What Do Walleye Eat in Winter?

Walleye tend to be less active and docile in the wintertime. They become sluggish in the cold waters, and their activity slows from their peak time in late fall. In early spring they become active when the ice is just about to melt. Despite this, walleye still need to feed during the winter. 

During the winter months, walleye become slower and docile but still feed sparingly. Early in the winter season, they are found in shallow waters eating small perch, minnows, and shiners. As the temperatures drop, they move to the edges of deeper waters and feed on large school fish. In the spring, walleye can be found near warmer waters feeding on schools of bait fish. 

Below we look at where to find walleye in the wintertime and their feeding habits. 

Walleye in the winter eating perch
Fisherman caught a Wisconsin Walleye while ice fishing

Where Do Walleye Feed in the Winter Months? 

In the winter months, from December to March, walleye are often found in various waters. Their location will depend largely on the lake and time of year. Early and late in the winter season, they may stay in shallow waters during the day. They will be commonly found in depths ranging from 4 to 8 feet.  

As the winter progresses, they will move to deeper waters in larger lakes. They can be found in caverns in the water. In some areas, these can be 30 to 40 feet in depth. They will remain near the drop-offs in these waters or around any natural rises they may have.  

On frozen lakes, the walleye will tend to gather near natural elements such as weeds, fallen trees, or bottlenecks in the water that will guide them to the same places. Staying mobile and being able to fish in various depths will help you locate where the walleye are congregating in your lake. 

In the spring, they will transition back into shallower waters as the ice is melted and the lake’s temperatures begin to rise again. They will move into depths of 10 to 20 feet at this time to begin their spawning cycle. If your lake has a stream or run-off that brings in the warmest water, they will begin congregating there as the early spring temperatures rise. 

Young boy catching walleye

Do Walleye Feed At Night In the Winter?

Due to their sensitivity to light, Walleyes tend to feed mostly late in the evening and early in the morning but can be active most of the night. They become more docile in the winter.

Walleye are forgers and feed on almost anything. Due to their sensitivity to light, they only feed during the day when it is overcast or in murky waters.

What Do Walleye Feed on in the Winter?

In the early winter months, walleye will move to shallower parts of water to dine on the small fish found in those areas. Baitfish will spawn in these areas in the early winters, and the walleye will travel from the deeper water to feed there. In the winter, Walleye eat small perch, shiners, and minnows in shallow waters.

Further into the winter season, they move into deeper waters as the water becomes colder. Here they will mostly feed on schools of perch and other fish.  They will stay slightly below their normal depth in the colder waters and feed on them at dusk when the sun goes down. 

In the spring, they will feed on the large schools of bait fish found near the warmer waters of the lake. These are the same areas the walleye go to spawn at that time of year.  


Walleye become slower and lethargic in the colder winter months but still need to feed throughout the winter. They feed mostly on small fish in shallow lake waters early in winter. When the waters become colder, they move to the edge of the deeper waters and feed on the schools of pike and other fish found there. 

When the lake waters begin to warm the walleye will move back to the shallow waters. They will feed on the large schools of bait fish found near the areas they will soon spawn in.