James Lindner and Jeff Simpson offer up some strategies and tips for targeting Red Lake walleyes on early ice and throughout the ice season.
Red Lake Walleyes: Early Ice
Every year around thanksgiving weekend crowds of anglers head North in search of some early ice Red Lake walleyes. Red Lake is often one of the first places to freeze in Minnesota and is a sure bet for some early season walleye action.
Red Lake receives a lot of fishing pressure during the ice season and there are a few things you can do to stand out from the crowd.
Red Lake is one big expansive flat that has very little depth change or structure across several miles. At first glance there doesn’t appear to be a whole lot of structure to fish, but there are a few things you should look for that can help you catch a few more walleyes throughout the day.
The first is to look for any depth change that is greater than two feet.
A quick drop off from eight to ten feet is a big deal on Red Lake. Walleyes will travel along these drop-offs and use it to trap bait against.
Another type of structure you should look for is scattered snow piles or jagged ice that has piled up. This is going to provide overhead cover and will hold fish, especially during bright, sunny days.
The last thing you really need to keep an eye out for is schools of baitfish. If you can locate the bait you’ll locate the walleyes.
Red lake has a lot of forage and these walleyes will hold tight on an area as long as the bait is there.
If you can find a spot with at-least one of these things you can almost guarantee that there will be walleyes close by.
Dead Sticks and Set Lines
In Minnesota you are allowed two lines during the ice fishing season and you’ll want to take full advantage of this on Red Lake.
Utilizing set lines is a great way to cover ground which is crucial on big lake like Red.
Red lake walleyes can be fickle and picky often rejecting jigging presentations. One of the best ways to catch them is with a fathead minnow on a deadstick or set line.
One tip is to set your dead stick or set line within a foot of the bottom. These shallow water walleyes will cruise around hugging the bottom, and if they are in a neutral or negative mood, setting your bait closer to the bottom is a great way to trigger them into striking.
Baits and Color
Lure color can make a big difference on Red Lake. Red Lake has a stained color with only a few feet of visibility. The water clarity will also vary a bit depending on the wind.
Bright or glow colors are often the best option because they’ll stand out in the stained water and can help call in fish from a distance.
You should always have some gold, bright red, UV perch or glow colors like wonderbread available when fishing Red Lake.
These baits give off a good action that trigger these red lake walleyes into striking.