The walleye is one of the most sought after game fish in North America. It’s a light and flaky fish with a mild, delicious flavor that’s irresistible; even to those who normally would not eat fish.
The walleye can be found and caught across most of the United States and Canada, but if you want to be right smack in the middle of the walleye action, you need to head for the mid-west. The best tasting, hardest fighting and often largest walleye can be found in the Great Lakes. If you know where to look and which lures to use, giant walleye weighing in at ten pounds or more are not uncommon.
Monster walleye have been a little harder to catch I recent years, though. With the invasion of the zebra mussel, water clarity in the Great Lakes has improved a lot. Many of the shallower areas that were once a murky green now offer visibility all the way to the bottom.
Since walleye prefer murky conditions to sparkling clear water, many anglers have trouble finding them, and some even think these fish have disappeared. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you learn to adapt to constantly changing fishing conditions, you can still consistently land those big walleye.
Springtime Walleye Fishing
Dyed in the wool walleye anglers love to fish year round. But those of us who don’t feel the attraction of spending the day fishing through a hole in the ice, lie in bed on those cold winter nights, dreaming about ice-out.
As the ice melts, walleye begin to seek an ideal place to spawn. This is the time of year that is a walleye fishing guide’s dream come true. During this pre-spawn period, most of the walleye population is concentrated in less than ten feet of water. They’re often found at the mouths of tributaries and shallow inlets; particularly along rocky or sandy shorelines.
At this time of year, walleye tend to feed close to the bottom. Small (1/16 ounce) dark colored jigs often work well, as they resemble insect larvae. Work them slowly to keep them on the bottom.
As the spawn approaches, walleye will become more aggressive in hopes of building up their energy reserves. A jig and minnow is usually very productive, or a live minnow rig suspended a foot or so off the bottom.
Summer Walleye Fishing Tips
In the hot summer months, walleye are usually found in deeper water. If you prefer shore fishing, you can still coax some strikes by sticking to the pre-dawn and post-dusk hours. This is when they venture into the shallows to feed. Try a light colored jig or a crank bait along the shore and weedlines.
If you have a boat, head out to deeper water. Old river beds and other steep drop-offs are ideal walleye habitat. You’ll often find them in, or suspended over these deep areas. Experienced anglers will tell you that trolling deep diving crank baits is a sure fire bet; but in some cases, bottom bumpers are just as effective. Minnows and other live bait, suspended just off the bottom, are also a good tactic.
Presentation is everything. Walleye are lazy. Like all successful predators, they look for opportunities that present the greatest reward, while expending the least amount of energy. You might have to experiment a little to see what works best in a particular area.
Here’s a bonus tip for those hot, sticky days when nothing wants to bite. Try dragging a light colored jig along the bottom, kicking up mud all the way. Give it a quick jerk every once in a while, to clear it of mud and weeds. You can also try it with suspended live bait. Use a three-way swivel with a lead sinker, rigged several feet in front of the bait. This technique will often aggravate even the laziest summer walleye into striking.
River Walleye Tip
Walleye tend to shy away from a river’s current. Using a jig or crank bait, you may find some smaller males hanging out there, but for the big females you need to take a different approach. Stick to the edge of the current, and let it float your bait into or past slack water. Big, lazy walleye love to wait in these spots, looking for a free meal.
Know Your Limits
There are size and number limits for walleye that can vary, depending on where you fish. You should also make sure they’re in season before you head down to the water. In some areas, the walleye season is broken up, depending on what type of tackle you use and what kind of water you’re fishing (ie: inland lakes, tributaries, etc).
Check your fishing license to make sure it’s valid. This may sound obvious, but there’s more to it than the expiration date. There are a total of eight states, and two countries that border the Great Lakes. If you fish near the borders, it’s all too easy to drift into a different state without realizing it. A Michigan fishing license is not valid in Ohio, for instance, nor is a New York license valid in Ontario. Local jurisdictions tend to be picky about this kind of thing, and a big poaching fine can put a damper on the fishing fun in a hurry.
Got Some Walleye Tips Of Your Own?
Most anglers have their own ideas about the best ways to catch big walleye, and are very vocal about it. If you’re one of them, feel free to leave some tips of your own in the comment section, below.
I’m not a professional angler. I have, however, lived in Michigan for more than 40 years, and grew up fishing the Great Lakes. These tips and techniques have served me well throughout the years, and I continue to use them to catch big Great Lakes Walleye to this day.
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