When it comes to early ice fishing, anglers often face the challenge of intense winds before freeze up that stir up sediment and create turbid, muddy waters, especially in small, shallower bodies of water. In this video, Jason Mitchell discusses how to adapt your tactics for success in these conditions and make the most of the limited visibility, especially when it comes to walleye fishing.
In regions like the Dakotas, you’ll run into a lot of those small, shallow dish bowl lakes, often less than 10 feet deep, that freeze quickly after a 30-mile-an-hour wind. That colder water can suspend particles for longer periods of time, causing the water to remain cloudy for weeks after freeze-up. This dirty water can have a negative impact on fishing, even in significant bodies of water like Lake of the Woods and Red Lake, along with backwater areas on Devil’s Lake and small dish bowl sloughs. If you get really strong winds with lakes freezing over immediately afterward, you might find yourself facing several weeks of tough fishing.
So, what can you do to improve your chances of catching walleye in these challenging conditions? One key strategy is to modify your jigging strokes and tactics. Keep in mind that in these murky waters, fish have limited visibility and can’t see their prey from a distance. To address this, you’ll want to make your presentation more enticing by using sound and vibrations.
One effective technique is to focus on pounding your lure in place with a hard, but short, jig stroke or quiver. This hard and deliberate motion creates vibrations in the water that fish can detect even when they have limited visibility. Using spoons tipped with minnow heads can be especially productive in dirty water. Jointed spoons like the Clam Jointed Pinhead Pro can be really effective in these conditions by creating extra noise and vibrations to attract fish. Rattle spoons are another option that can work well in these conditions. The key is to use lures that produce a lot of noise and vibrations and focus on a hard cadence keeping the bait in one place so the fish can hone in on it’s location. Avoid high jigs strokes and baits that need to make larger runs like glide baits. Fish might have limited visual detection, but they can still hear and feel what’s happening in the water and keeping your bait in one place can help them navigate to it quickly.
When wind before freeze up compromises water clarity and visibility, remember to capitalize on these remaining senses, as hungry walleye are still looking for a meal. Instead of relying on lures that depend on visual stimulation, focus on lures that stimulate the fish’s lateral line. Jointed spoons and rattle spoons excel in this regard.
In summary, when facing dirty waters and limited visibility during early ice walleye fishing, adapt your tactics by using lures that produce noise and vibrations. Concentrate on a hard and steady pounding motion with a noisy lure to attract fish rather than employing high jig strokes or baits that rely on visual cues. By making the most of the fish’s remaining senses, you can increase your chances of success and make the most of your time on the early ice.