The 'Holidays' are over, a new year has begun and old man winter has his grip on our northern hemisphere. You're realizing that the ice is thick and the call of them golden green beauties has begun.
Walleye, or Pickerel as some may call it, have been a prized freezer dweller for many through the years. Some of us have been blessed to spend a lifetime catching these barons of the northern waters. Sometimes, tall tales of catches numbering in the hundreds can be heard from OMP'S around the local watering holes or bait shops.
But one thing I've seldom heard is filling an ice house with them, or buckets over flowing etc etc. Fishing hard water for these critters is entirely different than soft water fishing. The ability to move freely/quickly in itself, hampers a fisherman from doing, going, and fishing how, where and when he wants.
Preparation is key in situations like this. Outside of the regular gear, bait and everything else you need, a plan is most important. There are a bunch of different things you need to take into consideration when creating one; depth of ice, depth of snow on the ice, structure below, weather and time of day to name a few.
I'm not one for writing novels so we'll try and hit the high points. Ice depth from my experience is important for obvious safety reasons. One thing overlooked though is time. Seldom we take this into consideration when heading out. Whether it's complacency or laziness, who knows. Look at a map, check out contours, use way points from the summer. Anything to limit running around turning the ice into swiss cheese will help.
Snow depth, in my opinion matters due to light penetration and weather. Walleye it seems do not like bright light. Most fishermen would agree that their best luck comes in the mornings and evenings when the sun is at its lowest points and even in pitch darkness. Thicker snow depths allow for less light, therefore, longer bite times.
Structure is a must. Now, this can be disputed since some lakes are shaped like bowls and may have absolutely none whatsoever. Walleye in these situations will just school around on flats and even the smallest change in depth or bottom type can mean the difference between success and failure. Structure can include reefs, sandbars, rock piles, brush piles, points, channels and weedlines. Any of these areas which are adjacent to deeper waters can be prime locations for cruising walleye.
Lastly, if you don't have a permanent ice shack or house set up on a 'spot', be as mobile as possible so plan 'B' (whatever that may be, and trust me, you should always have one) can quickly and easily be put into play. After all, you've put in all the time, money, effort and preperation to get out, you might as well make it worth it.