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Suggestions for Ice Fishing

at Winnipeg River, Pinawa


Author: Steffen Bunge

Editor: Ilya Leontiev

The Winnipeg River is a fast-flowing river and the thickness of ice can change significantly within days. The more current you encounter in your ice-hole, the more likely is a change in thickness. Best fishing spots are with little or no current!



I once caught a Walleye on a rusty hook with a tabasco jelly bean. So if the fish already bite like crazy, nothing of the following will matter. In any other case, you might want to keep reading :)




- Rod Length


Although most ice fishing rods are short, any length will do. My shortest ice fishing rod is 24”, many are 32-35” and several are 40” to even 50”.

Unless you go for Pike, Lake trout, or Burbot, you want to discipline yourself not to lift your rod tip too high. Often we have seen that even a willing fish can not follow the large moves/jumps of your lure.


- Line


The first item where you can do something wrong is the line. The monofilament line should be in the range of 10lb or less. A braided line can also be used in 10lb or less.


If the monoline is too thick, it acts as a sail underwater and is not straight but more curled like a spring.


Many use braided line 40lb and more. This makes lure movements way too sluggish, and the line also acts as a sail.


If you use a braided line, you should always use a monofilament or better fluorocarbon fishing line as a leader of approx. 1ft length. The reason is that fish do observe braided line as an unnatural object and avoid it.


The big downside of the braided line is that it carries water, which freezes up the line easily. If you want to use the benefits of a braided line and a monofilament line, use Fireline original. It has the same fibers as a braided line but is twisted and fused, not braided, and has a smooth surface like a monofilament line

- Timing


Even though fish have been caught at any given time during the day and night, there are still some basic rules for most active fish.


  • Morning bite: typically one hour before official sunrise until 2 hrs after official sunrise.
    (e.g., Sunrise is 8 am, Morning bite 7am to 10am)

  • Dead zone: typically one hour before high noon until 2 hours after high noon
    (e.g. High noon is 12.15pm, dead zone is 11.15am to 2.15pm)

  • Evening bite: typically two hours before sunset until one hour after sunset.
    (e.g., Sunset is 5 pm, Evening bite will start 3pm to 6pm)

The evening bite for Walleye might extend into 2 hrs after sunset.

The evening bite for burbot starts at sunset until the Astronomical Twilight Ends, which is typically 4 hrs after sunset or when the sun is approx. 18degree below the horizon.


- Lures


Quantity over Quality!

Start small. Typically the lure size in January is relatively small, with an increasing size to mid-March. For Pike, you can go large all the time.

This is a small lure box mostly to target Walleye, Sauger and Perch.


(A) At the top are tungsten jig heads. Tungsten makes the ball size smaller compared to lead jig heads. The actual bait can be smaller too. Some are tied as hair jigs.


(B) My preferred soft-plastics are tiny red tails, no longer than 1 ½ “. Small invertebrate creatures like water flea or freshwater shrimp work too.


(C) In the early season, these types of lures work great too. They are called Mormyshka and are small lead or tin filled spoons with a single fixed hook. They are widely used in the Baltics, Russia, Sweden, Finland, and parts of Germany and Austria.


(D) The Northland Forage Minnow fry Jig works very similarly.


(E) The other ones are fishing zikades with (F) miniature buckshot spoons below.

(G) There are also miniature trout/nightglow and perch swim jigs.

Most of those lures work well in depths up to 3m (10ft), with no current at all. It often does not make sense to fish them any deeper.


When you fish these lures, do not move them a lot. The tip of the rod should only move 2” to 4”. Just a wiggle and no movement works best.

Jigging Rap style lures should be small at the beginning. Typically Rapala Jigging Rap size 5 and smaller.


Size 5 means body length (without plastic fin is 5cm or 2”). Size 3 is ideal.


White, silver, or any perch pattern work great.


You start fishing them by lifting them up fast, approx. 30cm (1/2ft) to 45cm(1 1/2ft) and let them down on a fairly tight line.


Jigging rap style lures work in all depths with no and medium current. You can also fish them in deeper water.


Those lures will swing out to the side and move in a small circle if you do it right.

Be careful if you fish side by side because they will swing out and can entangle each other easily. The swimming radius will be about the height you lift them up.

(e.g. When lifted 1ft means radius of movement circle is 1ft (or 2ft diameter))


Small, simple weighted spoons, either from thicker metal or with a lead body, are ideal to be used as small lures fairly deep.


They work best if your rod tip looks like it is dancing.


Small pieces of minnows can be put on the hooks, too, especially early in the ice fishing season.


Rattle baits are also very popular nowadays.

But be careful what you wish for. They can attract fish from great distances, although they can also scare off all fish around you.


There is nothing wrong with the (J) classic rattlin Rapala; they just work. Though they do not work well with any type of current since they are relatively light for their size.


The (H) live target rattle baits mostly have a higher frequency, so they have a long “calling” distance only in clear water. They can take current fairly well.


The (I) Northland ripping Shad “live forage” or regular colors have a lower frequency which works best in not so clear or murky water. That’s when they have their long “calling” distance. They can also deal with the most current.


The (K) Chubby darters and the (L) Lindy darter do not want any current at all.



For Pike use larger Jigging Rap style lures size 7 or 9. The upper two have the belly hook removed so you can let them rest on the bottom and not collect any unwanted stuff.


The large Northland tackle Airplane Jigs are a classic for Pike.


While the larger jigging raps also movearound  a lot, Airplane jigs can make really big circles. The swimming radius will be about double the height you lift them up.


(e.g. When lifted 1ft means radius of movement circle is 2ft (or 4ft diameter))


Blade-type lures are a classic. However, you need to make a strong lift to make them vibrate.


Most of them can be fished very deep, and they align perfectly with any current.

Spoons and rattle spoons work great for Perch and Walleye.


Mepps Syclops size 0 are perfect.


All you have to do is wiggle, wiggle and wiggle.


Tip the hook with a small piece of minnow.


Mepps syclops size 1 are perfect for larger Walleye and Perch.

Buckshot spoons are ideal for deep water (20ft+) and some current.

Let them dive into the mud and move them rather fast, but not far.


Tipping them with any piece of fish, minnow or nightcrawler will increase the chance of catching some fish.


- Lure Colors

Hyper Realistic vs Realistic vs Aggressive vs Night Glow vs UV-Glow


Thank you for your attention!

Tight lines and Bent rods!

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