The first ice period may have already come and gone but what’s up next is nothing to sneeze at. The following stage of the frozen water period can actually produce some of the most consistent walleye action of the entire season. Instead of waiting impatiently for hungry ‘eyes that may or may not show up just before dark on the shallow bar or reef that you bet the house on, you can take it to ‘em and hunt them down like the vermin they are. Hot action over deeper structure is what anglers have to look forward to and best of all it can happen during the middle of the day!
The key is finding the next hot spot after the old one burns out which usually happens all too fast. Hordes of anglers and all of the commotion that goes with them can shut things down in a hurry and is a condition you’ll want to avoid. You can avoid it by staying ahead of the crowd and reacting to what is happening right now instead of what you might have heard. By the time most anglers hear about a hot bite the action has already cooled off, and can be chalked up to the “you should have been here yesterday” factor.
To stay ahead of the crowd and put yourself in position to be in the right place at the right time you’ll have to be wiling to do a little exploring. That means giving up the comfort of relying on other anglers to find the fish and spending time in areas where no man has gone before, at least this season.
Finding the next hot spot starts by taking a hard look at a good map and there are some new ones being produced that have incredible detail and accuracy. The Lakemaster Promap is a great example as it reveals detail in three foot increments, and includes G.P.S. coordinates for some of the more popular structure. It also includes a latitude and longitude grid that will allow you to zoom in on specific spots that aren’t currently marked on other maps, and is the key to finding and having a hot spot all to yourself. What used to take a lifetime or more to learn is now available on a map, and is to the applause of some and chagrin of others. Those that earned all of that information the hard way aren’t too excited about seeing it exposed, but it’s hear to stay and you might as well use it to your advantage.
With the right handheld G.P.S. you can take a coordinate off the map, enter it, and navigate to the exact spot. The right G.P.S. is one that has W.A.A.S. capabilities like the Garmin GPSMap 60C, which can get you to within nine feet or less of a specific location. W.A.A.S. is a new more accurate signal that was developed for the F.A.A. and is now available for us to use, as long as our equipment is set up to accept it.
With map and G.P.S in hand you can find those once hidden hot spots, and get back to them time after time. The drawback is that the new highly detailed maps are limited to larger bodies of water like Mille Lacs and Gull. Smalller bodies of water may have to be investigated the old fashioned way, that is if old fashioned includes the use of an electronic depth finder.
Attacking a smaller body of water starts out by taking a look at the best map you can find and then actually getting on the ice and taking a look for yourself, and then seeing if there is anything that might have been missing. For example; There may be smaller humps or points that aren’t included, or there may be a deeper patch of rock or gravel that doesn’t show up on the typical map. To find the aforementioned you’ll have to be willing to spend and even waste some time looking for what might be there.
The quickest way to get the job done is to employ the use of an electronic depth finder like the Marcum handheld LX-i and survey likely looking areas thoroughly. You can do so without ever drilling a hole and is done by pouring a little water on the ice and then holding the face of the LX-i tight to the surface. That will allow you to shoot right through two, three, and even four feet or ice as long as it isn’t busted up and layered. In that case you’ll probably be forced to drill a lot of holes and there really aren’t any shortcuts.
If you can shoot through the ice you can even mark fish, and is something to keep in mind when you’re looking at structure. The LX-i will reveal the presence of fish with an audible alarm and then will flash the exact depth of the fish on the digital readout. On the other hand if you aren’t marking fish don’t write a spot off immediately as fish holding tight to a break or belly to the bottom are extremely difficult to read. It sometimes takes a little investigative angling with a jigging spoon to get ol’ marble eyes to show himself.
Another consideration is the spooking factor and you may have to give a spot a half hour or so before walleyes turn on again, especially after being chased off by the noise and commotion created by turning a spot into Swiss cheese with a gas powered auger. See you on the ice.