How to Ice Fish for Walleye | Tips & Tricks

Ice fishing has some general techniques and rules to follow. But when it comes to specific types of fish, you need to tailor your gear and methods. In this article, we’re going to go in-depth into how to ice fish for walleye.

You’ll learn about the ideal baits, fishing equipment, and techniques needed to bag this aggressive species. We’ll also impart our best tips for succeeding when you drop your line, drill your holes, and more. Keep reading to familiarize yourself with the ice fishing protocol for walleye!

Best Bait for Walleye Ice Fishing

Using the right bait is super important when ice fishing because certain fish only bite for certain food. Because walleye are such an aggressive fish, they’re typically attracted to bigger bait. They feed on smaller fish, so when you drop your line, it should have small fish or something that looks like fish on it.


One basic option is to use minnows. For walleyes, you want to use sucker minnows (particularly smaller suckers). You might also try out the chub or fathead varieties of minnow. Just be sure to stick with smaller bait when you make your choices. 

It can be a bit more difficult to hook live minnows and you do have to deal with toting them around. But you can also opt for dead minnows. Minnows are great as standalone bait, as well as something to top your lure with for extra flash.


But if you’re more interested in artificial lures, you can choose between:

  • Spoons
  • Jigs
  • Crankbaits 
  • Swimming lures 
  • Softbaits 

You’ve probably at least heard of crankbaits, jigs, and spoons if you’re familiar with ice fishing. These artificial lures are generally flashy and enticing to walleye, who are hunting fish.

Spoons, in particular, are very flashy, as they’re made of a shiny metal piece that sometimes has color on it. Jigs are useful, and there are a lot of different options on the market. 

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Crankbaits are little plastic lures that mimic a bait fish, and they come lipless or with a lip. These are very effective for catching walleye since they mimic walleye prey. They may come in hard or soft bait options, depending on your preference. 

Swimming lures are arguably one of the most effective options, though, because they’re the most lifelike. They actually swivel and move as live prey would, and they resemble a colorful fish. And since they aren’t live bait, they’re easier to hook than, say, minnows or baitfish.

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Best Equipment for Walleye Ice Fishing

You also need to gear up correctly for a day of ice fishing. When it comes to catching walleye, you’re going to be targeting a specific depth underwater. This is why you need an ice fishing rod that can meet those needs.

The best equipment setups for ice fishing for walleye include jigging rods and dead rods. Jigging rods are designed specifically with jerking and movement in mind, which you’ll need to hook a walleye. And dead rods are those that you just let sit and wait for bites.

Make sure to have a good ice fishing reel, too, as you’ll want to direct lure/bait movement with the reel instead of rod movements.

Otherwise, you need the traditional ice fishing setup, including:

  • Weather-appropriate clothing (think waterproof, layers, etc.)
  • A tow sled 
  • Shelter
  • Ice drill/auger
  • Sonar technology (fish finding tech)

Strategies and Tips for Catching Walleye Ice Fishing

Since walleye are so aggressive and active, even in the winter, your technique needs to be accurate. Consider the following strategies and tips to help you catch walleye beneath the ice. 

Be Intentional with Depth and Location

Catching walleye will be a lot more achievable if you know exactly where to look and find them. Use some sort of fish-finding/sonar technology to drop your line at the exact depth where fish reside. Walleye specifically like to linger at humps and transitions in depth underwater, somewhere between 15 and 25 feet deep.

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Fish at the Right Time

Although it will be colder and harder to see your surroundings, nighttime hours are ideal. The best time frame to ice fish for walleye is from dusk to dawn. You’re more likely to catch them feeding and get bites.

Know When to Use the Right Lure

When fishing in muddy waters or at nighttime with less light to reflect, you should use colorful or neon lures. But it’s a different story if you’re fishing in a relatively clear lake or during the day when light shines through. In these circumstances, you’ll have better luck with spoons.

Know When to Use Live Bait

Although lures are flashy and enticing, walleye are less likely to bite at them if they’ve slowed down. When mid-winter temperatures drop to frigid cold, you’ll have better luck catching fish with minnows.

Choose the Right Lure Colors

Fish don’t have the same perception of color that humans do, and they’ll also perceive certain colors more easily underwater. When it comes to ice fishing for walleye, they’ll be more likely to see warm colors and sometimes green. On the other hand, cool colors like blue and purple aren’t as effective for lure.

Final Thoughts – How to Ice Fish for Walleye

Hopefully, the above tips and suggestions have given you some decent insight into ice fishing for walleye. These fish have specific patterns in the wintertime, so tailoring your gear and bait to them will help a lot.

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