By Dan Johnson

Hardwater warriors in Wisconsin’s Lake Winnebago region are burning shoe leather to stay on the bite, as fish of all stripes are playing an under-ice game of hide-and-seek trying to evade the bucket brigade.

Lindy pro staffer and local ice fishing ace Jason Muche reports that an unusual twist to the holiday bite has made hard-core search tactics key to success in the final days of 2014.

“It’s odd,” he says. “Normally you can set up in a spot and wait for the fish to move through, but right now you can’t. Moving around until you find the fish is absolutely critical.”

In search mode, Muche leapfrogs anywhere from 100 yards to a quarter mile, drilling a string of holes over promising structure and testing the waters in each ever so briefly before moving on.

“Lindy Perch Talkers have been one of the most consistent producers because their clacking commotion calls walleyes and other gamefish from a distance, expanding your reach while you’re hunting for fish.”

Muche typically tips Perch Talkers with waxworms for perch, crappies and white bass, and switches to minnow heads for walleyes.

“Lindy Frostee Jigs rigged with a golden shiner minnow are hot tickets once you find a school of walleyes,” he notes.

Due to the recent spate of warm weather prior to this week’s cold snap, much of Winnebago’s action is limited to bays and near-shore sweet spots, as some areas of the main lake remains ice-free.

“The Horseshoe Hole and Norwegian Bay areas of Lake Poygan are good bets now, too,” he notes. “Just keep running and gunning until you see fish on sonar. If you’re not marking anything, keep rolling.”

Good news is, once you’re atop a pod of fish, it’s usually possible to extract a number of its members before the group pulls up stakes.

“Once you get into them, you can often catch a dozen to half-dozen white bass, with a walleye or two mixed in, before they move along and you start the search process all over again,” he says.

Given the current cold weather, Muche expects more prime lies to be accessible in short order, opening up even more options for Winnebago-area anglers as the new year dawns.