First ice is always the best time to fish in winter. But always use caution when you venture onto the ice for the first time.
I like to get out as soon as the ice can hold me. But over the past few years I've made a few changes to my early-ice routine. A couple more pounds around my belt, a few more brain cells upstairs and preparation for the busy winter are just a few of the reasons why I'm not the first one out.
I've witnessed a few accidents on the ice and almost all of them could have been avoided with just a little thought. Last year one of my renters strayed off the main trail and sunk his four-wheeler in 30 feet of water on the west side of Gull Lake. He got off the machine in the nick of time.
By keeping an eye on the ice as it forms you can learn when and where you should venture. I know it's not possible for all of us to keep daily tabs on what the ice is doing, so here are a number of tips to consider before heading out on first ice.
Fish with a partner. Flip a coin to see who goes first. Bring rope and a throw cushion. Wear a life vest. Carry a chisel and poke the ice in front of you with each step.
Travel light. I bring a bucket, chisel, rod and reel, small tackle box, zippered bag of minnows, fishing license, camera and Vexilar. I load it all on a sled so the weight is spread out.
Before going to a lake, stop at a local bait shop and ask about ice conditions. I start the season close to shore, waiting to venture to mid-lake spots until I know the entire sheet of ice is safe. There are plenty of lakes in the area and several will have safe ice before others. Try a new lake if your favorite isn't ready yet. You just might find a new hot spot.
One thing most people don't realize is how inconsistent ice thickness can be on a given lake. There can be 6 inches in one area and 2 inches just a short distance away. That's why it's wise to ask a reliable source about the ice before heading out.
Q: Walleyedan, what's your favorite technique for fishing walleyes through the ice?
A: Whatever they're biting on! Aggressive fish will hit a jigging spoon tipped with a piece of minnow. When they aren't slamming the spoon, switch to a jig and rainbow chub. If this doesn't do the trick, go with a plain hook, minnow and split shot.
"Walleyedan" Eigen can be reached at www.walleyedan.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, (218) 839-5598, or by writing 9287 Anderson Road, Lake Shore, MN 56468.
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