The viewing angler who drops the lens into each new hole sees the big picture-bottom terrain, the presence or lack of baitfish, walleye size, numbers and their position relative to bottom. Even their activity level can be gauged simply by observing fin movement and distance above bottom (active fish are usually one or more feet above the substrate and their pectoral fins fan a little more quickly). When the viewer spots a fish, he'll trace certain symbols on the snow for reference. To keep other anglers from discovering our fish, we've devised our own code-for instance we might trace a "10-4" for walleye, "50-0" for big walleye, or "1-1" for two walleyes. The goal is to fine-tune our ice trolling program as much as possible-again, it's a system, no different than a strategic open water trolling approach-and not just a bunch of holes drilled to impress people with our endurance.
Soon, we begin fishing back through each hole in sequence. We'll leapfrog over one another, again, rarely fishing any one hole for more than 5-minutes. Once we reach the end of the trolling path, it's time to start the drilling/camera viewing process again. Cut and view thirty holes, then fish. After a few hours (usually less), it will become pretty apparent whether the active fish are off the deep edge, directly on the drop, or on top of the flat.
Set Up Shelters
Some days, rather than using portable shelters, we simply set a large pop-up style house, such as a Frabill Headquarters, which serves as basecamp. From here, a bunch of anglers can formulate gameplans, eat lunch, and just get a blast of warm air. Really, though, if you're outfitted with something similar to my Snosuit, you'll never even notice the cold.
It's sort of funny, but one of the biggest objections to ice trolling comes from anglers who say that all you need are a few wisely drilled holes placed in key spots at peak times. This is true if you're setting up for an hour or so of fishing at dawn or dusk. But even then, I'd still rather have the luxury of working through an entire network of 30 to 100 holes along a particular structure.
What I like to tell people is - and this is absolutely true - once you start ice trolling, systematically exploring entire structural complexes with an auger and a camera, you'll start catching a lot of walleyes and other species during all the supposed 'off-peak' hours during the middle of the day. Each new hole holds the hope of a big fish-and if you ask me, that's about as good as it gets.