Icing Missouri River Walleyes
by Rick Olson
Lake Oahe is a massive reservoir that provides some incredible
and the hard water period is no exception. From ice up to ice out big
catches of fat and sassy walleyes are often made and the action can be
hot and heavy. Anglers who have done their homework and know where to
look typically can expect to find mega schools of willing walleyes and
the forecast for this upcoming season looks good, really good.
Trends are what you look for when it comes to predicting the future
and the trend has been excellent withsteady summer action that lasted
right through the fall. The hot bite should pickup again where it left
off and keep going through the rest of the winter period. The key is
knowing where to look, what to look for, and determining what exactly
all of those walleyes really want.
Although you can find active walleyes up and down most of the
reservoir; one of the hottest bites occurs in the Mobridge area, from
the Moreau River to the North Dakota border. Year after year the
Mobridge area produces some of the most consistent action on the entire
river system and is always a good bet for finding and catching numbers
of wintering walleyes.
Hot spots to look for are edges, edges of underwater points, the main
channel, and flats where they drop into deeper water. Deeper is one of
the keys to look for, including depths down to forty feet or more. That
doesn't mean you're going to find most of the fish deep because they can
definitely be shallow, it's just that it's good to have all of the
Finding shallow fish will depend on the conditions like snow cover or
thereof, or whether you're dealing with dark or clear water. Dark water
can help bring fish up shallow, as shallow as five or six feet. Incoming
creek arms are often darker than the main reservoir and where you could
expect to find the most fish shallow. Snow cover is the key to a good
shallow bite in clear water, and probably a total waste of time without
Early season walleyes will often show up in shallow water if the
conditions are right, and then slide deeper and deeper as the season
progresses. It's a classic winter movement but you never know for sure
where they're going to be so you better be prepared to do it all.
Finding likely structure can be as easy as pushing a button and
following a course that takes you exactly where you want to go. It's
that easy if you're using a G.P.S. with a plotter that can display a
high definition map and why my ATV has a Raymarine 425 mounted on the
handle bars. With the 425 I can load a Navionics Gold Map card and see
the structure I'm looking for and exactly where I am in relation to it
all. It saves time and can be a real safety factor, especially if you
stay too long and are running back in the dark.
Tip-ups are an invaluable tool for pinning down exact location and
allow you the flexibility of covering multiple depths and varying
structure all at the same time. In South Dakota you can use up to four
lines which gives you plenty of options. A good combination includes
setting out tip-ups up and down a break line, and then keying on a high
percentage spot with a jigging spoon. The existing weather conditions
will determine whether or not it's worth setting out tip-ups as extreme
cold and wind can shut it all down. In that case you may be better off
staying inside your shelter and working a jigging bait down one hole and
dropping a set rig below a bobber down another.
Jigging baits like Normark's Jigging Rap are hot early season
producers and can get the job done all season long. If you're working
the Rap it usually won't take long to know if you're in the right place.
Whenthe fish are really active they'll come charging in and hammer the
bait. If they're off they may come charging in and just look, and is why
it's a good idea to have a set bait down another hole. A minnow sitting
just off the bottom may be more than the walleyes can stand and is a
good hedge if you're not sure just how fired up they are.
If you decide to give the Mobridge area a try call ahead and get an
update on ice conditions and be sure you know what you're doing as
reservoirs can be a dangerous place. The thing is there's incoming creek
arms and rivers and you're going to have current to deal with and there
could be areas that are completely unsafe. Take the time to find out
where they are play it safe. You can call Bridge City Bait at
1-605-845-3132 to get a current report.
Another great option is hiring one of the local guides who can set
you up, get you on the fish, and keep you safe. In the Morreau area
Schilling Outdoor Adventures can provide an all inclusive trip including
lodging and guiding and can be reached at 1-877-357-3583. In the
Mobridge area Denny Palmer is the man to call and is the proprietor of
the Mo-Rest Motel and Guide Service at 1-605-845-3668.