During summer, when the lakes are unfrozen, and water is clear, fishing is a rather fun and relatively easy task. But, during the winters, when the lakes are frozen with a thick layer of ice and snow, blanketing over it, it takes more skills and experience to get a hand on a fish. Therefore gathering enough knowledge about the surroundings, weather, and location, where a Walleye could be found, is a crucial task an ice angler should perform before setting out on an adventure to catch a Walleye. An ice angler should collect the details about the location at the time of the month, the food behavior, and other specific information about the particular fish he is after. Along with it, an angler should also carry the necessary equipment and take care of safety measures while preparing for ice fishing. The article will feature our two favorite ice fishing reels for Walleye, as well as a complete fishing guide for how to catch them.
Top Rated Ice Fishing Reels for Walleye
After having considered the crucial features to consider while buying an ice fishing reel, let us discuss a few of the top-rated reels that can help you make a better choice.
KastKing Summer and Centron Spinning Reels
If you are a beginner or a pro, the Kastking Summer and Centron Spinning reel, don’t let you feel any less while ice fishing. This reel is loaded with a number of useful features yet at a comparatively low price than others. Its brilliant drag system offers to bring the entire system to a halt up to a weight of 17lbs. The frame is designed with graphite, which makes it a lightweight option. The 9 ball bearing feature gives it amazingly smooth performance while the anti-reverse bearing helps it stop instantly.
- Lightweight graphite design
- Smooth 9 bearing feature
- High powered, precise drag system
- Durable build with an attractive finish
- Value for money
- More elongated spool than usual
- Sticky, oily feel
For anyone looking for an ice fishing reel with useful features and under budget price, this is the perfect reel for them. Not comparing it with higher budget options, it is the best that can offer such features within this price.
The Shimano Stradic is blessed with a body design that involves unique g-free technology that shifts the center of gravity towards the rod, which allows the reel to run very smoothly on every rotation. The smoothness is enhanced by its 7 ball bearings to give an uninterrupted run. It possesses a decent gear ratio of 5.0:1, and every turn of the handle brings about 28.7 inches. The body is designed to be so lightweight that it only weighs 6.7 ounces. The feature that makes this reel an exceptional candidate is its dual nature. It can be used for ice fishing as well as out in the open freshwater.
- G-free body for reduced fatigue
- Ultra-light 6.7-ounce reel
- The gear ratio of 5.0:1
- 7 ball-bearing enhanced smoothness
- Wobbles during rotation slowdown
- Not completely waterproof
Shimano has been known for its exponential evolutionary trend towards being better. It believes in the ‘Never satisfied with the “good enough”’ principle. If you want a brilliant looking durable ice fishing reel, go for it.
What is Walleye?
The Walleye (Sander vitreus) is a perciform fish (perch like fins). It can be found dwelling in freshwaters and are native to major parts of Northern USA and Canada. The body is long and slim with primary body colors as gold and olive, whereas the belly has a white finish. The back of the fish is covered with banded black cross-like features. The sharp mouth of this fish contains very sharp teeth by virtue of which, when it catches prey, there is no escaping. One of the two dorsal fins is spiny, and the other is soft-rayed. It is blessed with a low light vision that makes it a fantastic nocturnal animal. Its eyes are opaque and cloudy looking, which is due to the presence of a reflective layer.
Dimensions and Weight
In general, Walleyes grow up to 80 centimeters (31 inches) in length and weigh up to 10 kilograms (22lb). However, fishes of this species up to the size of 107 centimeters (42 inches) in length and weight of 12 kilograms (29lb) have also been found. Their dimension mainly depends upon their range of occurrence according to which the population in the southern parts grows relatively larger and faster. In general, female individuals grow larger than male ones. The lifespan of Walleyes can be of multiple decades. Till now, the oldest a Walleye has grown to be of 29 years of age. That’s a pretty old fish!
Walleyes typically belong to the Great Lakes, Canada, The Mississippi, and Missouri river basins. They have also been introduced in the northeastern and western parts of the United States. They mostly prefer cold, deep, and calm waters of lakes, rivers, and reservoirs. Being nocturnal fishes, they can often be found under logs, the cover of roots of trees, and many aquatic plants during the daytime. In contrast, they travel towards shallower waters during the night.
Walleyes usually eat what they can find. This fact is of much importance to fish anglers. Because they feed only on what is available, they become less cautious when the bait is thrown at them. Their diet includes insects, large invertebrates, and small fish, which include yellow perch. The diet of Walleyes also includes minnows, crayfish, and leeches in a significant amount. They usually feed during dusk and during dawn.
