November 30, 2006 at 7:58 a.m.
Some of the areas I like to hit before the really cold weather sets it include all of the spots that held active walleyes during the last weeks of open-water fishing. The channel connecting Chisago Lake and South Lindstrom Lake, the south end of Chisago Lake near the eagle’s nest and some of the shallower bays adjacent to deeper drop-offs are good bets in late December and early January.
Another key is to focus on weedlines and sharp breaks connecting shallower bay water to a lake’s main basin. A flasher will quickly reveal weedline depth and bottom hardness, so target the water at these key transition points. Typically, I punch a number of holes just off a weedline or sharp break and work the deeper water beginning at 3 p.m. with a jigging spoon and shiner. I move from hole-to-hole with my electronics in search of active fish while a shiner or small sucker under a tip-up is positioned at the top of the break in 8-12 feet of water.
One technique I apply when using a vertical jigging spoon is to hook the shiner or fathead through the upper mouth. At times when the spoon is just hanging in the water, the minnow is naturally upright and able to swim freely. Sometimes it’s effective to stop jigging at the critical moment when your flasher marks a larger fish under your hole that is investigating your bait. If the shiner or fathead attempts to flee from the walleye, it’ll demonstrate a more natural action than you could impart with your rod.
Also, don’t overlook the shallow bays during the early-ice period. In some cases, these bays get no more than 6-8 feet deep, but they’ll attract walleyes like a magnet during the critical 4 p.m.-6: p.m. time period. I have a couple of friends who turned me onto a particular bay two season’s ago. It was quite a revelation to learn that they were catching a fair number of walleyes in the 22-28 inch range on tip-ups in 5-6 feet of water.
Finally, do yourself (and others nearby) a tremendous favor by punching your holes and getting set up before mid afternoon. Operating augers just before and after sunset is never a good idea, particularly when targeting these shallower areas. Believe me, if you fire up the auger too close to dusk, it’ll cause the fish to scatter and raise the eyebrows of nearby anglers, so it’s a good idea to get your “noisy work” done by mid-afternoon.
Chasing walleyes during the early-ice period is a great way to kick-off the ice-fishing season. Your chances of finding numbers of aggressive, heavier fish on weedlines and sharper breaks will never be better.
Please keep in mind the DNR’s recommendation that you first contact local public safety officials (sheriff or local police department), or resorts and bait shops near the ice in question to inquire about ice thickness and quality before heading out onto our area lakes.
Be safe, and I’ll see you on the ice!
Dan Brown’s weekly outdoor column is brought to you by Frankie’s Bait and Marine, in Chisago City, and St. Croix Outdoors, in St. Croix Falls, Wis.