Walleye, bass and northern season ending this weekend
There it was, a four-letter word in the e-mail's subject line staring me down. HELP.
Had it not been for the recognizable sender, an avid angler, I may have passed it on to the trash.
I wondered what it meant and a hundred scenarios entered my mind before opening the SOS message.
Maybe he's stuck in the ditch somewhere? Nah, he'd call instead of e-mailing. I know, he probably wants help moving some heavy furniture or shingling the roof, in which case I better just ignore the message and pretend like I never got it. But my curiosity prompted a click of the mouse and revealed the reason for the sender's distress.
"Jason, cannot get the walleye to bite on fatheads and small jigs or plain hooks. Should I try waxies and an ant or what? I know some of the fish I'm seeing are tullibee. Seems like the jigging spoons bring them in best, so I'm sure a lot are 'tullies. Only one weekend left, what should I do?"
I completely understood his feeling of distress. When the walleye season approaches its end, anglers begin to feel constricted and claustrophobic, not because they fish from a doghouse-sized dark house, but due to the passing of time - sweet, valuable time.
Although walleye action right now doesn't match the activity experienced during the very earliest part of the ice fishing season, there's definite potential and reason to venture out. In fact, since walleye are developing eggs right now to spawn in just a few months, while dually feeding to support offspring development, there's opportunity for landing some of the largest fish of the calendar year.
If the fish seem lethargic right now, it's because for the most part, they are. The best formula to put a few fish in the pail is to cover as much territory as possible and switch up your presentation.
Drill plenty of holes and probe varying depths. Since the ice is near its thickest point of the year, drilling holes requires stamina, patience and an auger extension on certain lakes, but the extra work can pay off.
Points, drop-offs, bars and humps remain the best locations, but don't be afraid to move. If you have a stationary house planted on the lake and the fishing's been slow, look toward subtle bottom changes within close proximity. Fingers, depressions, transitions in bottom content and isolated weed clumps provide just enough attraction for late season walleye away from more prominent structures.
Getting wary walleye to commit to your bait is the second step in landing Minnesota's state fish. When fish approach, but fail to follow through in feeding, downsize your presentation. Try smaller jigging spoons tipped with a minnow head or even a pair of waxworms to entice finicky fish and use on shorter, concentrated motions instead of hefty "rips" with the rod.
Since each angler can use two lines, drop another bait in addition to your jigging spoon. A small shiner or fathead delicately harnessed by a plain hook or jighead will swim naturally below a small float or tip-up. And even if a walleye passes on the traditional hook and minnow combination, as was the case in the e-mail message, you'll have another option, the jigging spoon, soaking in the distance, ready for a walleye strike.