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               Winter 2008 Feature Article





Hunting Down Mid Season Walleyes
 by Ron Anlauf


The first ice period may have already come and gone but whatís up next is nothing to sneeze at.  The next stage of hard water can actually produce some of the most consistent walleye action of the entire season.  Instead of waiting impatiently for hungry Ďeyes 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 Ďem and hunt them down.   Steady 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 youíll want to avoid if at all possible.   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 ďyou should have been here yesterdayĒ factor. 

To stay ahead of the crowd and put yourself in position to be in the right place at the right time youíll 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 looking for potential fish holding areas like a deeper hump, an underwater point, or maybe a simple break line where a deeper shelve drops into even deeper water.  There are some incredible maps available today for most of the larger and more popular lakes that show unbelievable detail combined with dead on accuracy.   Some are available in a hard copy form while most have been loaded onto a chip like the Navionics Hotmaps that can be plugged in and viewed on a G.P.S. plotter.   Itís also why my sled is sporting a Humminbird 997c on the dash which has the plotter and ability to display the maps.  What used to take a lifetime or more to learn is now available on these very maps, and is to the applause of some and chagrin of others.  Those that earned all of that information the hard way arenít too excited about seeing it exposed, but itís hear to stay and you might as well use it to your advantage.

Attacking a smaller body of water without the aid of an accurate electronic map 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 seeing if there is anything that might have been missing.  For example; there may be smaller humps or points that  arenít included, or there may be a deeper patch of rock or gravel that doesnít show up on the typical map. To find the aforementioned youíll have to be willing to spend and even waste some time looking for what may or may not 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 isnít busted up and  layered.  In that case youíll probably be forced to drill a lot of holes and there really arenít any shortcuts. 

If you can shoot through the ice you can even mark fish, and is something to keep in mind when youíre 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 arenít marking fish donít write a spot off immediately as fish holding tight to a break or belly to the bottom are extremely difficult to read.

It usually takes a little investigative angling with a jigging spoon to get olí 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.

Handheld depth finders that look like a flashlight and display a digital depth reading can really speed the structure hunt up, especially if you combine it with a self lighting torch.  With a torch you can melt enough ice to get a reading in a couple of seconds, and eliminates the need to drag along a pail of water.  The combo allows you to melt check and move quickly, and a lot of melt check and moving will likely be required to find the next mother of all hot spots.   See you on the ice. 
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