Angler Young Angler fishing tournament in Pine Falls with Alex, they won first place. Since that day she has been hooked on tournament fishing and the challenges that it brings. Throughout the year Amanda targets many different species such as Walleye, Smallmouth Bass, Largemouth Bass, Crappie, Northern Pike, Lake Trout, and Whitefish. For the past three years she has been giving seminars at the Mid-Canada Boat Show in Winnipeg, Manitoba. “Hunting and fishing with my friends and family creates a bond and lifetime memories that I will always carry with me. There is truly nothing that I would rather be doing than spending time experiencing and writing about the great outdoors."

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