Male Walleyes generally mature sexually between the age of three and four, whereas the females mature a year or two later. They usually spawn during, late winter, spring, or early phases of summer. Their spawning process takes place over gravels, or cobbles in shallow waters, open water reef, or tributary streams of the rivers. In these regions, the current is enough to clear the sediments away and help in aeration of the eggs. Some populations are also known to spawn on sandy and terrains with vegetation. The temperature required for spawning ranges from 7 to 10 °C (44.6 to 50 °F). The female Walleyes can lay about 100,000-500,000 eggs, which take about two weeks to hatch completely. The eggs are adhesive in nature and fall in the interstitial spaces between the eggs. The average lifespan of a Walleye is around 10 years.
Walleye as Food
As a food, Walleyes are considered as quite delicious to eat. It is therefore fished for recreation as well as commercially for food. Due to its nocturnal diet plans, it is rather caught easily during the night time. The baits used are minnows or the ones that resemble small fishes. The fisheries with most commercial values are located in the waters of Great Lakes of Canada. In Minnesota’s pubs, it is served as a sandwich and as deep-fried cuisine on sticks in the State Fair of Minnesota.
Walleye fishing is popular with anglers. Hence there is a lot of chance for overexploitation. To prevent the extinction of these species, there are some regulations. Management of Walleye fishing mainly includes the use of length limits and quotas. Although the Walleye population is quite stable as compared to other species, factors like Climate Change, Erosion, Channelization, degraded quality of water, and overfishing are considered significant threats. Moreover, one subspecies, i.e., the blue pike, is deemed to be extinct.
In some places such as in Ohio, these toothy predators are hunted down by anglers throughout the year along the shores and by boat in the lakes, rivers as well as ice. This has caused a decline in the Walleye population in Ohio drastically. Also, the warming of lakes has resulted in a decrease in the population of their prey and thus increases the threat of growing invasive species. Millions of Wildlife enthusiasts, Sportspersons, participate every year in activities associated with wildlife in Ohio. Still, this vast community of fish and related sports, as well as the economy depending on them, is now at risk due to the warming planet.
Where and when to find Walleyes?
Walleyes are known to have sharp visual senses under low light conditions. They feed more extensively during periods of less illumination, such as during dawn, and dusk, cloudy and overcast days, and during the times when water doesn’t allow light to penetrate the surface thoroughly. In turbid or darkly stained water bodies, the Walleyes tend to feed even during the daytime. Walleyes can be located near shallow regions because of the spawning surfaces during the period of spring as well as fall. Also, when the wind flow is high, the water gets highly oxygenated and murkier at a depth of around 6 feet, they tend to move to shallower areas. When the days are calm, like during springtime, more often than not, Walleyes can be found at depths along the shorelines and shelves lower than 10 feet.
A term used popularly by the Walleye anglers is “Walleye Chop.” It is used to indicate gusty, rough water characteristic of wind speed about 10 to 26 km/h. This condition is considered to be much suitable for Walleye fishing. The Walleyes’ feeding activity increases during this time. Taking advantage of this condition during the night can turn out to be very effective for fishing Walleye using live bait.
Ice Fishing for Walleye
The ice fishing of Walleyes takes place during three phases of ice, namely Early Phase Ice, Mid Phase Ice, and Late Phase Ice. Accordingly, fishing locations also have to be chosen.
Early Phase Ice
During the beginning of winter, you can locate Walleyes in shallow waters that have easy access to lower regions of the lakes. During this time, the fish are undergoing the transition phase following fall to winter. At this time, there is an abundance of aquatic plants that are easily accessible for food. As compared to midwinters, there is a relatively higher concentration of oxygen. Also, during this time, invasive fishes are still in the spawning phase, so the Walleyes are not forced to abandon their locations during fall. During Early Phases of Ice, drilling your holes along the shoreline areas where the terrain drops off steeply can be advantageous for catching a Walleye.
Middle Phase Ice
Walleyes begin migrating outwards towards the humps located in the mid regions of the lakes. As the depth of water increases, the water gets warmer gradually, which helps them to be more active. These humps can easily be identified by the topographic contour lines of the waterways.
Late Phase Ice
When the chill of the winter completely begins to dominate, Walleyes start their preparations for spawning. Thus you can shift your focus towards locating the most suitable locations for spawning. The success rate of you finding a Walleye during this season depends on the ability to determine those locations that Walleyes prefer the most for spawning.
You must locate areas with temperatures warmer than others in the region. Finding an external source fo water that brings in fresh and warm water, there is a good chance that you will lay a hand on a few Walleyes. Focusing on the shorelines that have the structures waiting to be spawned upon will increase your chances to many folds.
How to locate Walleye while Ice Fishing?
The above mentioned periods and locations are, of course, a generalization. In practice, Ice fishing experience is always different for different water bodies. Many factors, such as water depth, concentration levels of oxygen, clarity of the water, population size, and habitat, have a variance from one lake to other and hence influence the chances of your success.
