by Will Stolski
Mid-winter can be a tough time to chase down walleyes…a combination of fishing pressure and cold temps often lead to lethargic fish and a finicky bite. I got ahold of ice-nut Forrest Leitch to get his take on finding productive water during the mid-winter lull:
> Forrest: “Seems like a lot of guys (come mid-winter) set up their hard houses in community holes close to access points — obvious points, humps, etc.
> “My strategy is a combo of looking for high-percentage spots as well as using angler pressure to my advantage.
> “This deal mostly applies to lakes I fish in northern MN with deeper structure, but can be used a lot of different places.”
> “My favorite spot for this time of year is a mid-lake saddle — these are high-percentage spots because they have multiple structure aspects that lend themselves well to walleye feeding locations.
> “By saddle, I mean an area that has a flat or point on either end, and the inside bends coming up out of deeper water on either side.
> “The saddle itself serves has hub where all these components come together…and usually holds the most aggressive gravel lizards.
> “I try to find saddles out as far away from groups of houses as possible…community holes can kick out ‘eyes early in the season, but by mid-winter the fish have been pretty worked over.”
> “It’s usually pretty cold this time of year and the ice is thick, so you want to plan accordingly…last thing you wanna do is wear yourself out drilling giant areas. #SpotOnTheSpot
> “My strategy is best executed with a couple of anglers…gives you the ability to spread out set-lines and dial in the juice.
> “I stick my portable right in the middle of the saddle and spread out set-lines [aka deadsticks] onto the different structure components.
> “Love using the JT Hot Boxes for set-lines because they keep holes wide open in frigid temps.
> “If one set-line is getting more bites than others (say closer to shallow water) I’ll move my shack accordingly.”
> “Usually start off with a Rapala Slab Rap — it’s a little more finesse than most “ripping” baits (no rattles) with it still being an overall aggressive action.
> “If fish are shying away from the Slab Rap, I’ll switch to a 1/8-oz VMC Tingler Spoon. I like ’em because I can fish high in the water column — with a lot of action — to draw fish in from a distance…still able to slow down and fish subtly.
> “On my set-lines I run a VMC Glow Resin Treble for larger minnows (shiners and rainbows). For smaller minnows I’ll scale down to a 1/16-oz VMC Tear Drop Jig.”