How to Catch a Walleye ?

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The North American walleye is a popular gamefish across the northern U.S. and Canada, characterized by large, silvery eyes. Sometimes called a pickerel, it's more closely related to pike/perch species than true pickerels. It provides tasty eating, and with adult weights at 20 pounds and more, it's a great sport fish year-round.

Here are some tips for catching walleye.

Spawning

Walleye spawning takes place in late winter through early spring. This is triggered as soon as water temperatures rise above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and the walleye start moving from the lakes up tributary streams. Curiously, not all walleye will spawn, and some may go upstream just a few hundred yards. If you can find the streams the spawners use, you can target them with jigs like marabou or bucktail. Use bright but natural colors such as white or pink, and jigs that provide a little visual action. Add a plastic tail, or attach a night crawler, minnow, or strip of pork rind. Jig weights should be about 1/4 ounce, though you might go heavier where the current is stronger. Just cast out the jig upstream, let it sink near the bottom, and reel it slowly in with the occasional twitch of the pole as it floats by.

Stillwater Fishing

You can also target the spawners at the mouth of these streams where the lake water is still. In these cases, a live, medium-sized minnow is best, around 3-4 inches in length but not much larger. Hook it through the lips on a 1-4 size hook and attach a couple of split-shot sinkers around a foot up the line. Cast out into the flow of the stream and let it drift into the lake. If you feel your bait is still on the bottom, retrieve it with a little jerk of your pole and tighten the line. Don't expect a hard strike; a walleye is more likely to simply snatch up the minnow and then stop. You'll feel a hooked fish as more of a dead weight. When you take up the tension and start reeling it in, it'll start fighting.

Crankbaits

Crankbaits with a slow, steady retrieve work well in all waters, but the fish can be notoriously finicky. Even in the same spot, they'll sometimes go for certain crankbaits and not others. If fish follow your lure but don't take it, or don't pay any attention at all, it's time to try the next one. Keep a fairly good selection in your tackle box so you can experiment until you find the right one. Use crankbait lures that provide some subtle action, like Husky Jerks, Rattlin' Rogues, and Shad-R. You also try varying the speed of your retrieves, such as a slightly faster crank, or pausing now and then to let the lure settle before reeling in again.

Fishing Shallows

Especially in the spring while waters are still cool, you can find smaller but still perfectly satisfying fish in the shallows near shore, especially in back-water bays and pockets. It's not unusual for six or seven pound fish to be taken in just a few feet of water. Look for obstructions like fallen trees, undercut banks, rock piles and formations, heavy weed growth on the lake or river bed, or even man-made structures like docks or culverts. Small fish like hiding spots, and bigger fish hunt the little ones.

Going After Heavyweights

The summer and fall are the best times to go full out and target the biggest fish. A small boat with a trolling motor and fish finder aboard will help you discover the best spots and identify the biggest fish. Use your fishfinder to follow underwater contours looking for deep pockets. Submerged trees, underwater islands, rock ledges, reefs, and sudden drop-offs are where the big walleyes tend to linger. Unfortunately, trolling may not be allowed on all lakes. But where it is, over the course of several visits you can map out the bottoms of even large lakes with your fish finder sonar so you know just where to start looking on your future trips. Add a fairly heavy sinker and drop your live bait straight down into these productive fishing holes. If you choose to use a jig or plug, keep it moving in a moderate S-pattern along the deep edges of these bottom contours.

Side Planers

This is essentially a float that deploys your trolling lines at various angles. You'd be surprised at how many experienced fishermen have never even tried one. It extends the amount of line you can let out with minimal loss of control from drift and sinking. When fishing from a boat, walleyes can get skittish around the boat sounds or even the shape and shadow on the surface. A side-planer board can carry your crankbait or jig up to 150 feet away to avoid spooking the fish. Use of plane boards will depend on your fishing conditions, but if you rely on trolling, having one of these handy could make a huge difference. When you discover a great fishing hole but the walleye seem disturbed at your presence, just back off and deploy your planer board so you can get your jig to the spot from further away.

Downriggers

In the hot weather of summer to early fall, downriggers are another great way to get at the walleye lingering in the deeper, cooler spots. A downrigger is a weighted cable attached to your fishing line that ensure you bait or lure runs at exactly the depth you want it to. Especially if you use a depth-finder on your sonar, you'll know how deep you should set your downrigger to. If the fish seem intimidated by the downrigger cannonball, or forward weight, you can move it farther away from the bait to reduce their skittishness. If you're lucky enough to hook a big walleye, you'll get a great fight and possibly some nice filets that many people compare to flounder as a delicacy. That's why walleye are a favorite target of Northern anglers.


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