Walleye bite slow, panfish active during cold snap
As you are reading this we are in the middle of a significant cold snap. That is, if the forecast is holding true, as I am writing this on Wednesday. Every year we will hit a stretch of below zero weather were even the daytime highs don't even get above the donut. We have had some years that this cold artic blast has lasted as long as 30 days straight. Sometimes it comes in week-long bursts, with only a short relief in between the brutal cold conditions. We seem to be at that time frame now in our winter weather pattern.
This super cold period will have an effect on the fish bite pattern. It will also make for thicker ice. Walleye seem to be especially sensitive to this transition and it will slow their metabolism. They will be less active with feeding, and the bite activity periods will be shorter in duration. They have more stored fat reserves at this time of year due to the typical increase in feeding during the late fall and lasting through the early ice period. With a slowdown in activity, they don't need to be as active until the required build up of energy that will be needed to get ready for the spawn period in April.
Most active bite periods will be in the low light of the early morning, or just before we start getting dark in the evening. The increase of activity seems to happen during the late ice period in early March. That creates a problem for us taking advantage of this, due to the fact that inland season for walleye closes February 27th.
We can also run into an ice quality problem in our area depending on our warm up in the spring. It almost always seems we have poor ice here by the middle of March.
I suggest you consider a trip to Lake of the Woods at that late February to mid-March time frame if you want to put walleyes and saugers in the fry pan. The ice conditions there are not an issue, and the walleye season is still open at that time at Lake of the Woods. The area has many resorts that have full service ice fishing accommodations. You can also coordinate your own trip with portable fish houses and use one of the many plowed roads to active fish areas for a small "get on the ice" fee.
In our area now, you may want to take advantage of other active bite patterns. Pan fish such as crappies and sunfish will still remain active even during daylight hours during these cold snaps. The feeding periods can vary depending on water clarity and sunlight.
Crappies in stained water will be active during the day, but in clear water and bright days they will tend to be more active at dawn and dusk. These are tendencies, and like all creatures, they can break all the rules.
Northern Pike will remain more active during these cold snaps than the walleyes will, and a few will always seem willing to feed on your offerings. The one good thing about the super cold period is we are closer to spring once we get past this challenging time.
(Laabs runs Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)