by Jeremy Santos
Pouncing on a rare break in the deep freeze conditions this winter, FAAM members Alan Ali, Eric Labaupa, and myself decided to hit the frozen Red River for a quick hitter to try our luck at hooking into a giant greenback walleye. Late February is no longer primetime on the Red as a good portion of the migrating schools from the fall have begun to head back out to the lake. While we weren’t counting on fast and furious action like it often can be on early ice, there is always a hitter’s chance to stick a pig when dropping a line in the world famous Red River.
Starting out first thing in the morning, our Plan A was to target one of the deeper holes in the river where we’ve had success for big girls in the past.
Readers may be familiar with this spot adjacent to the big Highway 4 bridge or as it’s affectionately known, ‘the bridge to no where’. Surprisingly, when we pulled up to the access point there was open water and thin ice signs nearby. With none of us interested in poking holes in a sketchy area, it was on to Plan B.
We backtracked just slightly upriver and decided to try a popular area in front of the church. Our main method of attack when ice fishing on the Red is to cover a variety of depths to start. We drilled holes starting in the middle going in a straight line back to the west shore. The main channel here was 30 feet under the ice. Each hole gradually got shallower with a noticeable sharp break at 19’ to 14’. The farthest holes closer to shore were hovering over 8’ of water. We then systematically fished each depth using an active rod and a dead stick carefully watching our electronics for any signs of life. We quickly narrowed down better sonar marks and active fish on the high side of the 14’-16’ flat as I was getting nothing out deep while Eric got into a bunch of saugers shallower. Not long after drilling some more holes, I got slammed by a heavy thunk. I almost had it to the hole but alas, my arch nemesis the Red River got the best of me once again, taking away the chance to even get a glimpse of the tank on the end of my line.
Employing the same search and destroy tactic at three other spots on the river, we ended up not catching any walleye of note but did hammer the feisty saugers pretty good all day. Alan was crowned ‘Sauger King’ of the day as he absolutely crushed them using a chartreuse jig and blade combo tipped with the ever-popular salted minnow. We’ve fished the Red enough times on the ice to know that a fish of a lifetime can come out of no where while having a blast hooking sauger after sauger. Another proven Red River tactic that we could have tried was to sit and wait it out over a deep hole and target the mid column for suspended monsters. Our attention span is way too short to do that though, so the run n’ gun/swiss cheese approach is how we prefer to attack the Red…. when the weather is nice at least.