What a crazy spring. We’ve had late ice before but not to this extent, not that I can remember. Sooner or later the ice will give it up though and we’ll get on the water and walleye fishing could actually be pretty darn good.
In northern Minnesota, where I’ve spent many an opener, we ran into late ice one particular opener when there had been a really cold spring. In fact, the lake we were staying on was still locked up and we had to head south to find open water.
Our expectations were not that high given the existing conditions, but the results couldn’t have been better. We found plenty of biters lined up on a shallow gravel and rock spawning shelf that extended from the shoreline out into maybe six to eight feet of water. The water temps were not in the optimum range for spawning, but the fish were there and still getting on with it.
Even though the temps may not be perfect, a walleye’s body is still ready to go and they’ll carry on regardless. It probably leads to poor spawning success and may result in a missing year class, but it does happen.
Catching those shallow fish was fairly easy and as pure as it gets and included pitching and dragging a jig and minnow. We chose to cast or pitch to the shallowest fish (in four feet of water or less) because the boat could spook them off. We also used a Minn Kota Terrova electric trolling motor with I-Pilot to position the boat which has an anchor feature that will automatically hold your boat in one place hands free.
We’d get on a hot spot, hit the anchor button and then pitch a Northland Tackle Vegas Jig tipped with a shiner into just a few feet of water and slowly work it back along the bottom. Fish would pick it up and start moving off and was time to set the hook.
We worked the deeper fish by slowly trolling along with the Terrova with a fair amount of line out and would wait to feel a thump or maybe just some extra weight which was again the time to set the hook. There were plenty of short strikers and we did find that by waiting the fish out before setting the hook after they had picked up the bait we could hook a few more of them.
See you on the water, I hope.