As we are approach the depths of winter, we begin to experience colder temperatures, accumulating amounts of snowfall and the formation and continuous expansion of ice. We are off to an interesting new year with inconsistent temperatures. Finding good ice at this point is going to be the biggest factor for many anglers. Luckily, we have the advantage of catching large numbers of whitefish and huge walleyes in shallow water with good amounts of ice. Utilizing these options can be very effective, and it’s very important to understand that one does not need to fish deep water, or venture miles off shore to find great fishing. Having the amenities of fishing deeper water allows you to find large drop offs, shelves, and structure which hold a lot of fish. However, shallow water has much of the same characteristics of deep water, and ice fishermen should concentrate on weed structure and rock bars. These areas hold large masses of bait fish, crustaceans and grubs.
Whitefish tend to feed heavily on gobies, blood worms, insects and bottom organisms. Over the last week, we have been able to capitalize on the hot whitefish bite, producing big numbers of whitefish. Another important piece of information to remember is that whitefish spawn in early winter in shallow rock or sand bottoms in less than twenty-five feet of water. Keying in on these important facts will allow you to understand where these fish are feeding, what they are feeding on and most importantly why they are in that specific spot.
We are looking forward to the upcoming colder temperatures to bring us substantial amounts of ice and memorable fishing experiences. We are also encountering walleyes in shallow water right along with schools of whitefish. My previous statement that shallow water holds large masses of bait fish will explain why these walleyes are moving in on shallow water to feed. Walleyes typically move through an area in schools. Hooking up on a big walleye should be an indication that you should quickly re-gear and drop your bait back down, more than likely you will be presented with more opportunities to hook up on another big one. One way to understand fish better and jigging presentations is to watch how they react in their environment. Understanding the fish you are targeting will allow you as an angler to understand jigging presentations, and how to compensate day in and day out on the water.
The biggest piece of information I believe while fishing shallow water is being “stealthy or silent” if you will. Many anglers can relate to fishing pressure, and how the bite can easily be affected by this. Fish can spook very easy, whitefish in particularly spook like you cannot imagine. Drilling holes, ice traffic and so on will scatter whitefish, using an underwater camera to witness this theory will be an answer all in its self. Take the steps to prevent this situation by drilling all of your holes at once when you arrive at your ice fishing grounds, and at the end of the day, I can assure it will make a large difference in your success. A whitefish feeds on grubs, bottom organisms and small bait fish, taking this piece of information into perspective will tell you that working your jigs on the bottom will be your best bet for hooking into whitefish! “I am a firm believer to understand a bite and to be successful one must understand the species of fish”. Having the opportunity to target fish on an everyday basis as guides we are able understand these fish and when they are prone to feed actively and being able to stay on top of these bites.
As the day progresses fish make transitions. These transitions are dictated by water temperature, cold fronts, feeding patterns, and overcast skies. Whitefish, more times than not, will be very active throughout day time hours and feed heavily. Whitefish inhabit deep and shallow water. Setting up away from ice traffic and continuous noise on the ice will produce bigger numbers at the end of the day. Whitefish are similar to a big buck; they do not tolerate pressure and separate themselves from danger. Look for good ice and a quiet place to fish, and this will make for great success.