Walleye are one of the earliest spawners of all game fish. Their ideal water temperature for spawning is 43-48 degrees, which happens in a hurry once the ice comes off a lake. For that reason, their initial move toward their spawning grounds generally occurs when there is still fishable ice on the lake.
This is also the reason that the late-ice walleye bite is so tough for many anglers. Spots that consistently produced fish are suddenly barren, making it seem as if they suddenly disappeared altogether.
In reality, though, late ice fishing for walleye can be some of the best fishing of the year – provided you’re actually around the fish.
Here’s where to look:
Walleyes run up rivers and creeks to spawn, but prior to that they stage on the first pieces of structure near the mouths of such places. On reservoirs, anglers should head to the upstream ends of the system, and look for shallow bars, rock structures, and adjacent drop-offs. These are the places the walleyes will hold on until the ice comes off. Targeting these aggressive fish with rattle baits like the LIVETARGET Lipless Bluegill, tip-ups baited with large suckers, and flashy jigs can result in some pretty memorable catches.
Shallow Flats And Bays
On northern natural lakes that don’t have a major river inlet, walleyes will try to spawn on shallow rocky shorelines as soon as the ice comes out. The biggest mistake many anglers make when late ice fishing for walleye is fishing too deep. It’s very common for late ice walleyes to move into 10 feet of water or less, particularly if there is a hard bottom. The same presentations, like Rapala jigging raps, tip-ups, and bigger spoons will pick off willing biters getting ready to spawn.
Updated February 23rd, 2022 at 4:29 AM CT