The key to ice fishing success lies in having a proven game plan for each species. Two top ice fishermen in Ontario, Steve Delyea and Leavon Peleikis, share their winning ways.
Delyea is a fishing guide from Port Perry and is on the Rapala Normark Pro Staff Team. Peleikis is an ice fishing rising star from Bracebridge.
Speckled trout can be one of the most difficult species to fish during the winter. They can feed for half a day then completely turn off. Delyea is adamant that small lakes stocked by the Ministry of Natural Resources are the best places to fish of this species in the winter. “First ice and last ice are the prime times for speck activity. Cut all your holes near shore before fishing to avoid spooking fish,” he said. “Depths of 2 to 10 feet off fallen trees and beaver houses are prime locations.”
Delyea has a favourite, no-fail system for catching speckles. “Use a tip-up rig with two hooks. The bottom hook should be about 8 inches from the bottom [of the line] and have a minnow hooked under the dorsal fin. About 18 inches above this, put a dew worm on another single hook,” he explained. “The minnow will provide movement to the worm and specks will attack it assuming it is a leech.”
Delyea likes to jig with 4-pound line using a Blue Fox spoon or Luhr Jensen Needlefish to attract specks to the spread.
Lake trout love structure, shoals, humps and drop offs around islands. Unlike specks, these big boys seem to feed nonstop. “When targeting lake trout I use a Marcum Lx9. Twenty minutes in a spot is long enough without fish to make a move,” said Delyea.
Delyea says that 90% of the fish he catches are chasers. He advises to start with a few thumps off the bottom of the lake then jig your lure up through the water column. “My top lure choices are the UV medium Jigging Rap in pink tiger stripe and a 2-inch First Mate tube in a blue pearl finish,” he said.
Water depth is another important factor to consider when ice fishing for lakers. “Don’t get hung up on deep water. I fish shallow the entire winter in less than 50 feet of water and pound the lakers using Bass Magnet Tubes,” Peleikis said.
Peleikis loves his panfish, especially blue gill. “The number one rule is go small,” he said. “Tiny tear drop jigs 1/16 and 1/32 ounce tipped with a maggot or wax worm work best for me.” The use of a strike indicator on the end of a sensitive rod will improve your chances of detecting the subtle bite of these fish.
When it comes to crappie, Delyea says the best time is late afternoon and dark. “Blue Fox Tingler and Rattle Flash spoons are good choices rounded out by UV pink Jigging Raps,” he says.
And Delyea has a sure-fire tactic for these fish. “Work the bait up to less than a foot under the ice. The crappie will follow and inhale,” he explained.
For perch you can’t beat small emerald shiners, he says. However, in lakes that are pressured, be prepared to try dead sticks. A small 1/16 ounce tube jig with a wax worm or minnow head will draw a hit from even the most finicky perch.
Walleye are the vampires of the fishing world. Low light is the key to finding active fish. “The morning can provide activity from sunrise to about 10 a.m. The evening period is much shorter, maybe for only an hour after sunset,” said Peleikis.
He suggests looking for steep drops in 10 to 40 feet of water in Canadian Shield lakes. One-quarter ounce spoons and plastics, either 6-inch jerkbaits or tubes are recommended. “Don’t be afraid to let walleye chase a lure up from the bottom. Unlike lakers, don’t jig just reel up slowly in a steady reprieve,” he advised.
Now having insight from the professionals, it’s time to develop your own game plan. Experiment within the parameters of your tactics and you will reap the rewards.