Tom Neustrom Ice fishingWinter fishing has been moving along in a positive direction and access to lakes continues to improve daily. Ice thickness still varies, but most lakes have anywhere from 7-14 inches depending on where you intend to fish. Calling the bait shops in the Grand Rapids area can be the best call you make before visiting. Ben’s Bait and 1000 Lakes Sports have the information you will need to have success on the ice and current conditions.

The walleye fishing has improved with better water clarity and several area lakes are kicking out nice walleyes. Pokegama, Trout , Big Winnie, Moose and a few other lakes have been good, but timing and location is all important. As the season progresses early and late in the day seem to be the best opportunities to have success.

The afternoon bite has always been my favorite and for some reason walleyes prefer the low light conditions, even under the ice where there is little or no light. Their movements the last 2 hours of the day are critical to finding active fish. Many times walleyes tend to stay in deep water on breaks and deeper water locations. In low light conditions early and late in the day walleyes will move up on points or break lines adjacent to deep water. The other location you may want to look at are cabbage beds near deep water that are clumps rather than massive forests that are tough to set up on.  Off-shore structures like sunken islands and long bars can also be good. Again find an access point to the structure where you think the walleyes will be moving up to feed. Drill several holes and with your electronics establish your locations on breaks and flats. Most often I fish the flats last. Gold 1/8th to ¼ ounce spoons work great tipped with a minnow head.

Don’t overdo the action especially when you eye a fish on the electronics. It’s fine to attract the fish when it comes in but slow down your presentation. It’s usually when you stop moving the bait the bite will occur. Sometimes having a “dead stick” in another hole close to where you are jigging can be the triggering effect needed. Just a plain hook with a shiner or chub may be the effect needed to get bit. It’s been a tried and true presentation for decades. Tip ups can also be a deadly presentation and if there are two of you fishing together you can have four lines in strategic places locations. I like to drill 8-12 holes along a weed line or drop-off and change them periodically. Keep lively minnows available to change often. This is most often a two fisted approach and even if you are after walleyes, a curious and aggressive northern pike may be in the mood. In the coming weeks we will give you updates on ice conditions and locations for other species. Happy New Year to everyone.