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Minnesota Fishing Reports
Articles : Details Rule the Day (Part 1: Walleyes) by Dave Genz
Posted by LSF on Jan 22, 2011 (1247 reads) News by the same author

"You have to be on the move when the fish are not. If you like to fish during the daytime, like I do, you should keep moving."
– Dave Genz

During daylight hours, ice fishing is a very different pursuit than it is during the prime times of dawn and dusk. To generalize, rather than moving in active pursuit of food, most daytime fish are sitting "fat, dumb and happy" in the words of Dave Genz.

This means that, in order to make consistent catches through the ice on most days, you have to track down the hiding spots of scattered fish, then tempt them into biting when they aren't really in the mood. You have to remain on the move, because there are fewer ‘biters' than there will be at prime time.

To make matters more challenging, even the small percentage of fish that can be tempted have to be presented with a truly realistic-looking fake food item or they will probably snub your offering. In other words, if your presentation is sloppy-even if it might get bit at sunrise or sunset-you won't catch much.
The unforgiving hours of daylight demand your best efforts, but if you pay attention to detail and follow the proven Winter Fishing System, you can piece together a good catch.

"That's what daytime ice fishing is," begins Dave Genz, the godfather of modern ice fishing and a member of the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame. "You piece together a good catch a few at a time, with lots of moving and drilling holes between bites."

For today, we focus on walleyes. Next time, we'll talk panfish.

Understanding Those Amazing Eyes
It's important to know that walleyes have ‘eye' in their name for a reason. Their eyes contain super powers, at least in the realm of fish.

Positioned behind the walleye's retina is a reflective membrane called the tapetum lucidum. This substance is exceptionally white, its purpose to gather, and reflect, light.

When light enters a walleye's eye, it is picked up by the retina, but also bounced around by the reflective tapetum, back to the retina numerous times. This essentially ‘multiplies' light, but only for the walleye, not for its hapless prey-especially not the closely-related yellow perch. This helps explain why walleyes feed seriously when (and where) light is low.

Walleye ‘Daytime Prime Time'
When it comes to walleyes, prime time is anytime–and anywhere–light is low, especially if it's changing rapidly on the way to or from low. So here's the first secret to consistently catching daytime walleyes: go where the light is low–even under the glare of sunshine!

Water clarity is the thing. Simply put, in stained or dirty-water lakes, high sky sunshine can be the time for walleyes.

"If you want to catch walleyes during the day," says Genz, "fish dirty water. You can catch ‘em in clear water, but your chances are better if the lake is on the dirty side. At least that's the case on a bright day."

The big-picture puzzle comes together in Dave's last statement: in clear water, prime time can be anytime, if clouds roll in and shut out the sunshine.

"You have to pay attention to what the weather is doing," says Dave. "Your plan might be to fish bluegills or perch in the middle of the day, then switch over to walleyes when the sun gets low in the sky. The day starts out sunny, but then clouds roll in and it becomes a dark day. What happens is that prime time starts early on days like that."

As Dave says, it's important to notice shifting light levels, and switch over to walleye mode as soon as things begin to darken down.

Finding Daytime Walleyes
Under normal conditions, to score on walleyes from mid-morning through mid-afternoon, the percentage play is to fish a lake with stained or dirty water. Finding such a lake is easy; most lake maps have information about water clarity. Just keep in mind that most lakes are at their clearest after ice forms and sediments settle. Also realize that some lakes go through a ‘cloudy period' after weeds die off, and this can cause an otherwise clear lake to ‘get dirtier.'

"When you drill your first holes," says Genz, "see what the water clarity is at the moment. That means, the condition of the water, the amount of snow and ice, and the lighting conditions. I love using my Vexilar underwater camera for this."

In clear (or semi-clear) water, the biggest key, typically, is looking for catchable fish where light levels approximate prime time-which means deeper water, or the shade of cover like weeds or wood.

Genz has long theorized that prey often choose to position at depth levels featuring just enough light to allow them to function, but where predators (like walleyes) have a harder time seeing them. One shortcut that often leads to daytime walleyes in clear-water environments: Look at the base of dropoffs, where the harder surface of the drop gives way to softer bottom.

This is the sticky-bottom area that Genz was the first to talk about, and is often the most under-fished zone.

"Find the sticky bottom area right where the dropoff ends," he says. "That's where you find bloodworms, mayfly larvae, other insects. There's life there, and that attracts predator fish, walleyes included."

Weeds, particularly when they're still standing and green, hold walleyes year-around, ice season included. Even though the rapidly-changing light levels of evening and early morning are usually the best times in clear water environments, daytime ‘eyes can be caught in the weeds, especially along the deeper edges and openings in lush patches.

Wood (timber and brush) is always good, too, and can be the only shallow cover in some systems, particularly reservoirs.

Presentation for Daytime Walleyes
In crystal clear water under high barometric pressure, smaller baits can shine. At prime times, walleyes actively seek food, and bigger can be the trigger.

Treat every outing as an experiment. Don't live and die by the rules. Start with what makes sense, but give the fish different looks. They'll ‘tell you' what they want by their response.

It's crucial to carry a variety of lures, plastics, and live baits. Genz has developed and continues to help refine ice lures. The development of glow-in-the-dark finishes, and LED lights to charge them, helps walleyes see your bait better. Even walleyes can use a hand in the vision department where light is low.

Rattling baits are great for walleyes, but Genz stresses that they must be fished hard. Shake 'em to get those rattles talking.

Many of you would not consider 'panfish jigs' as potential walleye catchers, but Genz relies on larger sizes of horizontal ice jigs, packed with maggots or wax worms, especially under bright skies in clear water. That package, he says, can catch daytime walleyes when other offerings come up dry.

Keep Moving
When it comes to daytime ice fishing advice, Genz always cautions against letting a big fish get in the way of remaining on the move.

"Be happy when you catch a nice fish," he says. "But don't fall in love with that hole. Hang in there for a while. But if you don't catch another one within about 5 or 10 minutes, go to the next hole."

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