Fishing the shallow flats for winter walleye

I love fishing the big walleye lakes in the winter.   Lake of the Woods, Red Lake and  Leech Lake are my favorites.  

One of the real challenges for fishing these large bodies of water is trying to figure out where to fish. I suggest fishing shallow flats, areas where there is not much structure but water at depths that only have subtle changes.  Walleye roam these flats in little schools or pods that can make it very difficult to find them.   They might be in five feet of water or fifteen feet. There are two popular ways to hunt for these fish;  sitting on one spot for long periods of time or moving around the flats, drilling holes and trying to locate them at their feeding sites.  Both techniques work.  Some anglers just can’t sit still long enough to wait them out while others just don’t want to keep moving and drilling.

Resort owners will share that most of the time the best fishing on shallow flats is during the week when the lakes have less traffic, less noise and less water movement than on the weekends. Cars, trucks, four wheelers and even snowmobiles can create under water currents when they are driven around the lake.  Heavy vehicles also make the ice crack and heave. Recently two fishing buddies and I had the ice crack violently near our portable fish house, moving our chairs about a foot and blowing water up our holes.  That was scary.Fishing wasn’t very good for about an hour after that experience.

I have been fishing the flats on Red Lake in recent weeks and because the water is quite stained I have been having the best luck with my bait, both dead sticks and jigs right near or on the bottom. The fish coming through our holes have been almost flat on the bottom and have whacked the baits from underneath. The fish seem to be biting equally between dead sticks with a plain hook tipped with a fathead or shiner, or a jigging spoon tipped  with a minnow head.  The bite on the flats comes in spurts. Sometimes three or four fish will come through and other times it seems like 15 to 20 fish pop into view.  And some days they don’t show up at all.  

Fishing the flats isn’t for everyone.  Some anglers only fish drop offs or weed lines but for those willing to explore and be patient, shallow flats offer nice areas to pick up walleye, perch and pike. All of our large walleye lakes have plenty of shallow flats to fish.

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