Outdoors column: Trolling for walleyes on the ice

by Steve Carney

Many anglers are familiar with the term “trolling” during the open water months, but in reality this same tactic works very well during the ice fishing months.

Ice trolling means moving actively and fishing a versatile bait to cover water and find fish immediately.

The concept is the same. Find walleyes by covering water and experimenting.

My “trolling” for walleyes through the ice has changed my way of doing walleye business and this concept of mobility and actively searching has really increased my catches.

Here is a thumbnail sketch on the reasoning behind the ice trolling concept.

The more holes drilled the better
Many anglers tend to drill a couple of holes, sit down on their five-gallon pails and wait it out. Wrong! The correct way to attack the situation is to find your break or fast shoreline break and even your favorite rockpile and drill holes in a staggered line.

I use a “Z” pattern where I end up drilling holes in shallow water and then make my way out to deep water. I keep the holes about 40 yards apart and make sure I have most of the fishy depths covered. The more holes you drill the better the odds of connecting on fish.

Frequency of movement
My rule of thumb when I am using the ice trolling technique is to give every hole about 10 minutes with some active jigging and then move on. Ten minutes is just enough time to check for activity and pluck a biter or two out of the area before moving on.

If you happen to hit paydirt on any given hole then the right move is to stay put and make hay. Clues to look for are baitfish such as perch or small bluegills or large red “marks” on your electronics indicating active walleyes in the area.

Lures for active fishing
Ice trolling means aggressively working different holes at different depths meaning certain lures are better than others.

This is no time for bobbers. By the time you mess around with the knot and find the correct depth you waste too much time. I prefer a small, 1/12th ounce jigging spoon that drops down in seconds and is very efficient and non-time consuming. If the fish are there you will know immediately.

Jigging spoons also allow you to move that bait either up or down in the water column to make contact if you should spot a fish or two on the electronics. Be sure and tie your favorite spoon directly to the line with no snap swivels or other adornments.