|The author holds a walleye that hit at dusk on Lake of the Woods in Ontario's Sunset Country.|
While ice fishing is exhilarating, it can also be challenging at times. Frigid temperatures will test gear to its limits and the mid-winter period is the time when many species get fussy and require your best jigging recipes before they'll nibble. One way to stack the odds in your favor, no matter how nasty the weather or fickle the fish, is to be out at peak activity periods. Twilight is one of these occasions.
Dusk is a popular time for walleye anglers. On many lakes the arrival of anglers unfolds like clockwork; the hoards ritualistically take to the ice two hours or so before dark to stoke wood-burning stoves in ice houses, cut holes and deploy set-lines in preparation for the twilight feeding frenzy.
The underwater world also responds to the impending low-light assault. You know you're getting close to the walleye witching hour when small to average-sized yellow perch that were pecking baits all afternoon become less active. It's plain as day on a sonar display. Their signals become increasingly skittish and they're no longer willing to rise off bottom for fear of becoming a snack.
While walleye are the poster-children for twilight marauding, a range of species get peckish and more active at sunset. Bluegill and crappie flurries are common at nightfall. A burst of zooplankton and other micro edible activity is what often stimulates the nighttime dining for these two species.
At the other end of the spectrum, large predators also prowl at sundown. As walleye pounce on perch at dusk, northern pike will cruise the same areas looking to snap-up a meal of 'eyes. It's a textbook example of the hunter becoming the hunted. Lake trout can get rambunctious too as night arrives. They'll cruise up on food shelves, like mid-lake bars, that are loaded with forage or ambush pelagic baitfish against rock walls or other no-exist structures.
This raises another point, regardless of the species it's critical to be on the best spots to fully exploit the twilight feasting phenomenon. Average areas will cough-up decent catches at dusk, but being on a prime zone as the setting sun tickles the tree tops will deliver incredible, brag-to-your-buddies ice fishing catches.