Whichever be the season, Walleyes could be found around the structures like rock piles, points, breaks, and humps at depths of few feet from the lake bottom. The basic needs for food and shelter are quenched by these structures. As they prefer easy access to deep water, the steeper breaks around bars and points are the good sites.
Fishing Walleyes can be carried out at any time of the day. Still, the change in lighting conditions during dawn and dusk usually facilitate more movement and feeding activity which makes these hours the most active ones.
Employing technology at your service could yield even greater results. GPS, Depth finders when used with combo units prove to be very helpful for locating fishes. You can also map out the locations for angling using various tracking systems such as ANGLR. These devices can also help you track the depth and water conditions, barometric readings, the time of day and year along with your outing. This information can be helpful for planning ahead and making better decisions. After having located a perfect spot, you can then proceed to choose the desired bait and design a presentation.
Having done that, you must now focus your attention on gearing up with the necessary pieces of equipment. The fishing goods include a fishing license, bait, and a pair of Fishing pole and reel. Among all the gears required, the one that can affect your fishing experience, to a great extent, is the fishing reel. We shall now discuss how to get you a suitable fishing reel.
Fishing Reel Buying Guide for Walleye
Before jumping on to buying a fishing reel, you must consider looking at a couple of things. These things prove to be a crucial consideration, time and time again as they decide if your experience would be adventurous and successful or the other way around.
3 Types of Fishing Reels
There are mainly three types of fishing reels:
- Inline Reels
- Spinning Reels
- Bait caster Reels
- Inline Fishing Reels
These fishing reels are round in shape. They are positioned under the fishing rod and also consist of spinning spools. This position of the reel helps the line to move along a rectilinear motion. The advantage it has over other types of reels is that it saves you from the worry of line twists. This problem is often faced with spinning reels. As the line is released, the revolving spool in this kind of reels begins rotation that solves this particular issue. However, these reels do not possess an anti-reverse system. So, if the hook is set too hard on a larger fish, you might get stuck with a bird’s nest in line.
- Spinning Reels
Spinning reels are the most common type of fishing reels used for ice fishing reels. These are generally very lightweight and are tiny. Them being tiny makes them the perfect combination with the ice fishing rods, which are also small in size. Unlike current models of spinning reels that use an oscillating spool, the fixed spool reel design features the traditional nature. The more considerable advantage of using a spinning reel is their versatility. They can be used as effectively during the open seasons as during the ice fishing season. They are more effective for fishing lighter fishes.
- Bait caster reels
These are the most uncommon types of fishing reels. These reels are usually employed for fishing huge fishes under greater depths. They are not commonly used for fishing Crappie, Perch and Walleye.
When it comes to deciding which one to purchase among these fishing reels, it is a rather simple task. Just look upon your requirements, and you will get your answers. The following points can also help you in deciding the most suitable fishing reel for your adventure.
Making the Final Decision
After you have decided on the type of reel that you require, you need to know what features one should consider before buying a fishing reel. The essential features to look for are as follows:
Ice fishing reels have a different design than any other fishing reels. During ice fishing, the reels are susceptible to snow and other natural elements. Therefore looking for a design that will protect the line from these elements is essential. The ice fishing reels have to face greater difficulties out there in harsh conditions than a regular fishing reel. Therefore a casing around the spool can protect it from the harsh weather conditions.
To withstand the cold weather and harsh climate conditions, the reel needs to be made up of heavy-duty materials like stainless steel, aluminum, or graphite. Reels made up of these materials are durable as well as lightweight. Apart from these properties, these materials are also corrosion-free.
Graphite is generally considered as a good building material for ice fishing reels due to it being lightweight and possessing great strength as well. It can also withstand brutal freezing conditions as it is a good conductor of heat.
When it comes to fishing reel, weight becomes an important factor. Ice fishing requires hours of holding the fishing rod and waiting for the right moment for the fish to attack. Moreover, wearing gloves makes it more uncomfortable. Hence, a lighter reel will be of an advantage here.
As your battlefield is a harsh cold one, you need to make sure your pieces of equipment do not freeze. Apart from it, carrying anti-freeze oil or paste along would be beneficial.
So far, with having done enough research on this topic, your questions on ‘Everything about ice fishing for Walleye’ must have been answered. You can now prepare yourself to head out on a Walleye fishing adventure very soon. Knowledge is power, and with great power comes great responsibility. Therefore taking safety measures in mind before heading out towards ice chilling weather is very much necessary. To have a wonderful fishing experience with a Walleye, gearing up with the essential types of equipment is very much required. Make sure you follow the rules and keep the thought of wildlife conservation in mind. After all, the ecosystem needs your cooperation, and so does Mother Earth!