Where and How To Make the Most of First Ice Walleyes

by Jeff Samsel

If you’re an ice junkie and spend the fall anticipating the hard-water season, it probably doesn’t take much to coax you onto the ice once it reaches a safe thickness. If you do need persuasion, good reasons aren’t difficult to find, especially if you enjoy catching walleyes.

The first part of the ice-fishing season offers some of winter’s best walleyes action, with the fish shallower than they’ll be until the very end of ice season and typically more aggressive than they’ll be all year. In many places the fish will have received little to no pressure for weeks. The early approach differs from your later season tactics, so it’s important to consider normal conditions and walleye behavior for early winter and plan your strategy accordingly.

Early Ice LocationsFirst ice is often little more than a final extension of fall fishing, so the fish might be right were you left them the last time you had a boat in the water. If you have waypoints for rockpiles, reefs or edges of weeds that remained green late in the fall, those are excellent places to begin looking for fish. Lacking that sort of a head start, study a lake map and look for rockpiles or reefs just off a lake’s main basin or long points that have deep water beside them. Weedy edges that drop into deeper water can also be very productive as long as the weeds remain green. Hard features like points and reefs can be especially good because they are often utilized by fall-spawning baitfish, meaning walleyes find plenty of food in those areas.


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