Looking for a magnificent olive gold creature swimming in deep waters? Wait till the moon-like eyes and toothy teeth scare you off. Yes, we’re talking about the popular game fish, walleye.
The fish is widely spread across the entire United States and generally dwells in cool water. Under favorable conditions, walleyes can grow to impressive sizes of more than 25 inches. As a result, a typical large fish can weigh around 10 pounds.
They also have misnomers as they are called wall-eyed or yellow pike in a few parts of the country. However, the fish is a perch relative. So, no matter what you call them, the prize is equally rewarding.
A leading reason that excites most anglers to fish for walleye is its delicious taste. But, fishing this hard-fighting freshwater fish doesn’t come easy since locating and catching a walleye can put you on the grind.
However, with the right techniques, functional gear, and sufficient knowledge about the fish, you can fill your lot with walleye in no time. So, read this post to learn all about walleye fishing.
What is the Best Time to Fish for Walleye?
When fishing for Walleye, timing plays an important role. Walleye generally abide by seasonal patterns. So, you can monitor their behavior and movement depending on the season.
You should also remain mindful of the time you’re fishing for walleye. If you succeed in understanding the trends, your next fishing trip will be phenomenal.
Best Time During the Day
Walleye have extremely light-sensitive eyes. As a result, they can see better when the sun bids farewell and the night sky takes charge. This is why several anglers claim that the best fishing time to catch a walleye is after sunset.
Walleye fishing is best when it is low-light. So, you don’t have to risk fishing at night. But if you’re determined enough, you can spend time on the water in the deep darkness till sunrise.
However, a sunny afternoon is undoubtedly the worst time to go walleye fishing. Yet, it is still possible to catch Walleye in deep water with the right tactics.
The changing seasons are responsible for affecting predictable movement patterns in all fish. Walleyes are more cautious of the calendar and change their movement as soon as the season changes. So, if you can understand the basic walleye movements, you can find them easily.
You should roll your sleeves up as soon as spring arrives, as this season is considered a busy time for fishing walleye. When the water warms up during early spring or late winter, walleyes set their mind on two main goals: reproduce and eat.
During the mating season, walleyes are among the early fish to take over shallow waters where they can lay eggs.
During late spring, walleyes settle into predictable feeding patterns where they swim in rocky reefs, weed beds, and similar shallow to medium depth structures. The fish usually spend the most time near deep waters. Then, when dusk approaches, they swim to shallow grounds for feeding. They usually spend their night in these areas.
As summer continues, walleyes are relatively slow and inactive. However, they follow the same early summer movement pattern. The fish will continue to bite, though they will put in less effort to catch a meal. So, the best presentation to fish for Walleye may be natural and slow presentations.
Drop-offs and rocky ledges that lead to deeper water are often the best places to fish for Walleye during summer. Deeper edges of a rock pile, reef, or weed bed are also productive. The fish may reside in such a location because these structures offer the perfect environment to hunt for prey.
Fall is a season of flux and transition for walleyes, for most fish species. During this time, the fish become more active, almost as if they can smell the approaching winter, and are frantic to load up on food. Fall benefits walleyes in several ways.
For instance, the summer weed beds start to wither, leaving their prey vulnerable and exposed. In addition, the days become shorter during fall, and the water starts to cool down. This provides walleyes with comfortable shallow waters to hunt for long hours.
Walleyes become more active during the day during this season. This is your perfect chance to get your boat ready and head out for fishing walleyes. To catch these fish, you can resort to the deeper edges of reefs, weed beds, humps, rock piles, and shallow grounds.
Winters slow down walleye’s activity in the water. However, contrary to popular belief, walleyes are anything but an inactive fish. The gamefish will still strive to eat during the chilly winter.
Ofcourse, they won’t invest much energy to catch their prey, but an easy-served meal is always welcomed. When the safe ice starts to form, Walleye generally lurk in deep water. However, they ensure not to swim too far from the nearby drop-offs and other structures.
