Target Walleye/Ice email

Fish saddles midwinter, Burbot gear breakdown, Make minnows last longer

Today’s Top 5

Fish ‘saddles’ for mid-winter walleyes.

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.

We got ahold of ice-nut Forrest Leitch to see how he finds productive water during the mid-winter lull. Full tip on, few excerpts below:

> 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 looking for high-percentage spots and using angler pressure to my advantage. 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…an area that has a flat or point on either end, and 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 works best 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) but still overall has an aggressive action.

> If fish are shying away from the Slab Rap, I’ll switch to a 1/8-oz VMC Tingler Spoon. Can fish ’em 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.

Would this be considered ice fishing?

Fish-head Seth Lubbers couldn’t wait any longer to get his new-to-him Lund 1975 Pro-V on the water — had to fight off a few ice fishermen on the Missouri River, but mission accomplished:


For some reason that pic seriously reminds me of this:


That’s diehard stuff right there, but I’d say any amount of ice breaking is for sure worth grandma’s secret panko-and-parmesan walleye fillets:


Anyone else’s mouth watering now?

Time for a burbot gear breakdown.

Why burbot??? ‘Cuz the walleye/northern/bass season closes here in MN this Sunday (2/23) already, and after that it’s fun catching something that actually fights back — sorry panfish! Plus burbot are so ugly that they’re pretty (can relate):


If you haven’t checked out our complete burbot guide on Target yet, better get on it! It’s jammed full of the best spots, gear and techniques…plus videos on how to fillet ’em and the craziest underwater footage we’ve ever seen.

Realized I didn’t have enough specifics in their on the actual setups and components I use, so just beefed it back up. Here’s a rundown of what I use when specifically targeting bigger-than-average greasers:

Rods: The average walleye stick is typically gonna be a 28-36″ M or MH fast-action rod. No doubt that’ll put fish topside, but if you wanna step up your burbot game — and specifically target bigguns more than a couple times a year — look into getting yourself a whoopin’ stick with some extra ‘oomph!’

I had the chance to play around with the 42″ H fast-action Elliott Rods Greenback and fell head over heels-boots for it. That burbot wand is solid carbon fiber, but reminded me a lot of the OG fiberglass sticks in the way she absorbed the thrashing/rolling of plus-sized burbs. Of course it still has loads of backbone [!] for driving those hooks home in deeper water.

Normally I only buy ice rods with shorter handles, but really dig the loooonger shank on this one. About 95% of the time I’m chasing burbs outside hole-hopping or fishing from a truck door, and that larger grip is super nice for fishing with a big mitt or glove. Larger-diameter eyelets also don’t ice up as often.

Line: …big fan of running 10-lb Sufix Advance mono…doesn’t absorb moisture like braid is prone to = more time fishing and less time stripping ice nuggets off your setup. Also has 50% LESS stretch [!] than standard monos — something about HMPE molecules, the same material braided lines are made from. Low memory and crazy soft/supple. …wasn’t specifically designed for ice fishing, but I sure am digging it.

Swivels: Constantly pounding bottom means your spoon or jig is gonna be twisting and turning in all sorts of directions — a small #12 or #10 VMC Rolling Swivel is gonna save you from twisted line and the headaches it brings. Tie it off to a 12-18″ fluoro leader and forget about it — those swivels are so tiny you’ll hardly notice ’em.

Leader: Burbs are far from line shy, so really no need to lighten up your leader. In fact, I’ll sometimes even bump up to a 12- or 14-lb leader to keep the bait from fouling. Stuff’s slightly stiffer — less like hair — so isn’t gonna wrap itself around the hook as often. Doesn’t seem like a big deal until your bait fouls with a fish on the graph and you’ve gotta reel up from 40′ to fix it….

Snaps: My go-to snap is a size #0 VMC Crankbait Snap = not too big, not too small. The obvious reason for running a snap is it lets you quickly swap out different colors and sizes without having to re-tie. A bigger reason I prefer this snap specifically is it has a “teardrop” almost-rounded bottom that lets the bait do its thing — sorta like a loopknot. Most other snaps have a ‘V’ shape that locks the bait in place:

Reels: Far as reels go, bigger is better. Can even snag one off your open-water setups that are probably collecting dust all winter. Tiny micro-spool ice reels will work, but stepping up to a size 20 — or sometimes even a 30 — is where it’s at for burbs. They simply work better for running larger diameter line (say 10+ lb), have better/smoother drag systems, and crank in more line with every turn of the handle. Comes in key when snatching fish out of deep water, or trying to keep the line tight as the fish is thrashing. Also much more glove/mitt friendly.

Learn waaaay more about burbot fishing here or by clicking the pic below:

Here’s one for all you ‘Bird watchers!

Humminbird now has MEGA 360 Imaging. That’s a 360-degree view, with a diameter of up to 250′ around the boat! Spendy stuff, but absolutely incredible:


Full scoop here, including a vid of it in action.

