Cold days and even colder nights with limited or no snow cover is making some awfully good ice. This bodes well for some great ice fishing in the province this year. I can remember in both 2007 and 2008 first ice walleye fishing on the Red River north of Selkirk was on fire. With great fall fishing this year on the Red many anglers are predicting a great ice season on the river. And guess what it is happening right now!
My first trip in December 2008 was to a section of river north of Selkirk which had extended stretches of deep water, in the twenty to thirty foot range as an average. After spending some time drilling holes and then checking it out from the boat in open water it just seemed to be a big flat at the end of a deep hole along a straight stretch of the river. If you had to pick this kind of area out of a dozen other better looking areas you would be a magician. For whatever reason though, it consistently holds big fish, really big fish. Along this day was friend Darrin Bohonis, a hardcore fisherman who also reps Minn Kota and Humminbird. We unloaded our vehicles in the early morning light, filling our two sleds with an auger along with our own portable ice shacks. We headed out to the middle of the river, careful to check for thin ice, a very real consideration at this time of the year. Soon we had our holes drilled, our two ice shacks set up twenty feet apart so we could compare notes of what was happening on the electronics. Both Darrin and I were using the Humminbird ICE 55 flasher, the most critical element in this type of fishing.
As we dropped our transducers down the hole, we adjusted the depth in the hole to make sure we could have our lures within the cone. This would allow us to watch our baits and to react to any fish that might appear below.
While ice fishing, you are allowed two lines, so on my still line I put on a 3/8 ounce blue jig tipped with a big salted shiner. On my other rod I had tied on an in line swivel to prevent line twist, then a small cross lock snap so I could change baits. I decided to use something big and aggressive, a gold Hawger spoon with a rattle and a long single hook. I have found with bigger jigging spoons that if you use a single hook, your hooking percentage becomes a lot higher. It was certainly the case this day as I landed all four bites on my jigging spoon, two of which were walleye well over eight pounds. My still line didn’t disappoint this day either, landing the same number and ratio of walleye. So here’s the deal, my jigging spoon fish all came at least eight feet off the bottom while my jig fish were within a foot and a half. With limited current, you will find a lot of big fish suspended at this time of year and without electronics you won’t have a chance to catch them. This also holds true in the big lake. A large number of the walleye suspend on Lake Winnipeg as well, especially when they move out to main basin areas during the middle of the winter. Fishing out of a portable shelter with a heater allows you to focus on your electronics, the key to catching suspended walleye.