The first sweet weeks of the hardwater season offer walleye anglers one of their best chances of the winter to target fish of trophy proportions.

In fact, across Lindy Land, ’eyes of all sizes will be gathered in easy-to-find areas and feeding full force at predictable times.

Potential hot zones on waters large and small include reefs, weedlines, rock piles, points and bottom transitions. Relatively skinny water is often the best, as depths of 10 feet or less can be dynamite.

Since the fish can be skittish in such shallow water, it’s best to avoid heavily fished areas subjected to the constant clamor of ice cleats, chisels, augers and ATV or snowmobile traffic.

Lacking appreciable snow cover and a thick icepack to block sunlight, walleyes typically time feeding forays to coincide with low light levels around sunrise and sunset—although they will raid the shallows periodically throughout the day.

One of the tricks to tapping the action is setting up shop before the fish get there. Plan to have holes drilled and lines in the water an hour before you expect peak feeding to begin. Unless you’re an early riser, this makes the evening shift a lot more attractive.

Keeping noise to a minimum is likewise critical.

First ice is a great time to tiptoe out to the fishing grounds toting only an auger and a five-gallon bucket loaded with your sonar and tackle.

Don’t turn the ice into Swiss cheese once you get there, either. Veteran Lindy pro-staffers like Fish Ed host Jon Thelen recommend drilling just three portals to the underwater kingdom — one at the base of the breakline, one halfway up it, and one on top.

Thelen also advocates fishing larger lures than normal, particularly if you’re after super-size ’eyes. For example, he often upsizes from an 1/8-ounce Lindy Rattl’n Flyer Spoon tipped with a minnow head to a ¼-ounce Flyer dressed with half a minnow. Beefy Lindy Darters and Slick Jigs are other top options.

One final tip: fish the deepest hole first, to intercept incoming walleyes moving up from deeper water. Then hit the hole positioned midway up the break before finishing your trip on top of the structure, which is where the most active feeding occurs once the sun hits the treetops.