Would be SO sick to scoot around from the bow, pitching at specifics…instead of guessing you’re close. #SpotOnTheSpot

Rapala Rippin’ Rap saves the day…

…and not how you’d expect. A group was ice fishing on the Le Homme Dieu Chain in Alexandria, MN when one guy tossed his keys to another to put in a safe spot = keys went down the hole in 25′. That’s when Daniel Dennis busted out a Rapala Rippin’ Rap and went to work:

[Warning: Keep your volume down, ‘cuz the celebration is a red-liner]


Remind me to put my keys on a lanyard soon as I get home!


1. MO: New state-record perch caught!

A 1-14 bruiser caught by Tyler Halley (previous record was a 1-11 caught in ’09):

> “I literally had to put half of my body into the water and I gave the fish a bear hug so it wouldn’t get away — it was freezing. …had to go sit in the truck to warm up after that.

> “It feels pretty nice to have a state record,” Halley said. “I’m going to get a replica made of it. We kept the fish alive in an aerated cooler because we wanted to get it certified. We ended up releasing it….”

Insane fish — congrats!

2. MN: 3.37-lb walleye wins Fishing for Ducks derby.

On Mille Lacs Lake. Earned local stick Robert Scott a $20K payday! Means that walleye was worth nearly $6K per pound lol. Congrats man!!

Here’s what the Fishing for Ducks derby is all about:

> …the largest Ducks Unlimited event in the nation. …about 4,000 people attended enjoying fishing, food, prizes and music on the frozen lake. …raised $200K [!] for wetlands conservation.

Still wondering how in the heck they’re able to drill the holes in the shape of the DU logo?!

3. MN up-north resorts need big-time help…

…’cuz of the nasty ice conditions from all the snow and slush. Some are even closing down — extremely sad stuff.

Now 40+ biz owners are asking lawmakers for disaster relief funding:

> “If this was a flood, people assume the government would help…this was as bad as a flood for us.”

> Unless the governor declares an official emergency, the money won’t come through until well into the summer season…months after it’s most needed.

This write-up is worth a read if you’re curious what folks are going though.

4. WI: Battle on ‘Bago happenin’ Feb 21-22.

Over $275K in prizes. #ChaChing!

5. VA: Staunton River walleye tagging study underway.

Will be tagged in locations between Leesville Lake dam to Buggs Island Lake:

> “…to determine the amount of harvest that occurs in waters that DGIF manages. The results will be used to help monitor and maintain the walleye population.”

6. Would you eat bluegill roe (egg sacks)?

I haven’t — and am not sure I wanna — but if YOU are feeling adventurous, the dude who wrote this recipe wears they’re the deal:

> For years, we’d toss those eggs out with the rest of the scraps left at the cleaning station. Then someone told me about breading and frying the roe. We tried it once and we haven’t tossed an egg sack since.

7. NWT gets AFTCO as new sponsor.

8. Yup, real people actually win our giveaways….

BIG congrats to Mark J. from Chetek, WI on winning our most recent Garmin Panoptix Ice Fishing Bundle giveaway! Sure sounds like he’ll be putting it to good use soon:

9. MI: Need to buy a sticker to use ramps this year.

2020 Recreation Passport Sticker:

> The yearly sticker fee for non-residents is $34 or you can pay a daily fee of $9. For residents, the fee is $12, up from $11 last year.

10. MI DNR looking to fill 70 seasonal summer positions…

…in their wildlife division.

11. Target Walleye gear back in stock!

Sorry for the wait [!] but finally have all sizes back on the shelf for our most popular stuff: Highlights

> Rattle-reel tricks, Rattle vs silent spoons, Fish higher off bottom

Note: The FishUSA links in this email are affiliate links, meaning if you go through them to make a purchase we might earn a commission…at no cost to you. Click here if you want to learn a little more about links in TW.

Tip of the Day

If you wait til you see dead minnows to change the water…it’s already too late….

Quote of the Day

“For those of you who sometimes keep your ice rod on your dash and understand my pain….”

– That’s MN guide Jason Durham talking about a struggle only true ice-heads will understand:


Yup, it’s time to sell the truck lol.

Today’s ‘Eye Candy

Safe to say the Northland Eye Ball Spoon looks like the real thing:


Either that or it’s a northern/halibut hybrid…

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Who is Target Walleye
Target Walleye — walleye during open water and all species during hardwater — is brought to you by Al and Ron Lindner, Jim Kalkofen, Brett McComas and other diehard fish-nuts like you! #fishheads
Brett McComas is the main man for Target Walleye He was discovered in Brainerd, MN after years of wondering how in the heck people break into the fishing biz. He’s in it now, but still can’t answer that question…. Brett is one of those guys who majored in marketing, only because there was no such thing as a “fishing degree” at the time…. Get him at 
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