Walleyes may often take a dive from the deep ends of reefs and weed beds to safely position themselves for catching prey. The large vegetation gives them a perfect chance to hunt for forage fish. During most times of the year, walleyes find deep water locations with quick access to shallow grounds an essential element.
When spring is about to start, walleyes shift toward staging locations near the spawning grounds. This behavior is commonly observed when the ice has melted completely. Once the ice is all out, walleyes swim toward gravel bars, rocky shorelines, and tributaries.
Catching Walleyes With Live Baits
The secret to a successful walleye expedition is live bait. Walleyes are more fussy and difficult to catch than other freshwater fish, so anyone just getting started should stick with live bait.
On the other hand, soft plastics and crankbaits are great as well. Yet, these baits are generally more advanced and used to weeding out the game fish and reaping the benefit. But, if you’re new to walleye fishing, live baits can help you get started. Here are some favorite walleye live baits you can catch:
Walleye anglers love minnows. This bait option offers consistent success if you drop in Flathead Minnows and Shiner.
If you’re looking for the big boys, a 4-6″ Shiner can help you out. The bait is enough to weed through smaller fish and reward you with a large 25″ + walleye. Moreover, Flathead Minnows measuring 2-3′ can work fine if you’re dealing with a slow bite.
Worms and Leeches
Another popular option for live walleye bait is worms and leeches. Usually, the Jumbo or large leeches are excellent for fishing walleye. However, the option may work best if you’re fishing in water bodies with Walleye in abundance.
If you’re trying to catch a bounty in smaller water bodies, your leech is likely to get stolen by small fish like Panfish, Perch, or Bass.
This is also true for Nightcrawlers. However, attaching these worms to the harness spinners extends their profile, allowing them to filter through the pests. Leeches and minnows can be rigged, floated, or jigged on a slip bobber.
Full Nightcrawlers are usually reserved for spinner rigs, but they can also be used as afloat.
What’s the Best Technique for Walleye Fishing?
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to catching walleyes. In fact, you can try several different methods to catch the game fish. The common techniques include jig-and-minnow casting, hard-plastic lure trolling, and bobber fishing.
All tricks work and are fun to experiment with. So, you can attempt to try all methods and see what works best for you. Have a look at these few fishing techniques for walleyes:
As the fishing season starts, most anglers prefer to use jigs for catching Walleye. They would even tip the jig with a minnow, Shiner, or a fat leech. The science behind this is to fish with a jig heavy enough that you can feel the bottom.
You must ensure that the bottom isn’t too heavy. This is usually a 1/8-ounce, 3/8-ounce, or 1/4-ounce jig.
Also, you can use various dark and bright hues to attract the fish. Typically, one hue will outperform the others, so play around with it. Lastly, vertical jigging is best done with ball-style jigs.
A slip-sinker rig, also known as a Lindy rig, is a popular late-summer fishing strategy that involves putting a minnow, leech, or nightcrawler before a walleye at the lake’s bottom.
Once the fish bites, you’ll usually feel a light bite or a tap. At this moment, you should let the line run freely for a few seconds before carefully reeling in till you sense the tension and set your hook.
Hard Plastic Lures
Casting or Trolling hard plastic lures and baits that appear like small perch or other tiny fish is an excellent way to catch walleyes. This technique may work best during fall when the fish swim to shallow waters and disperse evenly.
This fishing method may help you cover large distances efficiently and save you time. Yet, trolling should be done slowly in a range of one mph. In contrast, you can also perform trolling fast enough to get the Walleye’s attention.
This technique works all year round. For this, you can hover a live bait above humps, rocky reefs, or other structures. The technique can help catch walleyes efficiently and easily. The method may pair best with a slip bobber to cast the bait in greater depths.
Fishing walleyes can be highly rewarding if you use the right fishing technique. You should set out for fishing during the right temperatures and season. Since the bite is fast in spring and fall, you should take this as a great chance to fulfill your walleye fishing dream.