Target Walleye/Ice email

Walleyes love saddles, Long-arming controversy, Set the hook slower

Heads up: Might only be one Target Walleye/Ice email next week while I’m chasin’ fishes in Manitoba, scratchin’ up more content for you fish-heads! Hope YOU get the chance to set the hook this weekend!!

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.

“If you want to continue catching big fish, keep only the small ones.”

Quote from this must-read article ’bout keeping those big-fish genetics in the lake. Gord Pyzer and Jeff Matity (in charge of SK’s hatchery program) teamed up to tackle this always-controversial topic. Recommend taking a few minutes to read the full write-up here, but a few excerpts below:

> Protecting large, mature fish is now seen as so vital to maintaining healthy fish populations that fisheries scientists are referring to the concept as the big, old, fat, female fish — or BOFFF — hypothesis.

> Fish are cold-blooded animals that reproduce their entire lives…a 10-lb female walleye will typically produce eggs equivalent to 1/3 of her body weight. They get better and better as they age and never reach their peak.

> Last spring Matity recovered 5-lbs of roe — approximately 300K eggs — from one 11-lb walleye…practically all of those eggs would have been viable. With a 2- to 3-lb walleye only 20-30% of the eggs would hatch.

> Big fish have the biggest, juiciest eggs with the best yolk sacs, so each one is a bigger target for a sperm to find. Big spawners are the critical part of the reproductive pyramid. Big fish know the best places to lay their eggs and (in the case of bass) how best to protect their nests.

> Matity is also critical of anglers who misguidedly play God…such as walleye anglers who kill bass…mistakenly thinking this helps the population of their favorite fish. Fish species interact in ways that benefit each other.

> ….Big bass are critical in controlling the spread of invasive rusty crayfish, which predate heavily on walleye eggs. Who would’ve thought that big bass might hold the key to better walleye populations?

We’re learning more every day ’bout things we can do to help protect the resource:

Speaking of big fish….

Long-arming controversy.

Do you “long arm” or hold your fish way out for pics? If so, you’ve probably got a whole pile of not-so-nice comments from a keyboard fishermen or two:

Way I look at it: A 10-lber is still a 10-lber whether it’s touching the camera lens or you’re holding it behind your back…. You can’t hide big:

Now THAT is how you hold a walleye for a pic! Photoshopped? Nope. Just a generous hold — with a wide-angle lens — that puts the emphasis on the fish, not the angler.

Btw believe that bait is a “baby goby” color #13 Phantom Lures Abyss that dives to 18-20′, enjoys long walks swims on off the beach, and getting T-boned by a mega wally-potamus.

Paunchy slush melons of the week!

My “burbot bro” and In-Fisherman video magician Christian Hoffman crushed this slaunch on a Rapala Jigging Rap. Still trying to figure out how he took this pic since he never invites anyone to go with him…lol kiddin’ man, I’ll be there next time:

Raise ’em up! Asher popped this giant Lake Minnetonka walldawg on a golden shiner soaked under a deadstick. Pic via FisHawk Outdoors:

Winnipegonian Matty Haarsma (@haarsma01) gettin’ his greenback on with a Jackall TN60 ratttlebait. Awesome fish and love the shot, dude! #Crispy

TW fan Leon Petterson iced himself a new PB walligator (30.25-incher!) danglin’ a 1/4-oz “techni-glo red” Lindy Rattl’N Flyer on Lake of the Woods. Congrats man!

Are you setting the hook too fast?

Full-time (and then some!) guide Brad Hawthorne talks what he calls “second-chomp days,” where panfish are biting the bait but not taking the hook. Says you need to pause before setting the hook to let ’em take a second chomp on the bait. Went and tried it after watching this vid and it can definitely turn a tough bite around:

I know a few of you who watched the vid are wondering what the deal is with adding “anise oil” to baits…will have more on that later if and when B-rad is ever willing to publicly talk about it lol….


Back with the regular fishin’ News section next week!

Tip of the Day

Fishing on pressured waters? Try tying on an oversized panfish jig with a finesse plastic. One of Matt Johnson’s favorite combos is the Clam Drop Jig XXL with a Maki Mino XL plastic.

Sounds goofy, but some of his biggest walleyes have come on this technique while guiding on crowded metro lakes:

Also helps keep the “dinky” panfish away. Nothing wrong with stumbling across a bonus 14″ crappie or 10″ ‘gill while chasin’ walleyes.

Quote of the Day

“Lakers…the musky of ice fishing.”

– That’s musky-nut Doug Wegner’s caption under this shot of a NW Ontario laker he thwacked on a “glow” color Rapala Jigging Rap:

Does that make splake (male brook trout + female lake trout hybrid) the tiger musky of ice fishing?

Here’s a closer look at a gaw-jus splakeroo Doug stuck on an “emerald shiner” color VMC Flash Champ Spoon:

If fishin’ vlogs are your thing, Doug’s YouTube channel is for sure worth a sub.

Today’s ‘Eye Candy

Eric Brandriet (@ericbrandriet) has been harassing the SoDak jumbos with Northland Buck-Shot Spoons tipped w/ minnow heads. #2for1s

Now he’s pre-fishing…from the passenger seat…with his Humminbird Ice Helix Units, on his way to the Mobridge Ice Fishing Tournament. Honestly I had no idea this was a thing:

It’s called Humminbird SmartStrike and highlights areas on the lake map where fish are most likely to be located based on:

> “…Search parameters like season, time of day, temperature and targeted fish species.”

Awesome idea. Surprised I hadn’t heard of it before…but even more surprised that Eric hasn’t peeled the screen protector off that unit yet lol. Good luck this weekend, dude!

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Who is Target Walleye/Ice
Target Walleye/Ice — 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/Ice. 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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