Steve Carney Picture

Nice Walleye Caugh Over Deep Gravel

You got to love the diversity of Lake Mille Lacs in the wintertime. There are options on the midlake mudflats, deep gravel, rockpiles and shoreline breaks. Recently we talked about fishing the midlake mud which gets substantial pressure during January and February and the techniques for finding fish in that venue. After just returning from another Mille Lacs run, I spent two days fishing the deep gravel on the southeast and northeastern sides with decent success. There are advantages to fishing the deep gravel in January as compared to the other choices and I really enjoy the deep gravel for some distinct advantages. Here goes...


The best aspect of the deep gravel is that you can away from the crowds even on busy weekends. Now that everyone and their brother are towing out hard houses and wheelhouses, traffic and fishing pressure can be nuts at this time of the season. There is so much deep gravel too choose from that there are countless areas to fish away from the competition. When I say deep gravel I mean depths from 32 to 36 feet no matter side of the lake you prefer. I usually follow resort roads out to approximately 2 to 4 miles and then venture to the deep gravel on my own staying well away from the clusters of hard houses. The prolific usage of GPS technology has relegated the well known flats, rockpiles and breaks to average status now that everyone knows how to access what used to be "secret" spots making deep gravel more viable than ever.


The deep gravel takes a ton of patience. Because you are fishing in no-man's land you are not keying on anything specific other than depth. No humps, rockpiles or fast breaks here but rather deep expanses of rock and gravel mixed. I believe the fish hanging in deep gravel are resting fish and not aggressively on the bite. They use the deep water to loaf and sometimes can be nonaggressive. I spend hours fishing these spots waiting for walleyes, perch and tullibees to pass thru on their way to other destinations. The bite on deep gravel is never fast and furious but rather a fish here and there. If you put in your time you'll do just fine with action coming perdiodically with lots of dead time mixed in with success.


After many years of fishing this deep gravel, I can honestly say I have never done very well on the typical walleye low light times of sunrise and sunset. There never is a good prime time bite but rather a decent bite throughout the "off" hours such as 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM. This makes me believe these are resting fish and they go elsewhere for the prime time bite. My last trip featured some nice walleyes over 22 inches and tons under 10 inches with very little in between. I have seen this trend for a couple of seasons now and don't see it changing anytime soon. If you drop a camera down during midday you will be amazed at the number of walleyes and perch that come cruising by with zero interest. It is a pretty standard parade of disinterested fish but you still can manage to catch a few along the way that just can't resist your bait. That's the long an short of deep take the biters ahen you can get them.


I have downsized my offerings this winter with better success. I like to use a very small, gold jigging spoon about the size you would use for crappie fishing. This smaller spoon catches bigger perch and also pops some nice walleyes. Every large walleye I caught recently absolutely inhaled this tiny spoon adorned with a fathead piece. I want the small spoon to be able to catch larger perch and walleyes for the most part. A spoon too large will eliminate the perch so I want an option for all species. During a typical stint on the gravel you always catch a bunch of tulibees coming thru suspended, some perch and some walleyes along with the usual eelpout action. The small spoon catches all these and more. Bobbers and setlines don't cut it out there on the deep gravel. You need to be aggressive there at all times by pounding that spoon off the bottom and creating strikes from neutral gamefish. If a guy can catch a few walleyes and a half dozen perch every time out it makes for a successful venture..go gravel !

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