ZILWAUKEE — Tom Goniea has never had a problem catching walleyes through the ice on the Saginaw River. He’s had plenty of days with plenty of fish. The problem he’s had is catching keepers.
So when the first fish of our recent morning excursion (it came through the hole at 8:36 a.m.) measured a little more than 16 inches, Goniea felt like a weight had lifted off of him.
“That’s my first keeper walleye here in three years,” the Lansing-based Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist said.
It wasn’t the only one either; over the next 30 minutes or so, he iced four more ‘eyes — three of them short — but the largest was right at 18 inches. (And, just for the record, sitting within feet of him, I managed just one short walleye, taken on a Do-Jigger spoon tipped with a tiny minnow.)
We started just at good light that morning, with Goniea drilling four holes in 24 feet of water. Goniea has a pair of identical two-man shanties that he can put side-to-side and allow two guys to fish two holes each, comfortably.
We were slightly handicapped by our bait; neither of us knew a bait shop that opened early enough for us to get there for first bite and the local bait shop Goniea frequents didn’t have any walleye minnows. He bought a handful of large golden shiners (pike minnows) and a couple of dozen perch minnows that were even on the small side for those.
But we made do and the perch minnows were good enough. Goniea began jigging a Rapala tipped with a perch minnow and a jig with a shiner, but after a couple of bites he went to two Raps. I went with a Jigging Rapala and a spoon, both tipped with small minnows.