A Time to Fish Fast

If there was ever a time to move around while in search of feeding fish, this is it.

This is the time of year I like to call “middle season”. No, it is not the middle of ice-fishing season, but the time of transition between early ice and mid-winter.


To tell you the truth, it can be a difficult time period to pinpoint just where in any waterway a walleye might be roaming. After all, it’s no longer first ice, when fish are congregated in the shallows, as well it’s not yet the center of the season when fish are bellied up to bottom in a lake’s main basin. It’s smack-dab right in between the in-between. And so, too the walleyes are in- between their normal early- and mid-season haunts.

Thus, if there was ever a time to move around often while in search of feeding fish, this is it. And that’s just what I do this time of year because the location of fish tend to be scattered more now than ever.

In short: I fish; I move; I fish some more; then I move again and so on and so on. And if all works out as planned, there is catching going on in each spot I stop and fish, as well.


Who, me? Just wandering all over the frozen surface of a lake, boring holes any ol’ where when I’m fishing? Um… No. Not even close.

As with every other time I go fishing, I have a plan well before taking that first step onto the ice. On lakes I already know the lay of the underwater land by heart, my pre-thought-out program might be all by memory. On bodies of water I have never or rarely ever fished before, however, I prepare by looking at a hard copy of a hydrographic (underwater) map beforehand. But in either case, I always have electronics with me at all times, including a GPS and mapping program.

Now, it’s not like I’m not going to be drilling an overabundance of holes; just a small number of holes over the right spots.

Contrary to today, during my days of youth, before the advent of today’s modern electronics, much more of my time during fishing trips was dedicated to creating holes to fish from rather than actually fishing in them.

Before GPS I had to drill, or worse yet, use a spud to chisel out a whole lot of holes just so I could figure out how deep it was underneath me. And that meant adding a plummet (heavy lead “sinker” that clips onto your line or lure), lower it to bottom, close my reel’s bail, and then walk backward with rod in hand until the weight popped up and out of the hole. Then I would measure the amount of line out to figure out the depth under me. Time consuming, to say the least, not to mention I spooked a lot of fish while making so much commotion.

Today, conversely, with the aid of a Lowrance Hook-5 Ice Machine and an SD card filled with Navionics mapping, I am able to know exactly how deep it is underneath me well before starting up my StrikeMaster power auger and boring a hole. And, man, does this allow me more time fishing than preparation these days, especially when hopping hole to hole in search of scattered fish is the way to go.


Although my goal this time of year is to drill as many holes as I can muster, where I choose to bore them is not as at random as it would seem.

Every hole I create I want to make sure is as close to structure as possible. This means I want to be fishing right snug to weeds, wood or rock— especially if these aforementioned structures are adjacent to points with deep water nearby as these are where bait fish and aquatic insects that predator fish feed on will be most often.

If I happen to drill a hole directly over structure, then of course it’s going to be easy to see with my Lowrance sonar. But sometimes being along the edge of structure is better than being right on top of it. And how I can tell I am fishing with structure nearby is with a MarCum underwater camera.

All it takes is lowering the camera down near bottom and then spinning it around until I see cover. There’s an on-screen Relative Direction Arrow that shows on the 8-inch screen of my MarCum VS825SD Viewing System that shows me what way the camera is pointed, and, which allows me to know what direction I need to move in case my hole is too far away from cover. This, too, is a time saver and allows me even greater accuracy for pinpointing locations.


I tend to use larger, heavier lures tipped with either live bait or fake during the fishing trips I am hopping hole to hole. This lets me get my offering down through the water column and into a fish’s strike zone faster, and, the bigger offering is an easy target for the most aggressive fish in the area to attack before I move on again.

Weighty spoons such as a 1/2-ounce or larger Northland Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon or 3/8-ounce Fish-Fry Minnow Spoon are some of my hole-hopping go-to lures, as is a size-7 or bigger Rapala Jigging Rap.

Overall, it is a rare occasion I will lower a lure down without tipping it. With either style lure, I always tip their hook with either a lively minnow fresh from my insulated Plano minnow bucket, or, a 3- to 4-inch Berkley Gulp! Minnow. Both live bait and Gulp! have the scent walleyes prefer.


By far the best line I have found for vertical jigging in the cold is Berkley FireLine Micro Ice. It has an ultra-thin diameter and extremely low stretch, which allows my lures their best action, as well superior sensitivity. Generally, I use 10-pound test along with a foot-long leader of 8-pound-test Berkley 100% Fluorocarbon. I connect the leader to the mainline with a tiny Berkley Ball-Bearing Swivel, and use a Berkley Cross-Lok snap for connecting my lure to the leader line.

Although I suggest giving any lure an aggressive up-and-down jigging motion so as to grab the attention of fish from afar, I do believe an angler can give too much action if not careful. What works best for me is a quick, aggressive lift of the rod tip, but no more than a foot. I also like to lower the rod tip fast so as to give the lure its best flutter on the fall.

And although I frequently fish assertively when jigging, the hit from even the biggest walleye is often so light that it can go unnoticed. Just remember to set the hook on anything that feels abnormal; that is, anything that feels different than the many other lift and falls of your lure. Do so and you’ll be surprised at how many more fish you hook throughout the day.


Looking to land more walleyes through the ice this winter? Just move around more during this “middle season” and chances are you will.

Just drill your holes close to structure, use large, heavy lures tipped with either live bait or fake. And set the hook on anything that feels out of the norm. You’ll catch fish. More than likely more than ever before.

Mark Martin is a walleye tournament angler and instructor with the Ice-Fishing Vacation/ School. For more information on Mark, the items mentioned in this article and school, visit his website at markmartins.net.